NYPD “Recognizes 21st Century Journalists”

In the September/October 2008 issue of CJR, Ann Cooper explored in an essay (“The Bigger Tent”) the questions of who is a journalist and — as she argued, more importantly— what is journalism?

On Friday came news updating one of the examples Cooper raised in her essay: the NYPD issued press credentials to three bloggers (Rafael Martínez Alequin of Your Free Press, Ralph E. Smith of The Guardian Chronicle, and David Wallis of featurewell.com), who sued the city after having been denied such credentials.

Per the New York Times’s coverage:

The Police Department issues two kinds of credentials: working press cards, for a “full-time employee of a news-gathering organization covering spot or breaking news on a regular basis,” and press identification cards, for journalists who are “employed by a legitimate news organization” but who do “not normally cover spot or breaking news events.”

The working press card ostensibly allows the journalist to cross police lines at emergencies and at nonemergency public events, like parades and demonstrations; the press identification card is “issued as a courtesy” but does not carry such privileges. Each card must be renewed annually.

The three bloggers got the latter sort of card. The Times quotes their lawyer, Norman Siegel, saying:

“This step recognizes that bloggers are 21st-century journalists. It’s an important first step, but only a first step, because we still need to address the constitutional problem of who gets press credentials in New York City. The Police Department should not be in the business of determining who’s a journalist.”

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Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.