New York Tries to Defend Journalist Arrests

Flack's pushback ignores the biggest issue

The Observer’s Megan McCarthy has already covered this matter, but we’d just like to add that this is a really poor defense for arresting journalists, circulated by Mayor Bloomberg’s Press Secretary, Stu Loeser:

From: “Loeser, Stu”
Date: November 17, 2011 8:02:59 PM EST
Cc: “Loeser, Stu” , “LaVorgna, Marc” , “Wolfson, Howard”
Subject: Just 5 of the “26 arrested reporters” are actually credentialed reporters

To: Interested Parties

From: Stu Loeser

Re: Just 5 of the “26 arrested reporters” are actually credentialed reporters

Date: Thursday, November 17, 2011

Like all of you, I’ve heard and read many reports of reporters who supposedly were wearing valid NYPD press credentials, yet allegedly encountered problems on the streets of New York. Like some of you, I had those stories in mind when I read The Awls’ rundown of “The 25 26 Arrested Reporters and What They Do.” (In case you missed it, that piece, that piece is linked here.)

Not being familiar with many of the media outlets for which The Awl says these reporters work, I had the list of “26 arrested reporters” checked against the roster of reporters who hold valid NYPD press passes.

You can imagine my surprise when we found that only five of the 26 arrested reporters actually have valid NYPD-issued press credentials. Note that we didn’t check—and don’t really care for the sake of this exercise—if the reporter’s credential lists the media outlet for which he or she currently works.

One more thing. Of the five reporters with valid press credentials who were arrested, three were arrested for trespassing and had their arrest voided. As the Associated Press and others reported, there’s no doubt that these personnel—and others—were in fact trespassing. There’s no question that protesters sliced open a chain link fence and tried to take over private property.

This report was published by the AP:

“Reporter Karen Matthews and photographer Seth Wenig of The Associated Press in New York were taken into custody along with about eight other people after they followed protesters through an opening in a chain-link fence into a park, according to an AP reporter and other witnesses. Matthew Lysiak of the Daily News of New York was also arrested at the park, according to witnesses and the Daily News.”

Thanks for taking the time to read this.


McCarthy’s post contains an additional spreadsheet that was distributed in the memo showing which arrested journalists had valid NYPD press credentials.

Not only does Loeser fail to explain why two of the five credentialed reporters were ever arrested in the first place, he ignores the criticism that CJR—and plenty of other organizations—have made all along: possessing an NYPD press credential is a terrible standard for determining who is a journalist, particularly when the NYPD doesn’t have an efficient process in place to issue them.

Fortunately, there are more than a few interested parties currently making this case. The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press has an excellent round-up of them here, which is also accessible at Josh Stearns’s well-curated Storify page. Columbia Journalism School faculty also submitted a letter of concern (PDF here) about journalist arrests at Occupy Wall Street to Mayor Bloomberg and NYPD Commisioner Ray Kelly this afternoon.

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Erika Fry is a former assistant editor at CJR.