NYC (Finally) Creates System For Giving Press Passes To Online Journalists

from the but-separate-from-the-lawsuit dept

A year and a half ago, we wrote about some online/alternative journalists who sued the NYC Police Department because of a refusal to give those journalists press passes. As we noted at the time, it was difficult to see the legal justification for the lawsuit. Just because you are a reporter (alternative, online or traditional) it doesn't mean that the city has to grant you press access. This upset some folks in the comments who thought I was supporting the idea that "bloggers aren't journalists" or that this was somehow a free speech issue. It was not. The reporters were absolutely free to report on whatever they wanted and say whatever they wanted, but that did not mean that anyone had to grant them access. Hell, I even thought that the NYC police were wrong in not granting these journalists access -- but that didn't mean it was illegal.

Soon after that lawsuit was filed, the police backed down anyway and granted those journalists access, making the lawsuit somewhat meaningless, though it continued. Separately, however, a lawsuit in California proved the point that being a journalist does not give you the right to unfettered access, such as at crime scenes.

So, when one of the journalists involved in the original lawsuit, David Wallis, sent in a submission this week declaring Masnick was wrong!!!!, I thought I'd check it out -- since everything had indicated that I was not wrong. However, it appears that Wallis also seems confused about the difference between what the NYC Police should do and what they're legally required to do. The reason for the email is that NYC has smartly put in place rules and procedures for credentialing online journalists as part of the agreement to settle the lawsuit.

I think this is an absolute good thing -- and a smart move. If anything, I'm sort of surprised that such a policy didn't already exist. But, unlike Wallis' claim, this does not change my stance on the original lawsuit. While it may have pressured NYC into putting in place a policy, that doesn't mean there was any legal leg to stand on in the lawsuit. As I said, I always thought that the police should have given credentials to these journalists -- and should have had a policy in place for giving credentials to journalists who meet certain criteria, even if they're not employed by the traditional media. But that does not mean that the police have to give access to anyone who declares themselves a journalist. So I'm happy for Wallis and the other journalists that NY has changed its policy and made it more reasonable in response to the lawsuit, but that doesn't change the likelihood that the original lawsuit was not going anywhere on a legal basis.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 3rd, 2010 @ 9:35pm

    "As we noted at the time, it was difficult to see the legal justification for the lawsuit. Just because you are a reporter (alternative, online or traditional) it doesn't mean that the city has to grant you press access."

    NYC is a GOVERNMENT body, it's not a PRIVATE body, so YES, they absolutely need to be open to the press about their actions.

     

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

  2.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 3rd, 2010 @ 9:36pm

    Re:

    and, furthermore, taxpayers should DEMAND that this is so. If it were a private entity, absolutely, they have every right to decide who has and doesn't have access. but as a PUBLIC entity, funded with PUBLIC money, they MUST be open. PERIOD!!!

     

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

  3.  
    icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), Mar 3rd, 2010 @ 10:01pm

    Re:

    NYC is a GOVERNMENT body, it's not a PRIVATE body, so YES, they absolutely need to be open to the press about their actions.

    Of course they need to be *open* with the press, but that does't mean they have to *grant everyone who wants it access to press conferences*. I'm not sure why it's so difficult to understand the difference.

     

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

  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 3rd, 2010 @ 11:00pm

    Re: Re:

    To the extent I agree with you (and I'm not sure), one IMPORTANT criterion is that there should be absolutely NO intellectual property on anything reported on such press conferences (neither on the actual event or on the reporting of it).

     

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

  5.  
    icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), Mar 3rd, 2010 @ 11:09pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    To the extent I agree with you (and I'm not sure), one IMPORTANT criterion is that there should be absolutely NO intellectual property on anything reported on such press conferences (neither on the actual event or on the reporting of it).

    Sure. Absolutely. But I don't think that was ever an issue. This was just about whether or not they could be in the room. And I think it's perfectly reasonable for the gov't to say "look we're only letting these members of the press in." I mean, not anyone gets into the President of the US's press conferences, right?

     

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

  6.  
    identicon
    Michael, Mar 4th, 2010 @ 5:25am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Sure - they obviously cannot let anyone in who claims to be a member of the press. Since the line of who is a member of the press gets increasingly blurry, they have to be able to control who has access to certain things.

