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Press pass

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A press pass (alternatively referred to as a press card or a journalist pass) grants some type of special privilege to journalists. Some cards have recognized legal status; others merely indicate that the bearer is a practicing journalist. The nature of the benefits is determined by the type of issuing agency, of which there are three major categories: news organizations, law-enforcement agencies, and event organizers (usually for a specific single affair like a corporate press conference). Each type of card grants different authorizations, thus it is often necessary or desirable for reporters to hold multiple press passes simultaneously.[1]

Government-issued cards


In the United Kingdom there is a national, officially recognised Press Card, it is issued by the UK Press Card Authority (UKPCA), which is an organisation owned and controlled by the UK’s major media organisations, industry associations, trades unions, and professional associations. It is the only card issued in the UK to be recognised by the police, other emergency services and government departments.[citation needed]

Law-enforcement cards

A Denver press pass.

Police departments at a city, county, or state/provincial level may issue press passes in some countries.[1] Such passes allow the bearer to cross police or fire lines to report breaking news, or grant access to crime scenes or other restricted areas[2]– though admission may be denied if it would interfere with the duties of emergency personnel. Popular media of the mid-20th century often depicted reporters at a crime scene with their press passes tucked into their hat bands, which was unusual in reality.[3]

Because of the exceptional dispensation endowed by police press passes, they are issued with discretion–some jurisdictions require an in-person interview with all prospective applicants, complete set of fingerprints, and a background check.[4] Generally, only reporters who cover breaking news are eligible;[2] other journalists (feature writers, editors and editorialists, freelance writers, and bloggers) are not.[4]

Police-issued passes do not grant access to government press conferences or any other such privileges: they are only recognized by emergency response personnel, and only valid within the jurisdiction of the issuing agencies.[2]

Parking permits


Police parking permits, issued in some jurisdictions, exempt news vehicles from certain parking restrictions while on the job. They may be offered to any news-gathering organization that covers breaking news for use in company vehicles employed by full-time reporters, photographers, and camera operators. Often, these permits are only granted to journalists who already carry a police press card.[citation needed]

When conspicuously displayed, these permits may allow the bearer to park in restricted "resident-only" parking zones, and may exempt him or her from parking-meter costs. These privileges apply only for the duration of breaking-news coverage, and do not nullify all parking restrictions: red zones, fire hydrants, crosswalks, bus zones, disabled parking zones or access ramps, commercial loading zones, taxi cab zones, "no stopping" or "no parking" zones, transit lanes, and other towaway zones are still off-limits.[2]


Press pass to the 2005 WTO conference in Hong Kong

For tradeshows, community gatherings, sporting events, award shows, professional conferences, or major events of any type, press passes are generally available. These are sometimes referred to as "press badges".[5] For many events publicity in news media and elsewhere is of great importance, and granting privileges to the press can help in this. The privileges granted to holders of press badges, and who is eligible to receive them, depends on the nature of the affair.[citation needed]

Generally, prospective recipients must apply in advance, offering evidence of their affiliation. Event sponsors may request past published material, or a letter from the news agency on its letterhead, detailing the job assignment.[6][7] Generally, non-reporting employees of news agencies (executives, sales personnel, publishers, editors, etc.) are not eligible for press passes.[8] In addition to journalists, some bloggers may be granted event passes.[5][9]

Many major events, especially trade shows, issue press kits to pass-holders.[10] A press pass may allow the bearer to request interviews with noteworthy attendees, and special rooms are sometimes set aside for this purpose.[6][11][12]

Open events

1900 press pass to a William Jennings Bryan speech

For activities open to the public, such as community gatherings, school events, or trade shows, a police- or media-issued press pass may offer little advantage. Free or reduced-price admission, or guaranteed entry, can sometimes be arranged.[13][14] The benefits may be more extensive, granting access to front-row seats or to press-only rooms.[6] For sporting events, a press pass issued by a stadium grants access to the press box.[15] Because open events are usually funded by paying attendees, the number of press passes may depend on the number of tickets sold.[16]

Closed events


For events closed to the general public, police- or news organization-issued press passes sometimes grant access, but almost all require advance application for admittance. Greater exclusivity, however, means more restrictions on potential pass recipients. For professional conferences or trade shows, passes may be granted only to journalists who regularly cover the industry or who hold a title of "industry analyst",[17] or with an editorial or reporting designation.[18]

News agency cards

Press card designd by an user of Wikinews.

"You do not need to ask permission from anyone to be a journalist," explains the Periodical Publishers Association; "however, it is sometimes useful to be able to identify yourself as a journalist when needed."[19] To this end, journalistic agencies issue press cards to their reporters, editorialists, writers, and photographers. These do not have the legal merits of government-issued cards, and they will not replace event-specific passes; the card only serves as proof of its bearer's status as a legitimate newsperson according to the issuing organization. As such, card-carriers may be better able to obtain interviews, acquire information from law-enforcement, or gain access to exclusive venues.[citation needed]

In the United Kingdom, the UK Press Card Authority (a voluntary consortium of news agencies) issues a nationally standardized card to United Kingdom-based news gatherers.[20]

In most other European countries, cards are issued by national trade unions of journalists. Some require membership or government approval.

