Main | Monday, December 15, 2008

NYPD Sued Over Blogger Press Credentials

Room Eight, the NYC politics site founded by Politico's Ben Smith, reported this weekend on a federal lawsuit filed against the NYPD regarding their refusal to grant press credentials to online journalists.
“The system of granting press credentials in New York City has run amok and needs to be changed immediately,” said Norman Siegel, a prominent civil rights attorney who is leading the lawsuit. “We cannot allow the City of New York, the police department, to trample on the fundamental rights of journalists.”

The lawsuit is challenging the NYPD’s “unconstitutionally vague” criteria for defining who is qualified to carry city-issued press credentials. According to the NYPD’s Office of Deputy Commissioner for Public Information, an applicant must submit three articles that have been published in print media within the last six months and a cover letter from a news director or editor. For individuals publishing largely for online-only news organizations or blogs, the policy seems unclear.
The similar case filed by the NYCLU is also pending.

Interestingly, I was talking about this very issue with the Gay City News guys at yesterday's memorial in Brooklyn, where the above-quoted Norman Siegel was in attendance. I've been pretty lucky so far, usually when I attend events the organizers have arranged for me to access the press area.

However I've also been to protests and marches where I've been unable to get out of the protester pens the NYPD sets up, making it impossible to get good photographs or speak to the right people. At last month's marriage equality rally at City Hall, a press credential would have been very handy - from as close as I could get to the stage, it was still impossible for me hear very clearly or ID some of the speakers.

I can understand that the NYPD fears an onslaught of gadfly citizen journalists disrupting the relatively polite, staid environment of press conferences held by city officials. But clearly, the city and the NYPD needs to understand that "journalist = print" is simply no longer true.

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