Tuesday, March 15, 2011

SF Press Club: Why Are Cops
Revoking Some Media ID Cards?

(Josh Wolf. Full disclosure: Not only have I expressed admiration for his commitment to the First Amendment, my praise has extended to his great head of big hair. Credit: Bill Wilson.)

I thought the story about the cops denying and revoking media ID cards for online news sites and blog was over, but an article today at the San Francisco/Peninsula Press Club site proves me wrong. The club's intro said:

The San Francisco Police Department has revoked press passes from several online news outlets after receiving complaints from major media organizations. The online journalists are calling for an agency that's separate from police to decide who should receive the passes.

Blogger Michael Petrelis appears to be the first journalist to report that police were revoking press passes, and his report includes an e-mail from Lt. Troy Dangerfield explaining the revocation. Here's a link to the SF Appeal's report. ...

The club's piece was written by Josh Wolf, a young independent journalist who made history in 2006 when he served 226 days in a federal prison for refusing to turn videos he shot of a demonstration in the Mission. No other journalist served as long a time for not revealing a source.

What new ground does Josh break on the press passes? Plenty, starting with trying to pin down the police department as to exactly why the policy is in flux:

Lt. Troy Dangerfield, a police spokesman, told me that although the police hold press conferences in a room that's big enough to hold every interested reporter, other facilities, such as the room the mayor uses for press conferences, are much smaller. People from the major networks complained that they were being crowded out by their independent counterparts, and the police department responded by revoking the press passes of any reporters who hadn't recently covered a breaking news story involving the police or fire departments, said Dangerfield.

Reporting for the San Francisco Sentinel, one of several outlets now without a police-issued press pass, Pat Murphy writes that Dangerfield told him the complaints were “from, but not limited to, KGO and KTVU.”

But when reached by phone, both KGO-TV news director Kevin Keeshan and KTVU senior assignment editor Tony Bonilla were adamant that their stations never requested the police revoke anyone's press passes. ...

As far as I'm concerned, the police department is the last entity in this or any city that should be the sole entity in charge of who gets a press pass and why. The spokesperson for the department has offered conflicting and vague reasons why change is afoot, providing me with more reasons why the cops are not the best folks to be deciding who's a reporter and worthy of an ID card.

Regarding the fact the press club piece was authored by Josh, I wish to say I'm glad he's sticking with his independent journalism endeavors.We need more troublemakers like him.

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