Is It A Free Speech Violation To Deny Press Credentials To Bloggers?

from the seems-unlikely dept

Well, here's a case that may interest various bloggers who like to get press credentials to various events. Three "alternative" journalists in New York City are suing the NY Police Department for denying them press credentials, because they work for online or nontraditional publications. To be honest, it's difficult to see this lawsuit going very far. If a court finds that the NYPD is somehow required to give any alternative journalist press credentials, then it basically means that anyone can get press credentials (as, these days, anyone can become part of the press with a fews clicks) -- and makes the whole concept of press credentials meaningless. Of course, there are some who might say that's not a bad idea. But, on the whole, it seems like the NYPD (and anyone else) should be free to give out press credentials to whoever they want. It's not denying anyone's ability to report on things -- it's just determining what kind of access they have. The freedom of the press is about the freedom to report and publish -- not the freedom to go wherever they want and access whoever they want.


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  1.  
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    Scote, Nov 14th, 2008 @ 9:46am

    I think the lawsuit generally makes sense, though I can't speak to the merits of the individual bloggers in question.. Many blogs have higher readership than so-called "traditional" media and press credentials should be issued to those who legitimately cover the news for the public not on the basis of whether their coverage is in newstands or on the web.

     

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    Lance, Nov 14th, 2008 @ 10:06am

    warm up your laminator...

    ...the bloggers are going to win something here, even i fonyl a pyrrhic victory. the mainstream media is being expanded everyday to include bloggers. press credentials are there to allow legitimate reporters access. No one can deny that SOME bloggers are legitimate reporters. the court has the opportunity to redefine media here officially. NY is traditionally pretty conservative, judicially speaking, so they may shy away or they may do the right thing. Time will tell, and I look forward to reading the opinion.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 14th, 2008 @ 10:11am

    I think what Mike is trying to point out is that if anyone could get press credentials then eventually press credentials will become worthless, because everyone could get them.

     

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    Christian W. Klay, Nov 14th, 2008 @ 10:24am

    So officials should be able to limit access to information arbitrarily? If you can deny a few, why not deny them all? Too bad Richard Nixon didn't think of that.

    The OP says that freedom of the press is about the freedom to report information, not access it. Well how do you report information that you don't have access to?

    I suppose its ok though to just grant access only to mainstream media personalities who promise to ask softball questions and not "rock the boat" too much. No need to give passes to anyone else, right?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 14th, 2008 @ 10:35am

    I don't like the idea of the government determining what makes you a 'legitimate' member of the press. Freedom of the Press cannot be guaranteed if the government decides who is 'the Press'. What are the criteria that determines legitimacy. How do you prove you meet the criteria? Is a reporter from a small town newspaper (traditional media) with circulation of a 50 thousand considered 'legitimate media' but the blogger with 100k page hits a day is considered an amateur? To make it simple and DEMOCRATIC the government should issue credentials on a first come, first serve basis.

     

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    Difranco, Nov 14th, 2008 @ 10:36am

    .... You've got it wrong.

    This protectionism of an old established business models and supporting dying media outlets. This is nothing more than the government picking "winners" & "losers" in the marketplace. "Press Credentials" is just another licensing scheme designed to keep out new entrants to the marketplace.

     

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    Pat, Nov 14th, 2008 @ 10:40am

    Really?

    Suppose the police refused to give press credentials to anyone?

    Or suppose the police give credentials only to people who never say anything negative about the police? Only happy people, please!

    No. Access is critical. Access is why lobbyists are paid so much money.

    There should be an explicit, simple, objective policy about who qualifies. And it really isn't that hard:

    • "Is the publication in question regularly published, daily, weekly, monthly?" -- easily checked by looking at the site history
    • "Does the publication have a readership greater than the publisher's immediate family? > 100?" --easily checked via technorati ranking, etc.

    If yes for both then ... this is a reporter deserving press credentials.

    Look at this reaction to a blogger from Open Left, Matt Stoller. Open Left is not a small-time blog either.

    But they weren't "print" and BFF with the right people.

    Now admittedly, the Rossi campaign is allowed to speak to anyone they want -- but what is also equally interesting is the UNwillingness of anyone else in the room to say anything to stop Matt from being booted.

