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Jun-28-2010 21:39printcomments

How Reporters Have to Identify Themselves

Some suggest reporter ID is not a big deal, but it is when you seriously cover news.

News ID issued to writer/photographer Tim King over the years.
News ID issued to writer/photographer Tim King over the years.

(SALEM, Ore.) - In a recent story comment, a woman describing herself as an Oregon reporter, suggested that news reporters don't need to identify themselves as such, while covering political events. I thought I'd take the opportunity to fill in a few blanks about media credentials and responsibilities.

The bottom line in the United States is that reporting news requires no license. Unlike attorneys and doctors and so many other positions that require a solid education, news people need only find employment. Even that isn't necessary because a reporter is simply one who reports. The employment factor determines that a person is a professional reporter. Most finish college before entering the business, but some do not.

The comment was placed on a story I wrote titled, "Bob Etheridge, North Carolina and Camera Crew Fraud". I claim in that piece that political agenda operators posing as fake news crews are something close to the scum of the earth. I reference a great person, Ahmad Shah Massoud in Afghanistan, who was killed by a fake news crew.

Using the name JoWriter, the person leaving the comment wrote:

"I've never used, or been asked to show, credentials at any political or any other event I've covered. Hard to believe they do it in Las Vegas or LA. Plus, 'government' doesn't issue press credentials to anyone. That would violate constitutional freedom of the press guarantees."

There are reasons that news people identify themselves as journalists when dealing with law enforcement and military, and politicians. This doesn't mean that I need my press ID in order to talk to a state senator or the mayor. I also don't need it to simply cover news in a regular public setting.

But the first time you are in a situation like a SWAT scene and the big video cameras are out, and the police are backing the civilians up and giving the media a vantage point, you will be glad to have news ID hanging from your neck.

Many reporters also work internationally, I have been doing it since 1995, starting with assignments in Mexico.

There are serious declarations to be achieved; paperwork to fill out, etc. Permission is required to enter meetings and governmental buildings there, as they are in many nations.

In the same comment, JoWriter wrote: "Is it the police departments doing it? Still hard to believe. But then, I live in Oregon."

In early 1995 I joined the news team at KYMA Channel 11; the NBC affiliate in Yuma, Arizona, I was told that I should get my identification card from the California Highway Patrol as quickly as possible.

I did, it never really seemed necessary, though I have to say that the CHP is a really great agency for media to work with. The fact that they could easily note that I was a reporter with ID from their own agency, allowed great access to news scenes.

After being hired by the NBC station in Las Vegas, KVBC, I found a more intense process for media ID. I was surprised that this involved visiting the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police building and standing in a long line with other people who needed official Police ID. Most were not media people, just me.

Anyway, there were forms to fill out and actual background information was required. I got the impression that any person with a criminal history probably wouldn't receive a Las Vegas Metro press ID. Without it you can't work for one of the TV station newsrooms.

When it comes to covering politics, you have a big range of topics. Presidential visits head that list. During the five years that I worked in Las Vegas, I covered three of President Bill Clinton's visits. Each time I generally covered the landing of Air Force One at McCarran Airport, and then the political event that the President was there to attend.

I covered a visit of Vice President Al Gore once, and had the interesting opportunity to stand on a stage with Hillary Clinton on a school auditorium stage, where she spoke as a scheduled part of the President's visit to Las Vegas.

In order to cover the Presidential visits, and also to enter the Nevada Test Site, home of the legendary 'Area 51', several times, (officials don't acknowledge that anything special exists there, Area 51 is properly known as Groom Lake, it is a drylake bed) I had to not only attain permission and have ID, but also submit to a federal background check.

Every time I have flown with the National Guard in one of their helicopters, with the Coast Guard, in a U.S. Air Force F-16 fighter, I had to go through a similar process.

Which leads us to a reporter's real trial when it comes to paperwork; that is the military embed process. I have completed this process twice, going first to Afghanistan in 2006 and 2007, and then to Iraq in 2008.

