sfpd_cityhall.jpgSlimming 3,000 Passes to Under 1,000 “Just Part of Policy”

Among the reforms former San Francisco police Chief George Gascón sought to institute in a kinder, gentler SFPD was a new policy on press passes. Under Gascón, the SFPD’s Media Relations Unit began issuing the pink SFPD press passes to “non-traditional” forms of media, such as bloggers and other non-mainstream media types.

All was well in the media world, until when it wasn’t. It appears that at some point in the last year, a mainstream news outlet complained to the SFPD of “abuse” of the now-prevalent passes (one of which, for what it’s worth, this reporter has always wanted but never had, even when he was with a somewhat-MSM outlet), which are now not being renewed for at least eight online-only outlets, Michael Petrelis first reported.

For those of us searching for an LA-borne conspiracy beginning with Acting Chief Jeff Godown, ex of the LAPD, it’s a dead end. There’s been no change in SFPD policy for issuing press passes, as department spokesman Lt. Troy Dangerfield explained to the Appeal on Monday. “We don’t have a problem with non traditional media,” Dangerfield said, though he declined to say exactly who was losing their passes. “The policy just hasn’t been enforced, because we really haven’t had time to.”

The policy in question is simple enough: in order to qualify for an SFPD press pass, with which the bearer can cross police and fire department lines, a bearer must work at an outlet that “regularly covers police or fire breaking news.”

Anyone denied a press pass by SFPD recently hasn’t been covering breaking news stories, which could be as simple as police blotter items or other nuts-and-bolts reporting. Once the press pass-hopefuls begin covering breaking news again, they can ask for a press pass, Dangerfield added. “All I’m saying is that we have to have people playing by the rules.”

Exactly how many passes have been revoked or not renewed this year Dangerfield would not say. He did add that a “TV news or radio news” outlet did complain to SFPD about “abuse” of the press passes, forwarding reports of people being “more disruptive than reporting the story” at press events.

Who would do such a thing? Dangerfield did not say, nor did he have any details on the nature of the disruption, but according to an e-mail shared with The Appeal, it was “KGO.”

Huh? There were too many passes for KGO’s liking? Bloggers killed the radio and television stars? A representative for the radio side of KGO said she asked all of the reporters at the station about this; nobody there knew anything about it, she said.

That leaves the TV station KGO, the local ABC-7 affiliate which is home of Dan Noyes — whose I-Team we hold in very high esteem — as the culprit. No matter whodunit, was the media scene really that crowded?

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  • Bill Wilson

    As one of those who was informed last Thursday that their press pass was revoked I resent the implication that somehow I wasn’t following the rules, because what Lt Dangerfield left out of his explanation is that the police issued press pass is used by City Hall for admission to the BOS press area, Mayor’s events, admission to Port events, events at SFO such as arrival of Air Force One.Perhaps the police department isn’t the right entity to be deciding who gets to cover the news, but right now they are the only game in town. In other words without the press credential I can’t photograph events that I’ve covered for the past 7 years. This isn’t a new problem just a new enforcement. Aaron Peskin held a hearing on this problem on February 28, 2005.

  • renegade

    msm is run by a bunch of old skoolers who don’t want anybody treading on their turf. otoh, is it important for bloggers et al to “cross police and fire department lines”? although video on the other side of that line is somewhat interesting, it is old skool journalism that we’ve seen over and over again, and anybody can watch homes burning down on ‘tube.

    It seems new journalism is a combination of news, analysis, cynicism, partiality, investigation, documentary, etc., not just jejune visuals that msm has access to, and not just 14-second pieces on tv.

    Lack of a press pass probably means little to the provocative non-legacy journalist. And if there’s no other press around where there’s a story, then the freestyle journalist is onto something. Isn’t that called a “scoop”? New journalists scoop old journalists all the time, sans press pass. Let KGO keep doin’ their noooz and complaining about things. KGO is a poor source for real news, and who watches that schmuck anyway?

