Alabama Legislators Say You Must Be A Salaried Employee Of Old School Media To Get Approved For Press Credentials
from the enjoy-Alabama's-refreshingly-shallow-press-pool! dept
The only people who still feel they can clearly define who is and isn’t a journalist are legislators. They’re almost always wrong. Journalism isn’t a career. It’s an activity. Anyone can do it and, thanks to the internet, anyone can find a publishing platform and readers. But, according to many politicians, it ain’t the press unless it involves one.
If you want press credentials to cover Alabama’s legislative sessions, prepare to be disappointed. (via Jim Romenesko)
Raise your hand if you trust Alabama Republican legislative leaders to define “legitimate journalism” in Alabama. Well, they’re doing it anyway. Tuscaloosa Rep. Chris England took to Facebook to post a list of criteria that reporters will have to meet if they’re to receive press credentials & be allowed inside the press rooms at the State House.
No one’s raising their hands (except maybe the legislators) but that’s not going to stop the legislature from defining “journalist” to fit its narrow standards. Here’s Alabama’s proposed official press credential policy.
1. A media representative shall be admitted to the floors of the House or Senate or allowed press privileges if the person is a salaried staff correspondent, reporter, or photographer employed by any of the following:
a. The news department of a federally licensed television or radio station, or the news department of a network providing coverage to television and radio stations.
b. A newspaper of general circulation providing print or online editions for the dissemination of news of a general character, which has a bona fide subscription list of paying subscribers, and has been established, printed, and published at regular intervals.
c. A wire service providing news service to newspapers, television, or radio stations as referred to above.
d. Internet news services and bloggers associated with any of the previously listed categories.
2. Applicants seeking press credentials are required to submit documentation from their employer certifying that they are engaged primarily in reporting the sessions of the legislature.
The applicant must also certify that, with the exception of the Alabama Press Association and the Alabama Broadcasters Association, and the exception of receiving advertising revenue, they have no affiliation with any person, firm, corporation, association, or political party that attempts to influence legislative issues or lobby members of the Alabama Legislature.
3. Applicants unable to comply with the aforementioned certification requirement will not be issued legislative press credentials, but will still be free to cover sessions of the Alabama Legislature from the public galleries located on the sixth and eighth floors.
Any person who is discovered to have misrepresented themselves to obtain legislative press credentials will have their credentials denied or revoked.
Notice how much emphasis is placed on being paid and working for incumbent media outlets. This wording gives incumbent media preference over upstarts and quite possibly means those whose platforms aren’t instantly recognizable by legislators will be deemed “non-press” and denied access.
Also notice how much information journalists will need to provide in exchange for a press pass. If you want to cover the Alabama legislature, you’ll need to prove that you’re a salaried employee of one of the entities on the “approved” list. Maybe something on official letterhead will be good enough for the legislature. Or maybe it’s suggesting you bring a pay stub or two with you and a portfolio of your work (… and financial statements verifying your employer has subscribers, still in business, etc…). And God forbid you hold a part-time job with any “person, firm, corporation or association” that “attempts to influence legislative issues,” but still attempt to “certify” that you have no connection to myriad entities listed in the “forbidden connections” section. You can kiss your credentials goodbye. And this part of the list about forbidden connections — “or political party” — suggests journalists are better off not registering to vote.
Beyond that, there’s the weird stipulation that those receiving press credentials will need to be “engaged primarily in reporting the sessions of the legislature. (And be able to prove it.) Here’s Left in Alabama’s take on that:
Other than the Montgomery Advertiser, what news outlets have reporters who “primarily” report on the legislature? Staff is stretched so thin that a reporter might cover a legislative story in the morning, a car wreck over lunch, a heartwarming pet story in the afternoon, and then do a stand up about Mike Hubbard’s arrest on corruption charges for the evening news broadcast. Does that count?
Now, Alabama legislators can pretend that these restrictions are in place to prevent the press gallery from becoming bathrobe blogger central, but all it’s really there for is to ensure as many potential journalists as possible are locked out. It also locks out nonprofit organizations that perform journalism, as one commenter on England’s Facebook page points out.
While I seriously couldn’t care less about being in the press room or having “credentials”, it would certainly leave the Alabama School Connection out, as I am a nonprofit news organization, online only. I will not ever have “paying subscribers”. There is a huge world of nonprofit news organizations that wouldn’t meet any of those criteria…
England states on his page that he’s against these proposed rules. Good for him. Now, that all may change, thanks to certain members of the Alabama legislature. If it does, many journalists will be locked out, and the First Amendment will be worse off for it.