Everybody Is Not Doing It.
Disabuse yourself of the notion that everybody else is doing it.
It may feel that way, if you follow a lot of game journalists on Twitter. It may feel like you’re missing out, and in this life, you have to take whatever you can grab, right? Every man for himself! You deserve it!
In most cases, media passes are given in limited quantities to journalists interested in covering the show. Here’s where things get fuzzy, in the Age of Blogging.
Are you a journalist? Have you taken university courses in journalism or worked for a local paper? Do you understand AP style and the Five Ws, and are you dedicated to the pursuit of the truth? Do you understand what is or is not newsworthy?
There are few professions people fake to this degree. People faking it to this degree is, arguably, responsible for the collapse of the real thing, but that’s a story for another blog post.
This isn’t about elitism. Responsibility is the main ingredient of a journalist. Someone who is moonlighting is not necessarily a fraud. A person with no formal education can consult hundreds of free resources, learn to write a coherent sentence and even learn the tenets of journalism. We live in wondrous times!
Here’s the thing, though: Whether or not something is your profession is not subjective. It shouldn’t be a controversy. It shouldn’t be offensive. It shouldn’t even hurt your feelings. Wringing your hands and crying “journalism is for EVERYONE” is no less ridiculous than suggesting that practicing medicine or midwifery or shoe repair is for everyone.
It is part of somebody’s day job to sift through this, and that person has to make some hard decisions.
Is the guy who owns this blog a journalist? Sure, his LinkedIn profile says he works for a muffler company, but he says the site gets traffic and while the writing is not professional, they made nice use of the WordPress template. How about his contributors– they do most of the work anyway, right? Is a YouTuber a journalist if they have X million subscribers? What about this tiny husband-and-wife blog that covered a bunch of other shows in the area nicely and asked politely? What about this presumptuous famous person who rudely refused to apply through the normal channels because he’s really damn important? What about this podcast your colleague (who has zero authority here) already approved, who didn’t cover the last three shows they requested media passes for, who wants four damn passes? What about this beloved TV station that routinely makes fun of events just like yours? What about this international TV station that wants more passes than you have permission to give [for a full camera crew which will never show up]? What about this guy who comes to every show, who is not a journalist, who for some reason has decided to apply for a media pass this time?
Here’s something that will blow your mind, influencers: no matter how many followers you have, your hallowed presence at our show is not “free publicity”. It costs the price of your badge and someone else’s media pass.
Please include only the information the company asked for. Personal details are not required. A media pass is not a wedding present. Don’t waste anyone’s time with a five-paragraph sob story. We are generally not volunteers. The food on your table probably isn’t dependent on your acquisition of this media badge. The food on our tables is dependent on us doing our job, and a hit to attendance is a hit to our paycheck.
You Wanna Know What News Is
If the person issuing the badge asks for a link to coverage, send it if you want to maintain that relationship. Most importantly, coverage months after the event helps nobody. The publicist has already billed and taken the hit for you. You already look unprofessional– don’t reinforce that image by covering the event months later. An event that happened months ago is not news.
A Media Pass is NOT a Hookup
When a friend has a free badge generated for you, you got hooked up. There are probably no strings attached (unless they asked you to help with something– hopefully you were listening). Enjoy the show!
A MEDIA PASS IS NOT A HOOKUP.
A media pass is given to a professional journalist who wishes to cover a show. That means writing about it. While you are not obligated to give the show a writeup (tit-for-tat is unethical), by accepting that media pass, especially for a smaller show that needs the coverage and has substantially fewer passes to give away, you are obligated to at least consider covering the event. If you have no intention of doing so, if you just don’t feel like paying for your badge, ask yourself honestly why you are asking for a media pass. Are you doing it in good faith?
It is tacky and unprofessional to brag about acquiring one on Twitter. Others have been denied. You potentially endanger someone’s real job when you do stupid things like this.
It’s difficult to convince a primary owner to continue doing media passes when they generate bupkis and hurt attendance. Don’t abuse other peoples’ trust. When you abuse the system, you endanger the system.
Be honest. Request a media pass only if you are a journalist interested in covering something. Stay classy.