Media & Communications Law

NY's Proposed Press Credentials for Bloggers May Resolve Litigation, Serve as Model

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Bloggers who filed suit two years ago against the City of New York to obtain the same press privileges afforded to traditional journalists from brick-and-mortar enterprises are closer to a resolution.

Rafael Martínez Alequin, Ralph E. Smith and David Wallis sued the New York Police Department in 2008 after they say they were unfairly denied press passes because they work solely online or for nontraditional news outlets, the City Room blog of the New York Times reported at the time.

But today, New York unveiled a new set of proposed press credentialing procedures that for the first time would incorporate bloggers and other online-only information outlets.

“This is a press credentialing system for the online age that can serve as a model for governments around the country,” said Gabriel Taussig, who is chief of the City Law Department’s Administrative Law Division.

Taussig, in a release announcing the proposed rules change (PDF), noted that the rules were drafted following a collaborative process that included interested participants and all segments of the media.

“The new rules will enable journalists to gather and report news in a more successful manner than before,” said Norman Siegel, one of the attorneys in the lawsuit. “Online journalists will now be considered as 21st century journalists and be treated equally to print, television and radio journalists.”

Under the proposed rules, those looking to obtain press credentials 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. New press cards would be issued every two years.

Press cards are sought after by media because they allow the bearer, with police approval, to cross barriers set by municipalities at news events. Perhaps just as importantly, other entities often rely on official municipal press credentials to distinguish who is a member of the media.

The public can comment on the rules through April 7, when a hearing will be held at police headquarters in Lower Manhattan.

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