September 30, 2008 1:40 PM   Subscribe

Tell me about gaining press credentials.

Are press credentials limited to members of recognized media outlets? After gaining press credentials, is it mandatory to actually report on the event? What would be the simplest path to obtaining press credentials for a variety of events... politics, sports, entertainment... etc.

I am not currently nor have ever been affiliated with any media outlet.

posted by clearly to Media & Arts (16 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Press credentials are provided by a recognized press organization. Kind of an employer ID card. If you're freelance, you can make your own. But as always, it's entirely up to the event organizers whether or not to recognize a given credential as valid. Press access to private events is a privilege, not a right.
posted by valkyryn at 1:45 PM on September 30, 2008

In NYC, you have to prove some sort of affiliation with a real, live media outfit. Other cities may be less stringent.
posted by nevercalm at 1:46 PM on September 30, 2008

I work in TV news. You will not get credentials unless you work for an accredited media outlet. The assignment editor at said outlet takes care of your credentials. You don't. They are the ones who speak to the publicists and arrange passes for you and your cameraman (or whoever).
posted by Zambrano at 1:48 PM on September 30, 2008

As for print news, I have been sent out on assignment to cover an event freelance but needed to clear press credentials (which were provided by the magazine).
posted by Sophie1 at 2:05 PM on September 30, 2008

Should say, "needed to clear press credentials with the event organizers."
posted by Sophie1 at 2:05 PM on September 30, 2008

There is no one answer to this question.

A press pass to a specific event may be provided according to whatever criteria the organizers wish. So for some "low-level" events, just having a blog and expressing the intent to report on the event might be enough. (As might lying.) The Tribeca Film Festival or the Academy Awards wouldn't take that view, though...! They'd want copies of your published articles/clips of your footage/etc, and even then, you'd be far from guaranteed a pass.

A press credential provided by some kind of authority (the NYPD, the State Department, the White House) is likely to require proof of affiliation to a recognized media organization, although this definition does increasingly include "non-traditional" media; again, it's up to the authority involved.

It's not the case that credentials are always obtained on your behalf by an assignment editor; freelance news photographers (for example), working as one-person operations certainly do get credentials of this kind.

Gaining a credential doesn't normally obligate you to report on an event, but you could expect an organization to stop giving you credentials if they repeatedly noticed they were getting no coverage from having you there.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 2:05 PM on September 30, 2008

One more thing: though I could never condone acting deceptively, of course, please note that the stringent and bureaucratic procedures involved in obtaining credentials in advance are often in stark contrast to the chaos at the entry-points to events themselves. See: blagging. It is surprising how many times I have not needed to show any form of press identification to enter an event, or even to have my name checked on a list, despite having jumped through numerous hoops to arrange credentialling in advance. Depends entirely on the event, of course.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 2:10 PM on September 30, 2008

Speaking as a former 11 year staff news photographer, I can tell you that press credentials are not the magic bullet that everyone seems to think they are.

At many major events, the legitimately credentialed press are restricted to certain areas, which frequently are not as good as those from which the general public can participate. Plus, if you are a photographer, being rounded up into the press dog pound makes it very difficult to get shots which don't look pretty much like those that all the other photographers get since you're all shooting from the same constrained area.

Although I always had credentials for high profile events, once I got through the front gate I only used them as a last resort, and preferred to mingle among the masses for my actual coverage.

I remember once when some newby dumbass got a whole bunch of us; all working press; booted from the scene of a commercial plane crash because he was waving his press card around demanding better access. Up until that moment, when the law enforcement authorities, decided to remove the press all together, I'd been shooting without incident with no problems.

Also, making your own press credentials as valkyryn suggest was a bad idea 20 years ago when I was shooting news. In this day and age (post 9/11/2001) it's a way worse idea for any number of reasons.
posted by imjustsaying at 2:19 PM on September 30, 2008

As everyone has said already, press credentials aren't magic or dictated by international law.