    My problem right now is the lack of a process to get to be one of the people that has access. It sounds like they are starting to build a procedure, but it should be some kind of open (and inexpensive or free) process that is published so people can get themselves registered.

    A process to register as a member of the press and renew this registration would clear up a lot of issues about who is a member of the press - and also help figuring out who can be protected under Shield laws. Of course, a process like this would certainly be turned into an exclusive, expensive process that nobody but the main stream press can afford, but I guess that is democracy (or is it some kind of corporate corpocracy these days) at work.

     

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

  7.  
    identicon
    Anony1, Mar 4th, 2010 @ 8:51am

    @Mike Masnick: Your post seems a bit disingenuous here. Obviously there are some legal grounds for the granting of press passes. Other wise, NO ONE would be granted one. You seem to imply that the current laws require no one is legally granted a press pass out of legal requirement, and that the Police, City, etc., simply do it out of good will. You seem to imply that those organizations that would have enough clout to embarrass them into doing so are the ones that get the press passes. Without stating the current law in your post, it's easy to claim you are right. AGAIN-if you're going to claim you're right, you should spell out the process here. We're not all legal scholars you know.

     

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

  8.  
    identicon
    Anony1, Mar 4th, 2010 @ 8:55am

    @Mike Masnick: As we noted at the time, it was difficult to see the legal justification for the lawsuit...

    How about the only thing that promted them to change their rules WAS the damn lawsuit. You seem to be wanting to have it both ways. You say you support access by online media right? Yes, they can limit the number, do some lottery or something. That wasn't the case. From what I read here, it seems they weren't even recognized as "real" journalists.
    Well if they tried everything else, including saying "pretty please", while not being, quote "legally justified", it may have been their ONLY remaining option. Please expound on what their other options were, if you think you know better.

     

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

  9.  
    icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), Mar 4th, 2010 @ 11:02am

    Re:

    How about the only thing that promted them to change their rules WAS the damn lawsuit.

    I'm sure that's likely. But it doesn't mean that they would have won the lawsuit. That's my argument. The lawsuit had no legs. NYC decided it needed to fix the policy -- which is good -- but it would have won the lawsuit.

    Yes, they can limit the number, do some lottery or something. That wasn't the case. From what I read here, it seems they weren't even recognized as "real" journalists.

    Where in the law is it written that a city has to recognize certain people as journalists and grant them access to press conferences?

    Well if they tried everything else, including saying "pretty please", while not being, quote "legally justified", it may have been their ONLY remaining option. Please expound on what their other options were, if you think you know better.

    Uh, just because you want something, doesn't mean you get to sue until you get it. Again, if *I* tried to get into a White House press conference, they would say no. And that's perfectly reasonable.

    As for other options, they could complain publicly about it and convince NYC to change its policy. Yes, they did that via a lawsuit, but it still doesn't mean the lawsuit had any chance of succeeding in court.

     

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

  10.  
    identicon
    Anony1, Mar 4th, 2010 @ 11:12am

    Where in the law is it written that a city has to recognize certain people as journalists and grant them access to press conferences?



    @Mike Masnick: It may NOT. My point was that there should be some standard, written into law, defining how this proccess occurs (who gets press passes). That is all. You seem to be implying that no complaint was lodged publicly, however it seems likely that someone contacted or complained prior to the lawsuit. If they didn't, I have a little less sympathy, but not much. You should know more than anyone from covering issues like this that, unfortunately, the SOP for most big entitites (cities, corportations etc,) is to just plow along unless presented by some legal challenge. History speaks volumes in all sorts of situations.

     

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

  11.  
    identicon
    rabbit, Mar 4th, 2010 @ 12:03pm

    Re:

    So let me get this straight. Mike is disingenuous because he states that there is no legal grounds which you agree may be the case (in caps, no less) but that there should be something...so because you think there should be something in the law that makes it the law and, therefore, Mike is disingenuous?

    My head hurts.