For freelance journalists, organizations like the National Writers Union, Professional Publishers Association Creative News Service(CNS) from ICC national Union of Journalists (UK) or US Press Association issue cards.[citation needed]

Fake cards


Genuine press cards can be obtained by people not entitled to them, counterfeit copies of real cards can be made, and plausible-looking cards can be issued by anybody, or made. The reasons and consequences range from the trivial (free drinks) to the catastrophic (access by terrorists[21] to heads of states or other important officials).[citation needed]

Spurious cards

Press passes not issued by a recognised publication can be obtained or made, with the intention of gaining benefits offered to holders of legitimate press cards. Joan Stewart of the Public Relations Society of America reports, "Fake press passes abound at restaurant and theater openings, sporting events, music festivals, political rallies, celebrity parties and even crime scenes. With a decent computer and color printer, almost anybody can crank out an official-looking pass within minutes."[22]

Counterfeit cards

Counterfeit copies of cards issued by legitimate publications can be made. Issuers of cards have taken measures to prevent counterfeiting of their cards, creating cards with holographic foil blocking, signature strips, and tamper-resistant lamination.[21]


  1. ^ a b Gulker, Christian H. "untitled". Gulker.com. Archived from the original on 29 March 2007. Retrieved 7 May 2007.
  2. ^ a b c d "Applying for A SFPD Press Pass". SFPD Public Affairs Office. City and County of San Francisco Police Department. Archived from the original on 28 January 2009. Retrieved 1 April 2007.
  3. ^ McDonnell, Pat J. (21 July 1982). "Press card – ticket into harm's way". Evening Herald. Rock Hill. p. 4. Retrieved 29 October 2012.[permanent dead link]
  4. ^ a b Dobkin, Jake (27 April 2005). "Help Gothamist Get a Press Pass". SFPD Public Affairs Office. City and County of San Francisco Police Department. Archived from the original on 27 July 2009. Retrieved 2 April 2007.
  5. ^ a b Winer, Dave (7 January 2007). "How I got my press badge for CES". flickr. Archived from the original on 18 March 2007. Retrieved 2 April 2007.
  6. ^ a b c "Press/Analyst FAQs". 2007 International CES. International CES. 2007. Archived from the original on 8 January 2008. Retrieved 7 May 2007.
  7. ^ "Media Invitation – Complimentary Press Pass". ISMB/ECCB 2007. International Society for Computational Biology. 2007. Archived from the original on 2 July 2006. Retrieved 7 May 2007.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  8. ^ "Press Registration Form" (PDF). SupplySideWest. 2006. Retrieved 7 May 2007.
  9. ^ Vargas, Jose Antonio (14 May 2006). "What Press Pass? At E3, a Convergence of Card-Carrying Bloggers". The Washington Post. pp. D01. Archived from the original on 18 June 2006. Retrieved 2 April 2007.
  10. ^ Olbermann, Keith (17 February 2005). "Press pass bypass". Bloggermann. NBC News. Retrieved 2 April 2007.
  11. ^ "Frequently Asked Questions". United States Senate Daily Press Gallery. United States Senate. Archived from the original on 31 January 2009. Retrieved 7 May 2007.
  12. ^ "How to apply for or receive a press pass". USPA. 1 January 2017. Retrieved 15 January 2020.
  13. ^ "Press Pass". iHollywoodForum. Archived from the original on 22 July 2011. Retrieved 7 May 2007.
  14. ^ "Media Invitation". ISMD 2006. International Society for Computational Biology. Archived from the original on 2 July 2006. Retrieved 7 May 2007.
  15. ^ Olbermann, Keith (20 February 2005). "Bloggermann". NBC News. Retrieved 7 May 2007.
  16. ^ "Press Pass Request". Demo Fall '07. Demo. Archived from the original on 24 January 2009. Retrieved 7 May 2007.
  17. ^ "Press Registration". Cambridge Health Institution. Archived from the original on 3 September 2009. Retrieved 7 May 2007.
  18. ^ "Press Pass Request Form" (PDF). Bike Information Association. Archived from the original (PDF) on 28 October 2008. Retrieved 7 May 2007.
  19. ^ "PPA Press Cards". Periodical Publishers Association. Archived from the original on 3 April 2007. Retrieved 7 May 2007.
  20. ^ "The UK Press Card Authority". The UK Press Card Authority. Archived from the original on 21 August 2009. Retrieved 7 May 2007.
  21. ^ a b "Press Cards". The Chartered Institute of Journalists. 2006. Archived from the original on 27 February 2007. Retrieved 18 June 2012.
  22. ^ Stewart, Joan (26 April 2006). "Guard the shrimp bowl!: How to spot fake press passes". PR Tactics. Public Relations Society of America. Retrieved 18 June 2012.