It's totally different for every kind of event. What it's going to come down to is whether the venue/organizers want the kind of publicity you're offering more than they want to avoid the hassle of letting you in. So if you're covering music, you may be able to get in to a venue by asking ahead of time and being affiliated with an outlet (blog/newspaper) that they have heard of and would like to appear in. The more high profile the event, the more respect you're affiliation will need to command to get in.
posted by phrontist at 2:54 PM on September 30, 2008

Anecdote. Toronto 1989. I'm traveling through, broke, and Public Enemy are playing. I called the local rep for their record company and told them I was a writer for a certain Vancouver magazine (not a complete lie; I had written for them in the past) and could I get on the media list? She said, "yes." I got in, I wrote a review and sent it off to said magazine, who published it.

The moral: don't let the rules get you down, sometimes you've just gotta dig.
posted by philip-random at 3:00 PM on September 30, 2008

The only press credentials I know about are in the world of motorsports. But, I'll speak on them briefly in case you had them in mind. I've been on both sides - I've been issued them and I've worked with people issuing them. It is fairly easy to get press credentials to most races. Each track issues their own but since most of the tracks are owned by larger corporate entities, which all have similar systems, it's kind of a wash.

I have met people who affiliate themselves with a crappy fan-run website and then get in on the website owner's credentials. They'll write a shitty three paragraph article and then enjoy the rest of their time in the infield. I've seen similar strategies for photography passes. These people just post photos on their blog or website. Very rarely are these people serious. They are just in it for fun.

It is easy to get blacklisted, though. And once you get blacklisted, everyone associated with you does, too. Track employees aren't stupid. The people who make the credentials decisions are sitting right there in the media center next to you. Bad behavior will be obvious and inappropriate use of access will be noted. That said, sometimes a few of the full-time motorsports reporters don't seem to be that much more professional than the moochers.
posted by bristolcat at 3:01 PM on September 30, 2008

Besides all of the news and celebrity events I've attended, I've also had credentials for Formula One races (at Spa and Montreal) and lesser events like The 12 Hours of Sebring and events at Lime Rock.

You always need to be affiliated with a credible news outlet. And in F1 they even issue you a magnetic swipe card to get into the paddock and garages.
posted by Zambrano at 3:14 PM on September 30, 2008

It really does depend on the event. I had an easy time getting into a relatively famous Seattle-area yearly festival by telling them I was representing a publication that I had just started. I actually had some clips to show them, though. (And the publication did exist, but wasn't all that "reputable" yet, since it was only a few weeks old.) Security for that event wasn't all that stringent back then, though -- I used to have friends who managed to walk around some fences and get in free every year. Times have changed, and they are probably stricter now.

Basically, I just entered the press office at the event and made my case for a press pass, and it worked. I did this for several years, both for the paper I published, and later, as a freelancer (by then, they sort of knew me, so it was easier).

The main advantage of the pass was in not having to queue up for the shows, and being able to get in no matter what. The other main advantage? Access to the bathroom in the press box, where there was no line.
posted by litlnemo at 3:49 PM on September 30, 2008

What would be the simplest path to obtaining press credentials for a variety of events... politics, sports, entertainment... etc.

The only path is to contact the public relations folks handling the event in question. What others have said above is generally true.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:14 PM on September 30, 2008

I'll tell you a story. About 5 years ago I was speaking at a conference that was interrupted by a heckler. It was a pricey affair and the only other way in was press credentials. It turns out, the heckler used a rather elaborate method of gaining entry. They used a professionally-produced "Freelance Reporter" ID card and carried with them a letter stating they had been hired to write a series of articles on the topic at hand. The letter was printed on fake letterhead (color and all) from a nationally known and well respected magazine. They even went to the extent of having business cards printed that had a phone number that was answered by voicemail saying they were "out of the office and on assignment." Not surprisingly, it worked and they got in and had their one minute of shouting and disruption. We would all have rather the incident not occurred, but there was a grudging agreement among us that it was rather impressive as to the detail they had put into creating their phony persona. It should be said this was not a "high security" event, just a run-of-the-mill conference/dinner. So, alas, the "press credential" scheme is old and, in our case, was successful due to the impeccable planning. I never found out if the faux journalist though it worth their while.
posted by Gerard Sorme at 4:54 PM on September 30, 2008

Like philip-random says, it can't hurt to ask. Call up the event organizers, tell them "I write for a web site called [the name of your blog]" and ask for a press pass. Sometimes it might work.
posted by winston at 6:38 PM on September 30, 2008

« Older rub me right   |   25 yo heartbroken virgin, enjoys long walks on the... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.