More Bloggers Suing For Gov't Press Passes

from the this-may-not-end-well... dept

We recently wrote about how a lawsuit filed by three alternative publication reporters against NYC for denying them press passes to NY Police press conferences ended in a settlement with NY setting up new rules for getting press credentials. There was a fair amount of back and forth in the comments, with some still believing the lawsuit was sound, even though we had trouble with the idea that the lawsuit had any merit at all. However, it looks like that result may have inspired others as well. A blogger in Maryland is now suing the state for denying him a press pass. The article is long and detailed -- and it does sound (yet again) like the government should have issued the guy a press pass, but does that make the lawsuit sound?

Let's take an extreme example. I write for an "alternative publication," but if I requested a press pass from the White House, I would totally expect to get turned down. There is limited room in such press conferences, and the White House has every right to determine who gets that access. Same with the NYC police and the Maryland General Assembly. I agree that perhaps these gov't organizations should have a clear process and clear standards for who gets let in, but I can't see how it's a free speech violation to deny press credentials under these circumstances. They're not saying these people aren't press, or that they can't publish whatever they want. They're just saying they don't get to enter the building as press.


Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
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    Skeptical Cynic (profile), Mar 10th, 2010 @ 11:22pm

    So Techdirt is...?

    Is Techdirt legit or just a "blogger"

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 11th, 2010 @ 1:23am

    Re: So Techdirt is...?

    legit or blogger? I choose number "C".

     

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  3.  
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    sdpate (profile), Mar 11th, 2010 @ 1:41am

    Bloggers as journalists

    How did you get to be such a fuddy duddy on this issue - freedom of the press. The Canadian Supreme Court ruled that blogging is a medium of the press not a pejorative and that we have the same rights as people working for the networks or newspapers.

    Freedom of the press is a principal of democracy. Bloggers who are journalist are just a new format.

     

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  4.  
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    Chucklebutte (profile), Mar 11th, 2010 @ 2:59am

    Really?

    What constitutes as blogging? I have my own personal forums which I "rant/blog" about myself does this count? If so where is my press pass?

     

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  5.  
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    Modplan (profile), Mar 11th, 2010 @ 3:17am

    Re: Bloggers as journalists

    No one has said they're not, but the issue isn't how someone who uses a blog or blog format, but limited space where more larger reaching publications are bound to be considered first.

     

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  6.  
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    AbsentParanoia, Mar 11th, 2010 @ 4:08am

    Re: Really?

    Sounds like you should either give yourself a press pass or do a citizens arrest and Tazer yourself.

     

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  7.  
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    Chris in Utah (profile), Mar 11th, 2010 @ 4:44am

    I'd have to say legit

    Even in DC there is room for every major network. Including any those with over 10 thousand viewers (think CSPAN). So lets see does TechDirt fall into that category? I'd say yes.

    Go apply for your D.C. press pass, please! Get back to us when you start interviewing the Communist from the FCC. Btw I suggest watching the Family Guy episode, on Adult swim of course, on the FCC.

     

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  8.  
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    Overcast (profile), Mar 11th, 2010 @ 6:09am

    and the White House has every right to determine who gets that access

    I disagree, it's a public building. Technically 'owned' by 'the people' of the U.S.

    They may have to limit the overall number, but there's no reason they couldn't alternate various news agencies - including bloggers though.

    This week: ABC, CNN, FOX, and MyHappyBlog.
    Next Week: CBS, NBC, etc..

     

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  9.  
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    Vidiot (profile), Mar 11th, 2010 @ 6:19am

    Re:

    True... I think we've created two different issues here. A press pass is a static document which, even when issued, doesn't guarantee access to, for instance, the White House. (Or else we'd hear more questions posed by the Podunk Daily Bugle reporter.)The fundamental question is whether bloggers should be able to get that snappy "PRESS" card to stick in the brims of their fedoras (like Jimmy Olsen) and be able to cross police lines to report on a burning building.