  • frenchjr25

    The first outrage is that somehow 3,000 people thought they deserved press passes. That is totally crazy.

    Secondly, bloggers are not necessarily members of the media. Media is about truthfulness and honesty (at least it’s supposed to be). Bloggers come in all shapes and sizes and have no obligation to report truthfully.

    Press Passes serve the purpose of giving those reporting the news access to events, situations, and people that non-media individuals can’t. It’s about keeping government and others honest.

    For anyone to think that 3,000 people in San Francisco need Press Passes is outrageous.

  • Channing Moore

    After reading this article, I’m more confused.

    First, what do these particular press passes govern? They are referred to here as “SFPD press passes,” but I see suggestions in the comments that they are used for access to other, non-emergency events as well. Petrelis, in his post, claims that it gains you entrance to the press area for the Board of Supes meetings. If that’s the case, I’d love to know why. For instance, have the Supes expressed security concerns? Or do the other agencies in the city want reporters vetted but have no interest in doing it themselves?

    Secondly, what outlets have had their passes revoked? Using the terms “non-legacy media” and “online-only” in a non-legacy, online publication made me nervous at first that the Appeal was in danger of losing whatever passes they might have. Have any of your reporters in fact lost their passes?

  • Eve Batey

    Thanks for your comment, Channing.

    “First, what do these particular press passes govern? They are referred to here as “SFPD press passes,” but I see suggestions in the comments that they are used for access to other, non-emergency events as well.”

    Bill’s comment was the first I’d heard that they offered access to other, non-emergency events, that’s something we’re following up on.

    “Petrelis, in his post, claims that it gains you entrance to the press area for the Board of Supes meetings.”

    This is not my understanding. Back in July, 2010, we were told that to sit in the Board of Supes press box you must have one issued by the reporter’s news org, with the name of the org, and reporter’s name, to be worn lanyard-style. So, we just made ones with the Appeal logo for our reporters, and we were fine. My assumption (untested) is that you could make one with your site’s name, as could anyone else.

    “Secondly, what outlets have had their passes revoked?”

    As we noted in the story, the SFPD spokesperson would not tell us who had their passes revoked. We’d be thrilled to hear from anyone who has had theirs revoked, they can contact me at editor@sfappeal.com.

    “Using the terms “non-legacy media” and “online-only” in a non-legacy, online publication made me nervous at first that the Appeal was in danger of losing whatever passes they might have. Have any of your reporters in fact lost their passes?”

    Thanks for your concern, but we haven’t yet needed one of those passes. Which is not to say that they, per Bill’s comment, aren’t necessary for many (or that we never will)! It’s just not something we’ve needed to date. Believe me, if we started losing access, we’d tell you, real loud.

  • Bill Wilson

    First of all Eve, thank you very much for your comment about making up the press passes when Lt Dangerfield told me that was what I should do I had no idea what he was talking about.

    On the back of my press pass it reads, “This pass shall only be used by the person to whom it has been issued, and used only while actively engaged in news-gathering activity. The pass must be worn on the outermost garment so that it is plainly visible.” end of paragraph to my mind complete thought. The next paragraph reads, “This pass allows the holder to pass through police and fire lines for the purpose of new gathering, but it does not allow access into a crime scene or restricted area if such entry interferes with the duties of emergency personnel.” I think that crossing police and fire lines is an addition to the news gathering requirement not the only requirement.
    The day that I left my press pass at home I was denied access to the media area for the America’s Cup Trophy.

    I don’t know if your home made press identification would be honored in the following situation which was part of the Mayor’s schedule last Saturday when he met with Nancy Pelosi.

    Note: Media must RSVP to…. In order to comply with Transportation Security Administration (TSA) requirements for U.S. port facilities members of the media must present valid press credentials and photo identification to gain access to the terminal.

    As far as I know I’m the only one who actually has to surrender his press pass. They just didn’t renew Michael’s. Actually Eve since you cover police and fire on a breaking news basis you wold qualify for a pass. ( so can I have yours since you don’t need it? 🙂