     

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

  12.  
    identicon
    Anony1, Mar 4th, 2010 @ 1:09pm

    @rabbit: Sorry your head hurts. I was incorrect in using that term, disingenuous. It does seem however that Mike is saying he supports their goals, but not their means. My point was, without seeing what the current law/standard for granting press passes is (or was prior to the lawsuit being filed)there wasn't a point of reference to determine if the standards in place treated all media equally were well founded. If they didn't have good standards, and the police were already complained too (I give the benefit of the doubt here to the bloggers), then a law suit may have been the only avenue. Note how after the lawsuit was filed, the police suddenly relented. If there were really just different standards (for which as I read more on press passes MAY be the case), the police shouldn't have folded. So either way, the system is not working. It's not fair to place this on Mike, but the readers hear could benefit from the issue being fleshed out more. Again, I was wrong to use the terminology I did.

    Why should it take lawsuits for common sense to prevail? It seems it sometimes does, as much as I hate over-litigation.
    Again, after countless examples of abuse of power by authorities, it's not unreasonable IMHO, to assume that the police were asked to change their standards,and simply ignored the request. As electronic journalism/news reporting becomes closer every day to the level of importance as traditional press, and more and more people get their news this way, the standards should change. Are the electronic media/bloggers supposed to just wait years for the Police to craft proper policy? Sometimes, however, ugly, the ends may justify the means. I understand that can cut both ways, but it's the truth.

     

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

  13.  
    identicon
    Anony1, Mar 4th, 2010 @ 1:13pm

    because of a refusal to give those journalists press passes..

    It seems by definition, a refusal is in response to a request. According to Mike, this request wasn't public enough. This is a subjective opinion.

     

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

  14.  
    identicon
    Anony1, Mar 4th, 2010 @ 1:21pm

    Here is from the original story (NY Times I believe):Mr. Wallis is the founder of featurewell.com, a syndication service that provides news coverage to 1,500 publication worldwide, including The Guardian, The Irish Examiner, The Australian Financial Review and The New Zealand Herald. According to the lawsuit, Mr. Wallis had a press identification card off and on from 1994 until August 2007, when his petition to obtain the card again was denied without explanation.

    Mr. Smith is published of The Guardian Chronicle, a Web site for black law enforcement workers. He has been a public information officer for the city’s Correction Department since 1988, and had a press credential from 1996 until January 2007, when his application to renew the credential was denied. Despite several attempts to get a written explanation for the denial, Mr. Smith has not received one, the suit says.



    YET, in the original blog post Mike says (paraphrasing) that: Anyone shouldn't be allowed to get press passes, althoug some people feel this might not be a bad thing. The problem is, that simply is/was NOT the case.That may be were I got the disingenuous vibe from. The people involved clearly have legitimate journalistic backrounds, (1500 sydnicated publications for one guy), AND YET, were being denied without explanation. A further reading of the lawsuit seems to suggest it isn't about traditional vs. electronic, but how the standards were applied. The Police may be free to weigh different organizations with different standards, but as I said above, with the change in media, they probably shouldn't, and in this case, it seems these guys met the definition of the current standards. Which leads me to believe the Police were abusing the law. Thus, the suit may be justified.

     

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

  15.  
    identicon
    Anony1, Mar 4th, 2010 @ 1:32pm

    So to finally summarize, I may have been right. To claim that this is about "anyone" wanting to get a press pass, when these particular "anyones" are legitimate press members, could be seen as disingenuous. It seems like the Police used the differing standards (not unique to NYPD) as a cover to deny these specific guys passes, without explanation, and that is what the lawsuit is about. It also seems that these differing standards for issuing press passes between "on the scene" and "electronic" journalists are becoming less and less relavent. While it's true Mike said in his orignal blog post that the lines were blurring these days, he then goes on to make the case that this case in particular reflects that "anyone and everyone" is asking to be treated as a journalist. Again, when you look at these specific individuals backrounds, they don't just seem like some guy with a blog. That could be seen as disingenous, or at least, misinformed.

     

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

  16.  
    icon
    Christopher Weigel (profile), Mar 4th, 2010 @ 4:18pm

    Re:

    Oh dear god.

    1) Stop spamming. Seriously.

    2) Learn the comments system. Trying to read your comments is giving me a massive headache.

    3) If you feel there should be a law, take it up with your local congressman. If you feel the law is being misapplied, take it up in court. This doesn't mean "I feel there should be a law" means "I can sue as if there was one".

    4) Quality of publication is subjective. Selecting which of these publications you wish to be represented is, likewise, subjective. If I wander into a press conference as a reporter from "bunnies, bikinis and bratwurst" I should have a reasonable expectation of not being taken seriously.