    It's time we had people monitoring the press -- considering how many times they get it wrong.

    Side note: I have talked about High-Speed Rail (trains going > 150 mph) to the press. I have given white papers to the "press" about High-Speed Rail. Only to see HSR reported as "light rail" ( trolleys that top out at 55mph)

     

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    Mike (profile), Nov 14th, 2008 @ 10:40am

    Re:

    I think the lawsuit generally makes sense, though I can't speak to the merits of the individual bloggers in question.. Many blogs have higher readership than so-called "traditional" media and press credentials should be issued to those who legitimately cover the news for the public not on the basis of whether their coverage is in newstands or on the web.

    While I agree that that *should* be the basis for giving out press credentials, that does NOT make this a First Amendment issues.

     

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    Dean W. Armstrong, Nov 14th, 2008 @ 10:41am

    You wrote, "anyone can become part of the press with a few clicks" -- so in other words, "press credentials" aren't actually press credentials, but some special credential, arbitrarily given by the NYPD. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit were previously given these credentials; they were denied and are trying to either receive due process about why they were denied or just receive their press credentials. This doesn't just affect the ability to get closer to an accident scene; it's also about the ability to go to a press conference and ask tough questions to the speakers.

     

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    Mike (profile), Nov 14th, 2008 @ 10:45am

    Re: warm up your laminator...

    No one can deny that SOME bloggers are legitimate reporters. the court has the opportunity to redefine media here officially.

    I don't think so, actually. There's no one questioning what the definition of a reporter is. The lawsuit is about whether a gov't agency should be forced to give out press credentials.

    Don't confuse handing out credentials with a determination of who is officially the media.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 14th, 2008 @ 10:50am

    Re: Re:

    How can it not be a First Amendment issue? FREEDOM of the PRESS is curtailed when the government arbitrarily decides who is a member of 'the press'. The 'legitimate' media gets access, great photo ops (which they copyright), sound bites, and get the opportunity to ask questions and get offered or offer follow-up interviews. Meanwhile the sweaty masses stuck at the back of the venue are denied all those benefits of access. That's not freedom of the 'press'.

     

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    Mike (profile), Nov 14th, 2008 @ 10:52am

    Re:

    So officials should be able to limit access to information arbitrarily? If you can deny a few, why not deny them all?

    There shouldn't be a requirement to give them *special* access, which is what press credentials are. This isn't about blocking overall access.

    The OP says that freedom of the press is about the freedom to report information, not access it. Well how do you report information that you don't have access to?

    What, you mean no reporter in the history of reporting has been able to break a story without official access to it?

    Based on that Woodward and Bernstein never would have broken Watergate.

    There's much more to reporting than just having a press credential.

    I suppose its ok though to just grant access only to mainstream media personalities who promise to ask softball questions and not "rock the boat" too much. No need to give passes to anyone else, right?

    Do you REALLY think that because someone is blocked from a press conference they can't ask tough questions and write hard hitting reports? Please. I would think that blocking such reporters from a press conference is only guaranteeing that their press coverage will be even more hard hitting.

     

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    Mike (profile), Nov 14th, 2008 @ 10:53am

    Re: Re: Re:

    How can it not be a First Amendment issue? FREEDOM of the PRESS is curtailed when the government arbitrarily decides who is a member of 'the press'

    They're not determining who is a member of the press. They're determining WHICH members of the press get access to a certain number of seats.

    No one is stopped from reporting.

    The 'legitimate' media gets access, great photo ops (which they copyright), sound bites, and get the opportunity to ask questions and get offered or offer follow-up interviews. Meanwhile the sweaty masses stuck at the back of the venue are denied all those benefits of access. That's not freedom of the 'press'.

    You are confused. Based on this, any reporter who is ever denied an interview request could sue.

    Do you not see how ridiculous that is?

     

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    Mike (profile), Nov 14th, 2008 @ 10:55am

    Re: .... You've got it wrong.

    This protectionism of an old established business models and supporting dying media outlets. This is nothing more than the government picking "winners" & "losers" in the marketplace. "Press Credentials" is just another licensing scheme designed to keep out new entrants to the marketplace.

