Black… yes.. and no. You

AvatarJennifer O’Rourke


yes.. and no. You are a journalist, as you are journaling an event, and if it’s a public event you have every right to be there. However, the fine line is drawn due to the myriad of photographers and videographers trying to get into events for free, or to score free grub at the press table, and therefore many event managers have been burned and are wary of anyone that is not of the Local Press that they are familiar with. They are especially wary of so-called blogger-only news companies, because they have no idea where these images will end up.

Here in California, press credentials are acquired through by the local sheriff or California Highway Patrol. If you have a number of stories, video or textual, under your belt that are of a legitimate nature, you can take them, along with information about Black Lab News Agency to one of your area’s law enforcement agencies and request press credentials. Just like documentarians, no one has a right to tell you that you can not shoot in a public event, however they may require you to pay to be there if they don’t recognize your agency. The freelancer photographer that you saw shooting for the local paper is probably a member of the Associated Press, and he sells to several agencies. You can also contact them, requesting press credentials. Having that credential gives you a bit more “credence” to being a legitimate journalist, in their eyes, anyway.

When I was shooting for a large TV news station, we still had to take a back seat to the “Big Guns” when the networks came into town. Often, what was only a small local story that developed into something bigger drew the networks, and our story was taken from us and given to the “Polished Pros”.

However, like Composite1 says, attitude is everything. I have BS’ed my way into shoots that I should never have been in, just by appearing to be one of the big guns, or being a legitimate press person after I was no longer shooting for news.

Bottom line, in a situation like this, checking in advance if you can shoot from a special location for a legitimate purpose might get you in. I’ve had many non-news shooters standing side-by-side with me as I was videotaping the presidentent’s visit or some special event because they had the right attitude and demeanor.

But, do remember that if you present yourself as press than your presence as the press means you’re bound by the rules they are. I was not allowed to cross over the yellow crime-scene police tape, for example, and you can’t either. And as far as refusing to give up your footage if you happen to be in the right place at the right time, consider what happened to blogger Josh Wolf. A few years ago, Wolf captured a riot in San Francisco and posted the footage on his blog, then refused later to give his tapes to the feds so they could do some investigating. Impeding a federal investigation landed him in jail. That’s part of the whole hoopla of “Freedom of Press” and a right to protect your sources, and if you’re presenting yourself as a journalist, you have to take the bad with the good. Read more about Josh Wolf here:

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