In NYC, Kafka-licious policies say press can avoid arrest by getting press pass they can't get's Quinn Norton has been tirelessly covering the Occupy movement from the front lines in cities throughout the US. In New York, it's a very good idea to have a press pass when you're doing that, if you'd like to avoid being beaten or arrested—and, you know, who wouldn't? Earlier, Elizabeth Spiers at the NYO posted about how that's functionally impossible for most reporters. And Quinn's editor Ryan Singel now has a piece up at Wired about the NYPD's nonsensical series of hoops reporters must jump through to obtain press passes that they won't be able to obtain anyway. They're not issuing any until January, 2012.

Wired has been trying to get NYPD press credentials for freelancer Quinn Norton, who is on special assignment to cover the Occupy movement. Even before this week’s arrests, the NYPD made it clear they would not issue her credentials, as she first had to comply with Kafka-esque rules, such as proving she’d already covered six on-the-spot events in New York City — events that you would actually need a press pass to cover.

When I asked if six stories on Occupy Wall Street would count, Sarubbi said no.

I then tried to make the case that issuing press passes to legitimate reporters might help prevent arrests and prevent police from beating reporters, as happened to two journalists for the conservative Daily Caller on Thursday, and that the lack of spots until January seemed odd, and Sarubbi got angry.

“Don’t tell me how to do my job and I won’t tell you how to do yours,” she said.

Sarubbi then hung up without even a goodbye.

PHOTO: An Occupy Wall Street demonstrator marches in front of a group of police officers in riot gear in New York. (REUTERS)


  1. I do sort of like the “anyone can enter the park and tell a story” . . . I just hate the reason the cops are claiming that. In a way they’re speaking to the power of the First Amendment and of citizen journalism: I just wish they could do that while not denying press passes. That said, I’m not sure whether or not one’s professional affiliations, or lack thereof, matter all that much in a fluid, chaotic, always-evolving event like OWS. Dunno, I’m inordinately proud to have covered OWS, not just without the (nonexistent) protections granted by the pass, but without any of the professional perks and assistance that professionals get to go cover the news. They’re doing it because it’s their job: citizen journalists are doing it because we love it, and because it’s our duty.

  2. “They’re doing it because it’s their job” Most journalists do that job because they love it and they feel it’s their duty. They don’t get paid enough to have any other reason.

    1. I don’t think that discounts their passion or whatever: they’re there primarily because they’re being paid to be there, regardless of how they feel about it. I and my fellow citizen journalists lack all of these material supports, and its likely that many of us are drawn for strong, personal reasons, reasons that might or might not be shared by someone who’s there to work for money. All of this is my own personal experience, not an argument for one over the other–although I obviously have feelings about this–and I’m not sure it bears arguing any further.

  3. Two or three NYPD administrators probably came up with this over the weekend…. they were most likely trying to figure out a good way to make the media go away and this was the best they could come up with.
    “If we don’t give them credentials, then they will not report on what we are ordering our officers to do to the OWS protesters”.
    This line was probably followed with some Beavis and Butthead style laughter and some frat boy high fiving.

    Edit… though they may have gotten the idea from Pink Floyd Lyrics. “how can you have your pudding if you don’t eat your meat?”

  4. Having decided that they’re not going to honor press passes, they see no point in issuing any more, and they’ll confiscate any they find in circulation.

  5. Sounds like just about every conversation I’ve ever had with bureaucratic arms of the NYPD: ineffective, impolite and curt… I imagine it must be tough to serve and protect the public when you seem, by all appearances, to truly hate those people you are meant to serve and protect.

  6. That’s it – Quinn needs to whip out her “Emperor” Norton credentials. That would be Norton II, or possibly III, as there’s someone else out there claiming the II numeral, though I’ll bet she got there first, as she was gained the title when she was acclaimed benevolent dictator of our colocated server back in the late 90s. At any rate, that should settle the matter, since as Emperor, she would clearly be above NYPD jurisdiction.

  7. You know, I can appreciate “Don’t tell me how to do my job” as advice in most situations.

    However, “Don’t beat and gas innocent people” is pretty good advice for ANY job.  And, further, I submit that if somebody needs to tell you that, it is entirely possible that that person has a better grasp on how to do your job than you do.

    1. But the “Don’t tell me how to do my job and I won’t tell you how to do yours” is so hilarious here.  The entire conversation is about how the press office is telling the press about how, and by exactly whom, reporting can be done.

  8. I like Wikipedia’s definition of civil disobedience:

    Civil disobedience is the active, professed refusal to obey certain laws, demands, and commands of a government, or of an occupying international power. Civil disobedience is commonly, though not always,[1][2] defined as being nonviolent resistance. It is one form of civil resistance. In one view (in India, known as ahimsa or satyagraha) it could be said that it is compassion in the form of respectful disagreement.

    Note that in this definition “civil” does not mean, merely, “polite”, nor does it equal “speech.” One disobeys unjust laws. Laws, rules, regulations, etc. that deny one the right to petition (and I broadly construe “petitioning” to mean not only election of representatives, but the direct petition of any leader at any time exigency dictates). Similarly, laws that deny the right to record and to report are unjust.