    Really? Can you explain how this makes anyone a loser? They can still report on what happens. They can still be hard hitting reporters. Getting a pass to get into a press conference is not the definition of what makes you media.

     

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    Mike (profile), Nov 14th, 2008 @ 10:57am

    Re: Really?

    Or suppose the police give credentials only to people who never say anything negative about the police? Only happy people, please!

    Sure. And if they did that, plenty of publications would slam them for it, and cover them even more critically. It wouldn't stop the reporting. What's the problem?

    No. Access is critical. Access is why lobbyists are paid so much money.

    It is not "critical." It may be useful, but it's hardly critical.

    If access is critical, then it would be a first amendment issue anytime a reporter is refused an interview. That's ridiculous.

    It's time we had people monitoring the press -- considering how many times they get it wrong.

    Please, tell me, WHAT IS stopping people from monitoring the press today? Hmm? That's right: NOTHING.

     

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    Mike (profile), Nov 14th, 2008 @ 10:58am

    Re:

    This doesn't just affect the ability to get closer to an accident scene; it's also about the ability to go to a press conference and ask tough questions to the speakers.

    If you need press credentials to ask tough questions, you're not a very good reporter.

     

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    Troy P., Nov 14th, 2008 @ 11:02am

    In other words...

    ...most of you are saying that ANYBODY can request, and get, access to information about YOU, just for the asking. Right? I think there ought to be some sort of balance between WANT to know and NEED to know. Not EVERYBODY needs to know EVERYTHING about EVERYTHING/EVERYONE. We may all WANT to know, but, to what end? If I had the credentials, and barged into your life, and started harassing you about your skidmarks and subsequently reported on the front of Time magazine that you refused to deny you have skidmarks you'd run straight to your lawyer, wouldn't you? Well, *I* happen to feel that everyone all over the world should KNOW your skidmark-status. So, who am I? Just some guy with a computer and an ISP.

    Hard-hitting journalism? Right to know? Well, if I have my "credentials" I can now ask those same kind of hard-hitting questions at a "press conference."

    I hope the lawsuit is thrown out without comment. BLOGS are NOT "journalism." They are opinionism, same as all of "our" comments, here. Shoud WE now ALL qualify for press credentials? Hardly.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 14th, 2008 @ 11:54am

    Re:

    Exactly. Any yahoo can go on Blogger and make an account. They COULD require you to have it for a certain amount of time, but really that's not going to help anything.

     

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    Dosquatch, Nov 14th, 2008 @ 11:57am

    Re: Re: warm up your laminator...

    about whether a gov't agency should be forced to give out press credentials.

    You think? I don't think it's about that. The NYPD is already giving them out, there's no "force" required, I think the issue is about what criteria are used to determine to whom they are given. It strikes as, if anything is forced, it is only that "who" you report for should not be an automatic and arbitrary decider that you are not worthy.

    Equity in the process, if you will.

     

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    tracker1, Nov 14th, 2008 @ 12:05pm

    Press Conferences

    I don't know myself, but did the British Governors' offices have a habit of giving press conferences in colonial times? And if so, did they give out press passes to everyone interested, including underground press? If not, how did the underground press people get their information to report?

    Sorry, but reporters don't always get handed their story in a press conference, sometimes they have to work for it. Yes, that does mean that discrimination against online journalists can happen. I think it probably happens at other points as well. I would suspect that the NYPD might reject a request for a press credentials to someone from the Iowa Journal (made up example) as well.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 14th, 2008 @ 12:33pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    You are confused. My point is giving preferential treatment to 'traditional media' types for no other reason than having 'been around longer' provides them an unfair advantage in the market place for gathering and selling news. And don't put words in my mouth. I never claimed you should sue someone just because they refuse to grant your interview request. No one has to grant anyone an interview. But the reality is a guy with a microphone and a camera two feet from your face who asks a question or requests a follow-up interview has a distinct advantage over the blogger who has to stand in the crowd and can't even get within shouting distance. Denying press credentials to "alternative" journalists" because they work for "online or nontraditional publications" is simply gov't sanctioned anti-competitive behavior that serves established news media at the expense of innovators. For someone who constantly calls out the folly of placing artificial barriers in front of innovators your stand on this issue sounds hypocritical.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 14th, 2008 @ 12:48pm

    Re: Re:

    You have to be able to get near enough to ask tough questions. You can't do that is you are denied access.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 14th, 2008 @ 12:55pm

    Re: In other words...

