Chicago finally changes policy on official press credentials... Restrictions have been eased for free lancers, part - timers

Nearly two years after most of the press credentials issued to Chicago reporters (including most of the members of the Substance staff) officially "expired," the Chicago City Council has decided to make the policy more reasonable from a First Amendment standpoint, and with a view towards the changing media environment. Previously, in order to carry and official "PRESS" credential issued by the Chicago Police Department, a reporter or photographer had to go through a fingerprinting at police headquarters, submit to a criminal background check, and then wait weeks before being issued a photo press pass — which said Chicago Police on it.

Above, headquarters of the Chicago Police Department at 35th and Michigan in Chicago, where reporters and other media people have to go to acquire press credentials to give them access to public media events in Chicago. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Because the credential was required to cover many important media events, Substance staff members acquired the credential over the years. I've been carrying one for more than five years, and it's helped clear up confusion when CPS of Chicago officials try to impose unreasonable restrictions on news coverage.

A note is in order. Police officials who have to issue the press credentials have been very patient with the City Council as they awaited a change in the regulations. Every few months, they have sent out a letter to all press people who are carrying the credential noting that the credential (which says "Expires March 31, 2009") has been extended. At the August 25, 2010 Board of Education meeting, most of the TV reporters were still wearing the same "expired" credential as most Substance reporters carry.

The policy has two final steps before reporters can get their new credentials. First, it must be approved by the Chicago City Council. Second, the Chicago Police Department has to announce how reporters are to apply for renewal or new credentials. As in the past, reporters and others covering news in Chicago who wish the credential will have to get it as Police Headquarters at 35th and Michigan, as Substance reporters have for more than five years.

Below is the best story we've received to far about the change, which has yet to be announced by CPD. The story was circulated on line to members of the Chicago Headline Club (which includes this reporter), the Chicago chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.

Sometimes The Chicago Way works just fine (by Abdon Pallasch, Chicago Headline Club

FOI Vice President, September 2, 2010)

The Chicago City Council Committee on Police, Fire, etc., approved a new media credentials policy that drops the requirement for fingerprints and allows free-lancers, bloggers and part-timers to get credentialed.

It all happened in about five minutes Thursday afternoon [September 2, 2010] after Ald. Anthony Beale (9th) gaveled the meeting open.

Roderick Drew, director of news affairs for the Chicago Police Department, testified that the new policies were written in consultation with members of the news media and after looking at information from the White House.

“It removes the requirement for fingerprinting, expands our ability to credential people such as producers, on-line media… It removes the requirement that you must be full-time,” Drew said.

Beale asked if the aldermen present, Walter Burnett (27th), Jim Balcer (11th) or Lona Lane, (18th) had any questions. They did not. All in favor say aye. The ayes have it. It was that easy.

Bob Roberts of WBBM arrived with speech in hand ready to testify in favor but neither he nor I had to say a word.

Afterward Drew told us journalists would still have to go to police HQ for at least an initial photograph, but perhaps not if just getting the credential renewed. The credential will be good for two years instead of just one now.

The full City Council must approve the committee recommendation, but is almost certain to do so.


September 5, 2010 at 10:35 AM

By: Al Ramirez

New Press Cred Policy

It's a great day for a free press in the City that Works!

September 6, 2010 at 1:05 AM

By: Kugler

Freedom of the Press

Now maybe more people will step up to help cover the corruption(news)in Chicago!

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