     

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  10.  
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    whgeiger (profile), Mar 11th, 2010 @ 6:39am

    Wrong Conclusion

    "They're not saying these people aren't press, or that they can't publish whatever they want. They're just saying they don't get to enter the building as press."

    What is being denied, follows; access to the building is incidental to this:

    1) Timely Access to Content and Details
    For News time is of the essence. "The early birds get the worms." Old news has no economic value, unless you are writing a history book.

    2) Opportunity for Q&A
    Different people ask different questions. Less risk with less diverse and limited participants may be a motivating factor. If we suspect that we will not like the questions you ask, we won't let you in to ask them.

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 11th, 2010 @ 7:11am

    But it's the government!

    "They're not saying these people aren't press, or that they can't publish whatever they want. They're just saying they don't get to enter the building as press."

    Yes... the question is, is it unfair or unreasonable for them to do so? Maybe there's actually plenty of room for these bloggers, or maybe an unbiased selection process would actually choose them over some of the reporters who were given passes.

    If a private company holds an event and has excessively strict rules about who is allowed a press pass, then that's their right. But if it's the government that's doing it wrong, then a law needs to be changed (or at least established).

    If you want to change the law, I see two ways to go about it: lobby for change (which is a euphemism for "bribe the right people"), or sue the government. Unless you're obscenely rich, the latter seems easier.

     

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  12.  
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    btr1701 (profile), Mar 11th, 2010 @ 7:17am

    Re: Re:

    > and be able to cross police lines to report on
    > a burning building

    That's something that only happens in movies. In reality, no one but emergency personnel and authorized officials cross police lines at crime scenes and other similar situations. You certainly don't have reporters milling about among the fire trucks and crime scene techs, getting in the way and making a nuisance of themselves.

     

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  13.  
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    Hymie, Mar 11th, 2010 @ 7:29am

    Re: Bloggers as journalists

    You are correct. No one is contesting that point. They are just making a point that just as any press conference can deny entrance to any press from anywhere. Officials have the right withhold press passes from anyone they choose. If the president doesn't want the NY Times at the next conference, the white house can deny the press passes to all members of that papers staff.
    If NYC doesn't want 'bloggers' at the next press conference they don't have to issue passes to them, regardless of whether they are considered legitimate press or not. Freedom of the press does NOT guarantee free access to news. Bloggers are free to gather the news from other sources and print them. Getting the press pass is a privilege, not a right.

     

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  14.  
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    Danny, Mar 11th, 2010 @ 7:33am

    Violation of Free Speech?

    Bascially these people are saying that since they are journalists they MUST be allowed entry into press events and to deny them is unfair.

    Wrong.

    Like Mike said those events usually have limits on how many prsss can enter so its a situation of the people holding the event having to decide who to let in. Its not like they were turning away people because of their gender or race or something. You know the next step is for them to start suing to keep other publications out of press events on the grounds that they are biased...

     

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  15.  
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    Hymie, Mar 11th, 2010 @ 7:33am

    Re: white house

    Yes it is,,, AND it is the 'private residence' of the leader of the country. Admission is by permission. Even if you pay for the tour, you may be denied access, based on many criteria.

     

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  16.  
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    Anony1, Mar 11th, 2010 @ 8:52am

    @Mike Masnick: This post seems to be a reasonable take on the issue in general. I would like to add however, that you seem to agree with my argument from the last thread, that they(governments) "should have a clear process and clear standards for who gets let in". That was the issue I had with your last post. I think the NY lawsuit was sound because the guy who was denied a press pass, had it done to him apparently outside of the rules already in use. Of course they can decide who to allow to operate as press, thus a "press pass", BUT they need to apply those rules consistantly. Mike, I read the NYTs article detailing the initial case in NY, and it does NOT appear that they applied the rules consistantly. Also I would argue that there is a fundamental right to have SOME information shared from the government to the people. That is why it's called representative government, at least in a democracy.
    So while they can choose, they need to choose SOMEONE.
    Going back to the two tiered system (treating bloggers, etc., and traditional media differently), there can be standards (what's your audience size/average readership), and bars to be passed in order to qualify, but AGAIN those shouldn't be arbitrary. The NY case seems like it was less about having a two-tiered system (even though that changed following the lawsuit being filed), and more about the arbitrary nature of the decision to deny the pass (he had been granted one previously). This is why I disagreed with your assesement on the first case. Maybe the NYPD just thought it was time to give someone else a turn, but it doesn't appear that way from the facts known. Next comment on this case...but they are similar.