    So if what you right about is 'opinion' then you should be denied press credentials? So Hannity and Colmes are out because they are regarded as 'new analysts' or 'commentators'. [Their words, not mine]. Bet they don't agree with you. Comedy Central's The Daily Show has people at all kinds of press events. Is that "journalism"? Hmmm, yet they do get press badges. But a guy with a serious blog and an audience numbered in the tens of thousands has to stand behind the crowd control barrier? BS pal.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 14th, 2008 @ 12:58pm

    Re: Press Conferences

    This issue isn't that the were denied, but the basis for that denial. There seems to no other standard applied other than "I don't think you are a legitimate journalist because I say so."

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 14th, 2008 @ 2:07pm

    Re: Re:

    This isn't about blocking overall access.

    Mike thats exactly what it is... If the NYPD is not aware upfront that a reporter has legitimate reasons for being there they are going to throw em out (Just like someone walking by gawking at the scene). They dont want to deal with any more people then they have to. And if they feel your not supposed to be there your going to get the boot.

    This is only an attempt to validate legitimate reporters being on a scene. The NYPD is not going to ask you who are and why your at the scene. They are just going to throw you out and fast. The NYPD's inability to cooperate should just demonstrate where the problem is. Its not with the efforts to validate legitimate reporters on the scene

     

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    Dosquatch, Nov 14th, 2008 @ 2:46pm

    Mike:

     

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    Dosquatch, Nov 14th, 2008 @ 3:01pm

    Re: Mike:

    Oops, wrong finger. I shall try again.

    Mike - The issue is freedom of the press. In exerting that freedom, or certain normally granted parts of it, a prerequisite must be recognition as press. Arbitrarily denying credentials curtails, among other things, first-hand access, in spite of your dismissing such.

    Were this first-hand access not important, why grant such access at all? (I say without flinching, since you've already tossed a slippery slope of your own into the debate) These attractors of media attention all seem to have mouthpieces and press secretaries. I'm sure the information they choose to pass along is fine without first-hand scrutiny.

    And I know that's ridiculous, but that's the position those without credentials and access find themselves in. Perhaps not to the extent of a diet of nothing but press releases, but you are held to reporting on the first-hand experiences of others, which isn't reporting at all. It's hearsay. It's copy/paste. But it is not press coverage. It is, in fact, exactly what normally gets criticized about press coverage when stories run amok.

    You go on to suggest that One needs not proper face-time to ask hard-hitting questions, and suggest One is not much of a reporter to "need" such. I counter - One can ask all the hard-hitting questions One wants to. Really insightful questions. Questions that really get to the meat of an issue. Questions that could, perhaps, win pulitzers... if One could get those questions answered. The subjects of such questions don't often wander by and give themselves up out of the blue. Most often, there has to be some close, personal time that involves a certain amount of uncomfortable squirming. This doesn't happen without access. Access doesn't happen if, say, the government chooses not to acknoledge you as press.

     

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    Clueby4, Nov 14th, 2008 @ 4:16pm

    Registration is all that should be required for

    " Or suppose the police give credentials only to people who never say anything negative about the police? Only happy people, please!"

    'Sure. And if they did that, plenty of publications would slam them for it, and cover them even more critically. It wouldn't stop the reporting. What's the problem?'

    What planet are you posting from certainly not Earth, perhaps a parallel dimension? You seriously believe MSM, in general, doesn't treat most police departments with kid's gloves?

    I understand the logistical issue of just granting everyone access, however the criteria should be clear and objective. Frankly it should just be a registration process. Given that most press isn't attributed to an actual "journalist" I find the whole idea of any criteria laughable. Why should the pigs get to register press, but the reading public only sees Associated Press as the "reporter".

    The only real issues are logistics, only so many reporters can access a crime scene, and accountability for libel, and/or other legal issues. Other then that it seems little more then an unsubtle attempt to limit the freedom of the press. And in NYPD's case, where the criteria is intentionally vague, I consider the lawsuit valid.

