© 2013 LyannV

Up in the Air: Bloggers Are Granted Press Passes Largely at the Whim of Agencies and Venues

Although the state of Oklahoma has statutorily defined the term “journalist,” the landscape of modern news reporting is rapidly changing, and many bloggers do not fall into the category of traditional journalism – nor do they fit the definition of a traditional journalist. Even using the term “media” rather than “journalist”, when a blogger seeks a press pass it becomes obvious the rules are most often defined by the agency or venue granting press passes.

For example, the website of the National Weather Center in Norman, Oklahoma (NWC), touts media visits as offering “interviews with professors, administrators, researchers, forecasters, and students” and states “Media outlets are welcome to take video and/or photos of the National Weather Center as well”.

a tour guide explains the Storm Prediction Center inside the National Weather Center in Norma, Oklahom

Outside looking in: a National Weather Center public tour guide explains the workings of the Storm Prediction Center (safely behind a wall of glass) inside the National Weather Center in Norman, Oklahoma
©Lyann Valadez

Still, Melissa Bird, Public Relations and Marketing Manager for the College of Atmospheric and Geographic Sciences (housed at the NWC) offered her regrets when asked if an independent blogger might qualify for a media visit. Ms. Bird stated “Unfortunately, an independent blogger does not qualify for a media visit.”

Ms. Bird added that the best way to see the National Weather Center is to take a public tour. The public is allowed to take photos and videos during these tours, although this is not the same quality of access granted for media visits, which afford “opportunities for interviews with world-renowned scientists in geography and meteorology.”

In an e-mail, Ms. Bird suggested “you may be able to find a plethora of information on Oklahoma weather and weather events through the different websites of NWC organizations, such as the Oklahoma Climatological Survey and NOAA’s National Weather Service Forecast Office.  Following these different agencies through Facebook, Twitter and on their respective websites will lead to interesting weather information as well”.

The closest to a press pass an independent blogger will receive from the National Weather Center in Norman, Oklahoma

The closest thing to a media pass an independent blogger will receive from the National Weather Center in Norman, Oklahoma: a visitor badge for a public tour
©Lyann Valadez

At the Chesapeake Arena in Oklahoma City, requests for media passes are expected to include “photography or reviewer request, name, title, publication, circulation, address, phone number and email address. Phone calls to the arena requesting more specific information about the requirements for publications and circulation were not returned.

Other venues (admittedly, not in Oklahoma) require a different set of information, such as name of media, website address and supervisor name, which may or may not add to the feasibility of an independent blogger gaining a media pass to any given event.

Even the Oklahoma government seems confused by the term “media”. A 2012 news article titled “Oklahoma Court Grants Media Limited Access to State Foster Care Records” begs the question “What does the court mean by media?” Barbara Swimley, an attorney and the Marshall of the Supreme Court of Oklahoma admitted without hesitation “I don’t know the answer to that.”

Ms. Swimley recommended reading the court case (KOKI Fox 23 News and World Publishing Company vs. Department of Human Services). The case does not define the term “media” beyond the parties involved in the litigation, however, and Ms. Swimley suggested it would be possible for a blogger to make an inquiry under the Freedom of Information Act  – although she admitted this does not answer “who is the media?” nor does it address the problem of press access for bloggers.

Press credentials and media access are important, and current credentialing processes are based an old model of journalism that is rapidly becoming obsolete. It has been noted that the press accreditation process has created significant barriers for nonprofit, nontraditional and online journalism outlets and it has been suggested that the process of media accreditation – the process of gaining a press pass – should be updated to better reflect the new ways that news is being reported.

Like the National Weather Center on Facebook and follow on Twitter

You can always ‘like’ them, even if they won’t grant you media access!
©Lyann Valadez

One Trackback

  1. […] journalists and traditional media outlets enjoy special access to the National Weather Center in Norman, Oklahoma, independent media, bloggers, and the general public can take advantage of tours and other events […]

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