Obama’s campaign asks media to pay for access to election night

Not sure where I found a link to this, but it’s pretty alarming.  It’s being reported (other coverage) that representatives from Barack Obama’s presidential campaign have sent a memo to news organizations detailing a tiered pricing schedule for various levels of access to high-level campaign officials on election night.  While the General Media Access area is free of charge, it will have an obstructed view, be outside, and will (presumably) not be where any campaign officials will be.  The rest of the price list is below:

FROM THE OBAMA CAMPAIGN….

The following coverage resource packages are available for purchase:

* Main Riser Position – $935 (Includes 4 Main Riser Credentials, 5’x8′ Slot on Covered Main Riser and one 20 amp circuit)
* Main Riser Position with Telecommunications – $1870 (Includes Main Riser Position services, PLUS two unlimited long distance/local phone lines and one wired high speed internet connection)
* Cut Riser Position – $880 (Includes 4 Cut Riser Credentials, 5’x8′ Slot on Covered Cut Riser, one 20 amp circuit)
* Cut Riser Position with Telecommunications – $1815 (Includes Cut Riser Position services, PLUS two unlimited long distance/local phone lines and one wired high speed internet connection)
* Press File Seat – $935 (includes 1 Press File Credential, seat in heated Press File Tent, Power, Cable Television, High Speed Wired Internet Service, Catering)
* Satellite Truck Position – $900 (includes 35’x20′ parking position and 100 amp electrical service)
* Radio Position – $715 (includes table space and chair behind the riser, power and an ISDN BRI line for radio — comes with two credentials)

Billing information must be submitted at as part of the request. Your credit card will not be charged until the campaign confirms your coverage resource package request. Coverage resource packages must be requested at:

http://www.barackobama.com/pressbilling

Additional services may be purchased a la carte:

* Unlimited Long Distance Phone Line – $300
* High Speed Wired Internet – $275
* One 20 amp circuit – $165

For telephone service internet connectivity and additional power, orders must be placed by October 23rd, 2008. For questions on pricing or additional telecommunications assistance, please contact (deleted)

The following credentials may be requested at no cost:

* General Press Area – No Charge (Includes access to bike racked press area with standing room only)

You must fill out the form to the right to request each individual General Press Area credential.

Request media credentials for the Election Night event:

Credentials to access the General Media Area are available at no cost. Please note that the General Media Area is outdoors, unassigned and may have obstructed views. General Media Area credentials do not include access to riser positions, satellite truck parking or the press filing center. [ed: my emphasis]

No one’s asking for a free ride here.  Journalism costs a lot to do and there’s a long tradition of journalists paying their own way while accompanying political candidates and covering stories.  But charging a fee for access to the center of a major news event (likely the biggest news event for quite some time) is dirty pool.  Charging for the internet connections, electricity, food, a portion of riser rental, etc., is fine and expected and business as usual, but criticism of this fee structure is well-founded.  As some commentators also point out, this pay to play model for access favors big-name national media and wires and leaves local and independent coverage out to dry.  Hopefully there’s a clarification and revision of the policy on its way through the internet’s pipes right now…

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