The Fight for Access
November 13th, 2008

Oh the endless saga of the New York City press pass. How we loathe thee.

But maybe the wretched ordeal of being denied time and time and time again will finally change in this era of new New York media.

Three New York City journalists, with the help of civil rights attorney Norman Siegel, have filed a federal lawsuit against the New York City Police Department for denying press passes. The police have stonewalled these journalists and not given them any explanation for their denials.

We here at Gotham Gazette feel their pain.

Since the summer of 2007, we have been denied a press identification card, which would assist us in accessing certain crowded/exclusive City Hall events. The NYPD’s reason: that we are online only, sans a tangible, ink-stained print publication.

We try to finagle our way in (I have even thrown some elbows — OK, not really, but I have definitely thought about it) and do so, most of the time, successfully.

But as members of the New York City press corps who put out an incisive, in-depth product on our city government’s policies, we are still denied one of the fundamental rights for working journalists: ACCESS.

We know we are not alone. Other online media organizations, like Gothamist for one, have struggled getting that tiny, weightless card that carries a whole ton of legitimacy.

In an era when reputable papers are closing their print versions to work online exclusively (ahem, the Christian Science Monitor) and others are gradually weaning their readers off of the newsprint and moving them more to the World Wide Web, any news hound must wonder how the NYPD’s policy can still exist.

I am not one to think that everyone who has set up a blogger site is a journalist. But in this age of new media, a policy that recognizes the quality of publication and not solely its medium would be a more equitable road to take.

This is the second lawsuit filed this year over the NYPD’s credentialing policy. The NYCLU and former Newsday reporter Leonard Levitt filed a suit in February after his press pass was revoked by the department. Levitt runs his own news site focusing on the NYPD, and prior to his denial he had a press pass for 24 years.

The more recent suit alleges the denial of press passes is against the first and fourteenth amendments of the U.S. Constitution.

By on November 13, 2008, 11:54 am
In category: Civil Rights,Crime & Safety,Gotham City,Law,nextNY | 1 Comment »

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One Response to “The Fight for Access”

  1. Alan Flacks Says:
    November 17th, 2008 at 3:45 pm

    Courtney Gross and the Gotham Gazette are so right. The Internet and World-wide Web are here, and so should their reporters. Your best example is the venerable and reputable Christian Science Monitor. I guess New York city’s flat-feet would deny a Navajo shaman a pass, too, since their tradition is passed on orally.

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