Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Chi-town Press Gets a Makeover

Chicago Police DepartmentImage via Wikipedia
Say "Chicago journalist," and the image evoked is that of  The Front Page's rumpled ink-stained wretch Hildy Johnson, a shot glass of whiskey in one hand, and a Chicago Police Department (CPD)-issued press pass in the other.

According to The Chicago Reader, that image received a makeover when the Chicago City Council recently amended the ordinance covering CPD press passes.  Previously, the status symbol press badge was issued only to full-time employees of  "newspapers, press associations, newsreels and radio stations." Now, one is eligible to receive a press pass if engaged by a "newspaper or other periodical issued at regular intervals whether in print or electronic format."

Get me rewrite, baby--that encompasses freelance writers and bloggers. Moreover, the ordinance was amended to eliminate the fingerprinting requirement imposed in 2002 and remove the stipulation requiring journalists to be "of good moral character," an admission that such an ideal was anathema to journalists. Press pass candidates, however, must still undergo a background check by the FBI National Crime Information Center if they want to get their hands on a CPD press pass.

Freelance writers and part-time scribes must produce a letter from a news organization confirming that they are doing work for them to qualify for the police press card. As a one-time Chicago denizen toiling in the field of journalism while imbibing at Riccardo's and Billy Goat Tavern, "TUOL" views the press pass reform as an admission that with the Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune both intimate with Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code, the times they are a changin in the journalism profession.

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