Today I went to 1 Police Plaza at 11AM to attend the hearing that the NYPD was having regarding the new NYPD Press pass regulations which are aiming to go into effect in July. Most of the press (print, photographers, online, and broadcast) that I have talked to are against the regulations.
I will post the press release from the NYPD below, which details the changes they aim to make--the most obvious one being to stop issuing the Press I.D. card. the Press I.D. card is often used by entertainment photographers, among other members of the press, to distinguish themselves from common fans or the public in general, at an event which requires a press pass in order to attend. Parades, movie premieres, press conferences, political events, concerts, the list is endless.
These Press I.D. cards allow you to "pass Police and Fire Lines at the scene of a Non-emergency" news event such as a parade, theatre premiere, etc." It is the only way the NYPD and other authorities distinguish press from non-press at an event, which enables us to do our job. This is what they have to say:
From press release issued 3/2/2010 by the NYC Law Department
The City Law Department today announced the publication of proposed new rules for issuing press passes to members of the media in New York City.
The rules proposed to be adopted by the Police Department modernize the City’s credentialing system to reflect changes to the media industry and, for the first time, expressly incorporate online-only media such as blogs.
The new rules, which were published today in the City Record, also address the major contention in a lawsuit filed in November of 2008 that challenged the existing credentialing system.
“This is a press credentialing system for the online age that can serve as a model for governments around the country,” said Administrative Law Division Chief Gabriel Taussig. “The rules were drafted in a collaborative process with input from numerous interested participants, together with extensive research and a public listening session with members from all segments of the media.”
“We have streamlined and improved New York City's Rules for Press Credentials,” said Norman Siegel, one of the attorneys in the lawsuit. “The new rules will enable journalists to gather and report news in a more successful manner than before. Online journalists will now be considered as 21st century journalists and be treated equally to print, television and radio journalists.”
Under the proposed new rules published today, to obtain a press credential, an applicant must show that he or she has covered, in person, six news events where the City has restricted access, within the two-year period preceding the application.
In addition to employees of traditional news gathering organizations, the new rules cover self-employed newspersons and other individuals who gather and report the news. The new press card will be issued every two years.
A press card allows its bearer, with the approval of police, to cross certain barriers established by the City at news events. Many non-City entities also rely on the City press card to distinguish who is a member of the media.
The proposed rules continue the issuance of “reserve cards” that allow news organizations to credential a reporter for a specific assignment. The proposal also provides for the continuation of the issuance of a “single event press card” which will be available to journalists who have pre-registered and need the credentials to cover a single event. The reserve card and the single event card eliminate the “chicken or the egg” problem that exists for a prospective press card applicant who has not yet covered, in person, six news events.
The proposed rules allow for the creation of a press card, reserve card, and single event card, eliminating the “Press Identification Card.”
The proposed rules establish timeframes for granting or denying press card applications, and also for hearings and appeals concerning the denial of an application.
A public comment period on the proposed new rules begins today and extends through April 7, 2010. On that day, a hearing on the rules, open to the public, will be held at Police Headquarters in Lower Manhattan."
A major concern of mine (and entertainment photographers in NYC) is that doing away with the Press I.D. card will inhibit us in doing our work. We already have a contentious relationship with the NYPD already, and by not being able to distinguish us from common fans and the public, will make it worse. Only issuing a Press Card to individuals who cover spot news, disasters, and events which are not entertainment is a violation of our First Amendment Rights.
The amendment prohibits the making of any law infringing on the freedom of the press, among other things.
In Lovell v. City of Griffin, 303 U.S. 444 (1938), Chief Justice Hughes defined the press as, "every sort of publication which affords a vehicle of information and opinion.
The courts have rarely treated content-based regulation of journalism with any sympathy. In Miami Herald Publishing Co. v. Tornillo, 418 U.S. 241 (1974), the Court unanimously struck down a state law requiring newspapers criticizing political candidates to publish their responses. The state claimed that the law had been passed to ensure journalistic responsibility. The Supreme Court found that freedom, but not responsibility, is mandated by the First Amendment and so it ruled that the government may not force newspapers to publish that which they do not desire to publish.
By thinking they (NYPD) have the authority to decide who is Press and who is not, they are deciding who can cover what and at what times and how. This is impinging on my First Amendment Rights as a member of the press, which will curtail my income and restrict what I have access to.
What follows is a transcript of the speech that I gave at the hearing this morning.
Hello, I am Brian Ach, and I work as an independent photographer in NYC for the past 10 years. i am a member of the NY Press Club, and a holder of a NYPD Press I.D. card. I make my living solely from photographing events and news in NYC. I submit images daily to Getty Images, one of the largest wire services in the world. The opinions I am going to present are solely my own, I do not speak for Getty Images.
I am coming at this from a different angle than some other here today. I am primarily an entertainment photographer, covering concerts, parades, movie premieres, awards shows, and breaking celebrity news.
My concern is mostly focused on the perception from the NYPD and DCPI that "entertainment" does not qualify as news. I respectfully disagree. I have here a copy of the Daily News, today's copy. Here on the cover, is a breaking news story. And. lo and behold, it is an entertainment story. Tiki Barber. Looking through the paper, I count 21 out of 49 CONTENT pages dedicated to entertainment. With a circulation in the millions, I can hardly agree with the argument that entertainment tear sheets do not qualify for a Press Card under the new rules. And for those of you who argue that the NY Post does not represent a "serious news-gathering vehicle," I suggest you check out the NY Times. they dedicate an entire "Arts and Leisure" section in the paper.
As a matter of fact, many of the top news stories of last year, in terms of articles, were entertainment stories.
Not including entertainment in the Press Card requirements precludes us from having a legitimate I.D. for clearance through government entities when there are political events. My pictures of the last three presidents and their political campaigns ran around the world.
This is not a hobby for me. I don't do this for fun, like a fan who seeks autographs. It is my job. This is how I make a living. I have a masters degree in the arts, and have worked over the last 10 years to get to where I am. Please do not lump me into the "fan" category by taking away the only legitimate way the NYPD distinguishes me, as a working journalist, from the general public.
I seek a new era of working WITH the NYPD rather than against them. I would like to work with the NYPD like I did during the week of September 11, 2001, which resulted in three of my shots being included in the Museum of the City of NY's permanent exhibit on 9/11.
I propose amending the requirements to include entertainment, as it is clear that it most definitely IS news. If not, I believe you will have an unhealthy mix of fans and wannabe's, which will result in a larger expenditure of resources by the NYPD to control situations.
It will also, inevitably, result in class-action, First Amendment lawsuits concerning restrictions on what the NYPD decides IS and IS NOT newsworthy.
Thank you for your time
It is my hope that what I have said this morning, along with Kristin Callahan, Denis Van Tine, Nancy Kaszerman, and many other respected journalists, photographers, and organizations who took the time out of their busy days, will have some effect on the NYPD and their thought process when issuing Press Credentials. I am hoping we can come to an agreement where we can both do our jobs safely and to the fullest, working together to both get what we need, how we need it and when we need to do it, with the minimum amount of interference from both parties.
If not, it will be a long battle, and I think we all have better things to do.