     

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    Mike (profile), Nov 14th, 2008 @ 5:26pm

    Re: Registration is all that should be required for

    What planet are you posting from certainly not Earth, perhaps a parallel dimension? You seriously believe MSM, in general, doesn't treat most police departments with kid's gloves?


    Who said anything about the MSM?

    I understand the logistical issue of just granting everyone access, however the criteria should be clear and objective.

    Yes, it should be. But if it's not, that's NOT a freedom of press issue. It's just bad policy.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 15th, 2008 @ 5:30am

    Re: Re: Mike:

    I'm starting to think you don't like answering me.

     

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    DS, Nov 15th, 2008 @ 7:58am

    Re:

    Hey, I talk about the news to people I know, I want a press pass. I'm part of the growing word-of-mouth reporters.

     

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    Mike (profile), Nov 15th, 2008 @ 3:24pm

    Re: Re: Re: Mike:

    I'm starting to think you don't like answering me.

    Who are you?

    We get over 500 comments a day. I pick and choose and it depends on how much time I have. If you apply as an AC I'm less likely to reply as I have no clue who you are.

     

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    JustMe, Nov 16th, 2008 @ 5:14am

    The Text

    All these knee-jerk comments and nobody pasted in the text itself?

    "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

    So, doesn't look like Congress made a law abridging the freedom of the press. I don't see what the problem is here. The bloggers can report on anything they wish, but the NYPD isn't required by the First Amendment to give everyone credentials.

     

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    Willton, Nov 17th, 2008 @ 6:29am

    Re: Re: Re: Mike:

    I'm starting to think you don't like answering me.

    Put a name behind your comments and perhaps you'll get some attention.

     

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    Dan J., Nov 17th, 2008 @ 9:55am

    Re:

    Sure, there must be some standards. But Mike seems to be missing the fact that the Police Department is a government entity and thus can not legitimately discriminate. Would it be acceptable if the PD started denying press passes to anyone who posted a story which showed them in a bad light?

    And while lack of a press pass doesn't prevent you from reporting on something, but it does prevent you from reporting first hand impressions if you can't get access. News reporting is all about scoops - the first one to report on a subject, or to provide a particular angle. If you're unable to get a press pass to certain events, you're at a serious disadvantage.

    Obviously, as you and Mike point out, it's not going to work to hand a press pass to everyone who simply asks for one. I think the solution is to have a clear, public and non-discriminatory policy which defines who's eligible to receive a press pass. If you feel that you're unfairly discriminated against, then you can sue to have the policy changed.

     

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    Steve, Nov 17th, 2008 @ 2:26pm

    I work in the television media. Bloggers are not the media. Period. End of discussion. Want media credentials? Get a job in the media or get sent be a legitimate media outlet to cover the event. I've handled credential issuing before for Toronto Film Festival and if I had a dollar for every hack with a website and a camera looking for media credentials, I'd be rich. Blogging is a GREAT thing, it really is but it does not constitute the legitimate media.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 18th, 2008 @ 6:54am

    Re:

    I work in the television media.

    Good for you. Really, I do mean that.

    Bloggers are not the media. Period. End of discussion.

    Pretentious windbaggery. I mean that, too.

    if I had a dollar for every hack with a website and a camera looking for media credentials, I'd be rich. Blogging is a GREAT thing, it really is but [...]

    I don't think anybody is suggesting that every nitwit with a blog and an axe to grind should be "press". In fact, it was exactly said that should NOT be the case. But to dismiss out of hand EVERYBODY who happens to be a Blogger as "not legitimate" is preposterous. Would it sting your ego less if it were called an "electronic publication"?

    There are "Blogs" with higher subscriber and reader rates than "legitimate" paper pubs. Cutting off access to such journalists - and they are - for something this arbitrary is wrong. Period. End of discussion.

     

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    J. Johnson, Nov 21st, 2008 @ 6:28am

    NYPD Press Credientials

    Just because someone has an internet blog doesn't mean they are a press/media organization that qualifies for official press credientials.

