Flimsy Credentials

7th Jul 2009 2 Comments

Steve Groves at the London Free Press posted a link on twitter to an interview with photojournalist Derek Ruttan that had a selection of press passes he’d collected during his career.

It was almost surprising to see how little care is put into them. That journalists are granted access to sensitive areas, from crime scenes to government facilities, on a daily basis all across the country, with little more then a ball of paper with a glamour shot and the word PRESS.

You would think there would be some sort of standardization for such a document. That maybe the media or the government would have developed a standard in the days since Police Chief’s signed each pass and a slip of paper in a fedora went out of style. Especially in an age where these passes could easily be replicated by any 15 year old with a decent printer.

Anyone could throw one together and have a good chance of it going unnoticed; I’ve even created one. In 2006 I put together a series of passes for an online media company and it’s staff. Admittedly it was a bit over-designed, more so in comparison to other companies, but it was in the right direction of what standardized passes should resemble.

I think there needs to be a set of fundamental features when putting together a standard ID card like this. Much of the features are standard on licenses and passports now, and the same level of gravity should be given to media identification. So I propose the following features.

First, a standard size and paper weight, plastic even. The bigger the better but not so big it becomes cumbersome. It’s such an easy thing to do to ensure a quality document and a familiar format.

Bright Colour, the Toronto Sun has bright red, making the document visible from a distance. I chose green for my client at the time because it was their corporate colours. But a standard colour should be agreed on and possibly even changed each year, like licence plate validation stickers. Easy to see and verify if the pass is current.

Barcodes. A super easy way of verifying the information matches what’s written on the pass. Hard to duplicate unless you know exactly what is contained in the barcodes and how the information is formatted.

Lose the glamour shots. It’s not really necessary to have a head shot that looks like you had it taken by a high school photographer. Passport style photos work well for a number of reasons, and tones down how awesome you think yourself to be.

Four relatively easy steps to having a more secure ID and on the way to becoming a standard if everyone could agree on how these features would be laid out. It wouldn’t necessarily have to cost much more then it does now to produce either.

Of course I’m told by Dan Brown of the London Free Press that these flimsy credentials are often seen as a means to an end, sometimes a hindrance, or unnecessary all together. So I’m probably backing up the wrong tree. But it does seem like an area that’s habitually neglected and should be remedied.

I’d love to hear from journalists about their thoughts on this and what they think about the ID issued by their company.

Add Your Own. 2 Responses to “Flimsy Credentials”
  • I’m not a journalist… So I don’t think I fit your target demo here… But I like the idea. I do run (or help out with) several events each year though, and I think you’re heading in a great direction.

    I think a perfect solution would be to allow for a two-part setup: Part A (which you’ve covered pretty well) would identify the person, verifying that they’re legit press, what mediums and company/ies they’re with and so on. I think you’re missing a Part B, identifying the event or specific access level.

    Obviously, this would have to be a second card of sorts. I like the way the local transit company does it with student IDs - front side is the standard student ID card, back side is a big, bright sticker whose colour changes each semester. Drivers can validate the person by looking at the front (So that the pass can’t be passed around) and can verify that they can ride the bus by checking the back.

    I think in this case, we’d want a second card in the same size as the first. This one would probably something printable instead of plastic - it only has to survive a single event - and would have to have a handful of specific features, too. Access level (background colour, maybe), unique number (So that you can tie an access card to a specific person) and allowed dates/times/event (in a big font).

    Someone working for the press could then wear a single badge holder around their neck and security can easily verify the person by looking at the front, and their access level by looking at the back (Or vice-versa). Because of a unique number on the person side as well as the access side, it can all be verified at any point, too.

    I think you’re really onto something here…

  • I’m not sure it’s entirely necessary for events. Unless the press have to pay to get in or be registered. Which I don’t agree with on some level.

    I think a sticker or something would do just as good of a job, removable of course.

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