    Therefore, the laws in the U.S. and in local jurisdictions within the U.S. that forbid demonstration within sight of elected officials for “security” reasons, or that require “permits” to do so, or that require any sort of permission to report and publish, are unjust, and must be disobeyed. I urge everyone to do so.

  9. “Don’t tell me how to do my job and I won’t tell you how to do yours,” she said.

    I choose to interpret that statement as meaning “police will no longer require press passes at all, because that would be telling reporters how to do their jobs.”

  10. Yossarian:  Ok, let me see if I’ve got this straight. In order to be grounded, I’ve got to be crazy. And I must be crazy to keep flying. But if I ask to be grounded, that means I’m not crazy anymore, and I have to keep flying.
    Doc:  You got it, that’s Catch-22.
    Yossarian:  That’s some catch, that Catch-22.
    Doc:  It’s the best there is.

    1. Time for the ACLU to step up and sue Sarubbi for Deprivation of Rights.

      Thanks for reminding me— it was almost time to renew my membership. (I hope y’all are kicking at least a few bucks their way too.)

  11. I’m growing to feel that the traditional media are nearly unnecessary in the Occupy movement anyhow. The network/Reuters/AP coverage is inevitably slanted, incomplete, or simply echoing official statements. They focus almost entirely on the most sensational aspects and appearances and miss the content underneath.

    Whereas the Occupy protesters *are* their own reporters, and New Media sources — like BoingBoing — are providing multifaceted and deep coverage. Looking at how the Pike lulz photoshops instantly went viral is evidence to me that there is a strong network disseminating this reportage and a large audience receiving it. I also like that the entrenched media and the very people against whom Occupy is protesting just don’t seem to understand this.

    Whether this message is getting to grassroots Amurrika is another story. But I think one of Occupy’s objectives is to continue growing in such a way that it simply can’t be ignored. The fact that the national debate on economic disparity and First Amendment rights has grown vastly since the movement began is proof the movement is achieving its wonderfully unstated objectives.

    When people ask what Occupy is about, it reminds me hugely of people asking what the Man symbolizes at Burning Man. And yet the faith that there is a tacit understanding of its purpose that also leaves room for individual interpretation *is* its power and appeal.

  12. Per Wikipedia:

    [-] there are three major categories: news organizations, law-enforcement agencies, and event organizers (usually for a specific single affair like a corporate press conference). Each type of card grants different authorizations, thus it is often necessary or desirable for reporters to hold multiple press passes simultaneously.[1]

    Therefor, this must pertain to law enforcement agencies. Wikipedia continues: Such passes allow the bearer to cross police or fire lines to report breaking news, or grant access to crime scenes or other restricted areas[2]–though admission may be denied if it would interfere with the duties of emergency personnel. Because of the exceptional dispensation endowed by police press passes, they are issued with discretion–some jurisdictions require an in-person interview with all prospective applicants, complete set of fingerprints, and a background check.[3] Generally, only reporters who cover breaking news are eligible;[2] other journalists (feature writers, editors and editorialists, freelance writers, and bloggers) are not.[3]

    So the question should be: Are “Reporters” licensed or hold special I.D.? Here’s a great link that answers that question. Bookmark it, it was hard to find.  

    “I was surprised that this involved visiting the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police building and standing in a long line with other people who needed official Police ID. Most were not media people, just me. Anyway, there were forms to fill out and actual background information was required. I got the impression that any person with a criminal history probably wouldn’t receive a Las Vegas Metro press ID. Without it you can’t work for one of the TV station newsrooms.”

  13. This thread – I think – allows me to return to a topic for which Antinous had previously accused me of threadjacking – because I think it is on topic here.

    Can the police require a “press pass” for access to an area that they have closed to the public (press and non-press alike) for reasons of public safety? Certainly. One can attack the closure as being an inappropriate response to the threat, or one can attack arbitrary and capricious granting of passes, but it seems that the police certainly cannot be required to grant any member of the public access to a closed area merely because of an unsubstantiated claim to being “from the press” – despite the fact that the freedom of the press belongs to everyone.

    But equally, if the police are systematically excluding those who are using cameras, operating recording devices, conducting interviews or taking notes, while allowing members of the public who are not doing those things to remain, or if they are demanding a “press pass” in order to do those things, they are now overstepping. If the citizenry broadly has access to a place, then citizen journalists cannot be excluded for the very fact that they are trying to report on what is going on in that place.

    And arbitrary granting and denial of press passes based on the perceived likelihood that the reporter will present the police in an unflattering light, or reveal official secrets, is a reflection of the militarization of police forces. It suggests that a reporter who is not thoroughly investigated cannot be trusted not to reveal our movements to the enemy – and defines the very public that the police are sworn to protect and serve as the enemy.  The difference is that real warriors are taught that war is – at least in part – a battle for the hearts and minds of the people of a disputed territory. (Then again, it would appear that our warriors are no longer taught that, either.)

  14. You do not need a pass to be a member of the press or to report on anything. That’s just 30 years of brainwashing at work. It is also an abridgment. 1 a: archaic : deprive b : to reduce in scope : diminish (attempts to abridge the right of free speech) 
    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
    What is needed is a member of the press to get arrested for not having a pass and then to sue the city for violating her 1st amendment rights.

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