Sunday, November 16, 2003
Press pass misconceptions
Mark M. Hancock / © The Dallas Morning News
Euless Trinity's defense tries to hold the line against Arlington Lamar's Derrick Bowman during a high school football championship game at Birdville Fine Arts/Athletic Complex in North Richland Hills on Saturday, November 15, 2003. Lamar won the bi-district championship and advances in the playoffs.
Let's clear up some misconceptions about press passes. For some strange reason, everyone seems to think we have some magic pass that gets us into places others cannot go.
There is no single such pass. It would be a violation of the First Amendment to have such a pass because it would be state licensing (federal) of the press/media. The problem with any suggested programs is that someone gets to decide who is "press."
The answer is: Everyone and Anyone.
All it takes to be "press" is to say you are press. Having said this, there are shades of press and a pecking order, but that changes at the speed of thought anymore.
The Drudge Report comes to mind. Nobody would have given an internet E-zine the time of day five years ago, but now some major publications have gone to online-only publications to save money and trees. Even some regions of the National Press Photographers Association have gone to the online adaptation.
Meanwhile, we get issued passes for various functions. I have one for the Dallas Mavericks, the Dallas Stars, the Texas Rangers, the Dallas Burn, the Dallas Desperados, the Dallas Sidekicks, and one issued by the Dallas sheriff's department if none of the above will work.
When I first started in the field, I thought it was cool to have all these little plastic-coated badges. It didn't take long before I had a huge wad of them hanging off my camera bag in college.
By the time I turned pro, the wad of passes was several inches thick. It was a way to keep babies and bored people entertained. Babies love them because they are shiny. Bored people are ... well ... bored and any break is good.
I was OK with the whole issuing passes until a Parent Teacher Association (PTA) at an elementary school had a pass made for me and expected me to pin it on my vest. It was the final straw. It felt like they were saying, "Here's your dog tags. Now bark dammit bark!"
So, I keep this year's important tags on a cord where I can tuck them into a pocket. The rest are in my photo closet with my ancient film cameras.
At concerts, we get stickers from the bands. Each band has their own material sticker. They try to out glitz one another. As if most news photographers don't stand out from a crowd, they want to stick an orange label on us like a giant banana. Then they will know the person with the 300mm f/2.8 lens on a monopod works for the press and isn't some fan with a $10,000 camera system. OK. Whatever.
At work, all the doors in the photo area are covered with these stickers. From what I can tell, Metallica has the most obnoxious (it is almost a foot wide). Some performance halls have the same sticker for most performances, so once one from the venue is on a door, there isn't a duplication.
Notably missing is Ricky Martin. He killed himself with the American media when he demanded total control of his image. I don't know the whole story, but it was explained to me that he wanted (his team) to preview images before they could be run and various other demands that are completely impossible.
Therefore, he was no longer news and vanished. Hmmm...
Now I can tell who is in what phase of their career. If they are overly eager and smother the photographer with too many questions, they are beginning. If they are cool and let the photographers do their job without hassling us, they are going up. If they play to the cameras during the first three songs of the concert (because they know we will leave after the first three songs), they are near peak. If they want some kind of concession from photographers and the newspapers who employ them (which they aren't going to get), they are on their way down. If they demand something that nobody in their right mind would agree to do, they are done after this tour.
So far, my favorite band to work with was America. They were a lot of fun and regular people. One of the guitarists is an amateur photographer. He tried out my cameras during their concert. He thought it was cool. :-)
So, I wrote all this to say what?
You don't need a magic press pass to be press. Being press makes you press. The passes are just pieces of paper (or plastic) to control who can't go into some areas.
Personally, I try to get as few passes as possible now. The fewer I have, the more places I can go. Strange, but true.
Enough for now,