    5) Related to 4: If you feel your publication isn't being adequately represented or respected, I have one word for you: EXPOSURE. Become well-known and you have a leg to stand on. Sitting around acting like a litigious turd accomplishes nothing except losing respect and goodwill.

    6) Even if the granting of press passes was caused by the lawsuit (which can't be proven) that still is insufficient to say it could have been accomplished ONLY by the lawsuit. See #3.

     

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

  17.  
    identicon
    Anony1, Mar 5th, 2010 @ 8:51am

    @Christopher Weigel: Learn to read. Seriously. Three comments in a row in not spam. While I could have been more concise, I made valid points. Again, while the police had a system in place as to who gets press passes, they had a two-tier system. As noted before, this two-tier system needs to be reformed, as internet journalism gains parity with print, and TV/radio journalism. Second, even if this two tier system were valid (it has now been reformed following the lawsuit), it was being applied arbitrarily apparently.
    Even if the police get to decide who gets passes, if they have regulations, those regulations CANNOT legally be applied arbitrarily. This is what the lawsuit is about. So in my opinion, the lawsuit is potentially VERY valid.
    Also proving you didn't even bother to read (I know my comments were lengthy) the reporters represented 1500 sydicated clients. "Bunnies, bikinis, and brutwurst" it wasn't. Please however, set up another straw man while you're at it. Dear God indeed.

     

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

  18.  
    icon
    Christopher Weigel (profile), Mar 5th, 2010 @ 9:19am

    Re:

    It makes life a lot easier for people if you click "reply to this comment" instead of having a running chain at base level. Also, have you ever heard the term "Wall of Text"?

    More to the point, "If they didn't have good standards, and the police were already complained too (I give the benefit of the doubt here to the bloggers), then a law suit may have been the only avenue."

    I highly doubt litigation is ever the "only avenue". And as Mike, myself and others have pointed out, the litigation didn't have a legal leg to stand on. I'm not arguing if they should or shouldn't have gotten press passes, but the lawsuit was ill-conceived.

    What were you saying about strawmen?

     

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

  19.  
    identicon
    Anony1, Mar 5th, 2010 @ 11:01am

    @Christopher Weigel: You really are thick aren't you.
    Even if what you say is true, it doesn't negate the other facts I brought to bear, and those raised in the original NYTs article. The seemingly arbitrary nature of the decision, etc., etc.,. As for what I was saying about straw men, it is exactly what I said. BOTH MIKE AND YOU AND OTHERS constantly throw around these absurd hypotheticals about granting "anyone" press passes. When the parties involved are legitimate news sources, it doesn't get much more false as far as an argument from your end is concerned.
    I'm glad you doubt the litigation is the only avenue, I just haven't seen evidence to the contrary.

     

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

  20.  
    icon
    Christopher Weigel (profile), Mar 5th, 2010 @ 11:47am

    Re:

    Hmm, ad hominem attacks, strawmen... Yeah, I'm done talking to you. Feel free to believe whatever vast conspiracy theory you so choose.

     

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

  21.  
    identicon
    Anony1, Mar 5th, 2010 @ 2:57pm

    @Christopher Weigel: Sorry you can't read. Where is my ad hominem attack? YOU are the one brining up "bunnies, bikinis and bratwurst" when in fact:

    Mr. Wallis is the founder of featurewell.com, a syndication service that provides news coverage to 1,500 publication worldwide, including The Guardian, The Irish Examiner, The Australian Financial Review and The New Zealand Herald

    SO GOOD. Please stop talking. Calling someone "thick" as in "dense" because they can't comprehend basically structured sentences isn't ad hominem. Again, I LOL everytime someone like you uses a tactic like that. Insulting someone never by itself invalidates an argument.
    Ad hominem attack rebuttals are only valid if the "attack" is used in PLACE of an arugment, not in addition to. Sorry you're so thin skined, but the old "I'm done talking with you" is the pathetic retreat of someone without an argument.
    Apparently, you've never heard of the concept of point, followed by counterpoint. It's called discussion and debate.
    You presented very few legitimate counter arguments. It's not a conspiracy theory. Read the NYTs article. I'll choose to believe the facts thanks. Mike Masnick is just as bad on this one (for not responding, but at least it's mostly because he doesn't care, and/or is too busy.

     

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


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This