    A genuine news/media organization is measured by the following criteria. 1)They work for a real corporation. 2)occupy a commercial business premise. 3)Have employees working on the books 4)file business tax returns or non-profit status 5) Have insurance, etc.

    If you are only blogging in your underwear from your bedroom then sorry you don't qualify for official NYPD press credentials. Obtaining official press credentials is not a freedom of the press issue. You can still report all you want on your little blog sites, no one is stopping you. You can even make up your own 'Press Card' on your kitchen table. But the NYPD is not obligated to issue you one unless they want to. It is at the sole discretion and option of the NYPD who they want to issue there press cards to. Furthermore it is a privilege and not a right to have an NYPD Press Card

     

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    J. Johnson, Jan 11th, 2009 @ 5:32pm

    Press Cards / Norman Siegel

    Norman Siegel is just a media whore. Siegel is a self serving phony and will take any case where he gets his name in the paper or ugly face on TV. I perdict Siegel will lose this case just as he lost the NYC Public Advocate race.

     

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    J. Johnson, Jan 11th, 2009 @ 5:32pm

    Press Cards / Norman Siegel

    Norman Siegel is just a media whore. Siegel is a self serving phony and will take any case where he gets his name in the paper or ugly face on TV. I perdict Siegel will lose this case just as he lost the NYC Public Advocate race.

     

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    jay, Jul 6th, 2009 @ 1:51pm

    DCPI goes too far?

    just had to comment here, while I am not a member of NYPD press i to agree the system is messed up. I and a fellow photographer were visiting NYC for the Macys 4th of july for July 4th 2009, We called a branch known to very few called the DCPI, we were emailed the press release and told that our credentials were not valid NYPD credentials. We were also told where the media would be and that our credentials would be honored for this event as lo9ng as they had our photo and media outlet displayed on them. We were told be TWO people at "DCPI" that we would be ok. On the day of the event the police had "no clue" however after displaying our badges we were slowly let through to the front of the barricades, when we finally reached the front press block we ran into a gentleman (i use that term very loosely) by the name of "Hayes". This man was UNPROFESSIONALLY ARROGANT and rude towards us, he called our credentials "poorly made fakes" and continued to insult our intelligence. One of the reporters with me wanted to "slap him" and though he deserved it she held back her temper. The end result was to quote hayes " you tired, you came down here, you lost, your not getting in, exit the area up to 11th ave immediately, if you are caught here you will be cited for trespassing"

    I tried to shake his hand but he brushed me off, its my guess the "DCPI" whoever they are does not look to carefully about who they employ, and as far as hayes he wasn't the smartest tack in the box either.

    I don't know about NYC press, but they treat visiting press with disrespect and arrogance, don't get me wrong the NYPD were very polite, and the people on teh phone were also, but this "hayes" character was a power tripping loser that should not be in a place of authority. My office is filing a complaint with the city of new york, what happens with that will remain to be seen.

    It is a sad day when a city has to deny legitimate journalists and members of the media access, or when we cant do our job because arrogant unintelligent employees take power trips on a daily basis. Research has indicated past events like this with this "hayes" character from press that were visiting from out of state.

    Long story short we went to NJ and the police treated us very well over there and we got the footage we needed. Hope everyone had a happy 4th!

    mental note: rick the NJ press had never heard of the "DCPI" and lots of NYPD didnt know of them either, this hayes guy treated us like common thugs, my assistant almost belted him, when we got to NJ the media had filled up the area, but the NJPD got us into a house overlooking manhattan and since the house was due to be razed (demolished) anyways but had power, a detective that had been in the area looked at our creds and lwet us up to the 4th floor with a beautiful bay window view of the river.

    The nj press reporter who gave us a ride back to kennedy drive (to get a bus back to NYC) said that next time we should call MACYS and ask their pR depaqrtyment for VIP passdes, we MIGHT do that, i wont lie the show was stunning, however our reception makes me think twice about NYC altogether for awhile.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  42.  
    identicon
    Bob Blackburn, Aug 16th, 2013 @ 6:20am

    NYC Police Press Credentials Case

    This is promising to be a facinating case in the dramatically changing landscape of journalism.

    Mike, access does matter! Freedom of the press is meaningless without access to the story and the story maker.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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