Chicago journalists will no longer be fingerprinted to receive police-issued press passes after the City Council amended its credentialing ordinance to reflect reporters' privacy rights and modern changes in the news industry, says the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. The requirement that reporters who apply for police press credentials undergo a criminal background check is still in effect. Chicago Police implemented both procedures shortly after Sept. 11, 2001. Many local news organizations – concerned about the invasion into reporters' private lives – simply opted to forgo police credentialing, said Sue Stevens, president of the Chicago Headline Club, the local chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.
Roderick Drew, director of news affairs for the Chicago Police, cited the differing levels of invasiveness of the two policies, noting that the department kept reporters' fingerprint records on file for months, but destroys background-check results immediately. The background checks are mainly conducted to ensure that credentialed reporters – who gain media access to the City Hall press room, the Police Department headquarters press area and crime scenes – have no outstanding warrants issued against them, Roderick added. The new ordinance also expands the definition of “news media” to include periodicals issued in electronic format. A requirement that the reporter be employed “full time” also has been eliminated, a significant development during a time when many news organizations are turning to freelance reporters, Stevens said.