In Afghanistan, I had to complete the media credential process with the International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) and then find a ride to their headquarters in Kabul to receive the actual press pass shown here.

Once in Iraq, I had to get to the U.S. military's Combined Press Information Center (CPIC)-the Central Command media office (CENTOM) in Baghdad's "Red Zone". My final leg of the journey to the LZ for that press office, from the Baghdad Airport, was made in a Huey helicopter operated by Blackwater. The media office in Baghdad was full of international journalists and there are bunks, so reporters can work from the location, sleep and also get some pretty decent meals.

I'm not even starting to mention the mountain of paperwork that was required in each case to get to the point where I was putting my hand on the treasured press pass.

It allows you to be trusted when moving around the war; it allows you to get on aircraft.

As much as it doesn't require a license to work in journalism and news reporting, it can be a very formal affair.

Those who do well and demonstrate through their work that they are honest, are often given a great degree of latitude by officials while gathering news.

There are press passes issued for all types of events; I have many that I did not include here; things like the Billboard Music Awards, movie premiers where the stars were on hand, boxing press conferences, etc.

In each case there are security considerations.

In order for media to be afforded the treatment and access we need, it is helpful on our part to be able to quickly and effectively demonstrate that we are the real thing.

Jun-14-2010: Bob Etheridge, North Carolina and Camera Crew Fraud - Tim King

Tim King: Editor and Writer

Tim King has more than twenty years of experience on the west coast as a television news producer, photojournalist, reporter and assignment editor. In addition to his role as a war correspondent, this Los Angeles native serves as's Executive News Editor. Tim spent the winter of 2006/07 covering the war in Afghanistan, and he was in Iraq over the summer of 2008, reporting from the war while embedded with both the U.S. Army and the Marines. Tim is a former U.S. Marine.

Tim holds awards for reporting, photography, writing and editing, including the Silver Spoke Award by the National Coalition of Motorcyclists (2011), Excellence in Journalism Award by the Oregon Confederation of Motorcycle Clubs (2010), Oregon AP Award for Spot News Photographer of the Year (2004), First-place Electronic Media Award in Spot News, Las Vegas, (1998), Oregon AP Cooperation Award (1991); and several others including the 2005 Red Cross Good Neighborhood Award for reporting. Tim has several years of experience in network affiliate news TV stations, having worked as a reporter and photographer at NBC, ABC and FOX stations in Arizona, Nevada and Oregon. Tim was a member of the National Press Photographer's Association for several years and is a current member of the Orange County Press Club.

Serving the community in very real terms, is the nation's only truly independent high traffic news Website. As News Editor, Tim among other things, is responsible for publishing the original content of 91 writers. He reminds viewers that emails are easily missed and urges those trying to reach him, to please send a second email if the first goes unanswered. You can write to Tim at this address:

Comments Leave a comment on this story.

All comments and messages are approved by people and self promotional links or unacceptable comments are denied.

Lane Yarbrough November 21, 2011 2:56 pm (Pacific time)

Thank you so much for this article. I linked to it on BoingBoing.

Editor: Many thanks Lane

Hank Ruark June 29, 2010 9:22 am (Pacific time)

One of my treasured memories is of a smalltown-Maine guru telling another, sotto voce, "look out for that Ruark kid, he's the AP stringer now !" Especially appreciated since at annual town meeting with Depression budget-slashes at stake... At United Press-Bsn, we were given red-background badges 3/4/inch wide with name and display-line United Press; AND instructed to "WEAR IT !" ! No stolen-quotes were either wanted OR allowed... Many pages of paperwork as described designed to dominate and "frame authority" BEFORE any reporting contacts, often with some impact, esp. when the other side wears a gun. For some few events reporter justified in seeming/same role as bystander; for most, ethics demands ID despite definite shaping of substance following but only way to avoid unsavory "entrapment", smearing report. "Surround" per situation can guide wise, professional act, with "nose for news" as major guide to public right/to/know.

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