     

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  17.  
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    Bryan (profile), Mar 11th, 2010 @ 9:55am

    Not Exactly Free Speech

    Mike,

    The issue in this particular case in Maryland is not a First Amendment issue. It is a equal protection issue. If a government makes a statute, regulation or policy then it must apply them equally to all. The question isn't whether under is a "professional" journalist, but whether the rules were applied equally to him. The blogger in question is a former county attorney in Maryland who writes a blog. While I don't read it, I have heard of it. From the linked article:

    [The blogger,]"Liner wanted to interview Brochin [his State Senator] in Annapolis throughout the session on whatever was news in the General Assembly and post the “uncensored, unfiltered” conversations on his Web site. Liner planned to ask other lawmakers to participate as well."

    This is exactly the type of blogger reporting that you are always touting. I think you will agree this is a great idea. Does it rate a press pass?

    "In December, Liner called the Department of General Services, which formally issues the press passes, and was told the governor’s press office decides who receives them. Liner said he called the governor’s press office but never received a reply.

    He enlisted the help of Brochin’s office and, in January, soon after the session began, he learned from the senator’s aide that his request had been denied. Among the reasons given was that his site had “no original content regarding state government,” according to an e-mail from the aide."

    Further, "[i]n addition to his blog posts, he has posted interviews with former governors Marvin Mandel and Harry R. Hughes, as well as Rep. Frank Kratovil during his successful campaign two years ago for the Maryland’s 1st Congressional District." Rep. Kratovil was a hotly contested, important race in Maryland where the incumbent Republican representative had been unseated in the primaries. Obviously, this is important Maryland political discussion.

    The published criteria for a press pass are:
    "The applicant must be employed by an “independent bona fide” news organization or be a freelancer who “regularly engages in regular news gathering.” Credentials may not be used to engage in “any lobbying, promotion or publicity activity” advocating for a candidate or issue." These rules do two things: exclude lobbyists (explicit) and not-for-pay reporting (implicit). Frankly, I think this is an important issue to deal with, and I believe you would as well. As an attorney, I am thinking about volunteering my time in to help Mr. Liner in this case.

    All quotes from the Daily Record article here: http://mddailyrecord.com/2010/03/07/pushing-for-press-access-for-bloggers/

    Bryan

     

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  18.  
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    erlangga (profile), Mar 11th, 2010 @ 3:44pm

    I Agree

     

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  19.  
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    Chris in Utah (profile), Mar 11th, 2010 @ 9:18pm

    Re: Not Exactly Free Speech

    Bryan if you need legal aid support let me know me and my wife have experience. We can telecommute files through google docs ;)

    Frithfully yours
    Chris in Utah

     

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  20.  
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    Eric, Sep 25th, 2010 @ 1:09am

    What?

    Governments need to be able to cater to all journalists, whether they "like" them or not. Being able to deny anyone is a recipe for corruption...

     

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  21.  
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    Enriched, Oct 29th, 2010 @ 11:58pm

    Wine Country California

    Sounds like you should either give yourself a press pass or do a citizens arrest and Tamer yourself

    Wine Country California

     

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  22.  
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    Enriched, Oct 30th, 2010 @ 12:08am

    Healdsburg California

    Sounds like you should either give yourself a press pass or do a citizens arrest and Tamer yourself.

    Healdsburg California

     

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


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