The Obama campaign has assured Mayor Richard M. Daley that it will reimburse the city for what is sure to be a very expensive bill for hosting its Election Night party at Grant Park, but in turn the campaign is asking for reimbursements from the media that many news organizations find outrageous.
"Obama's campaign, awash in money after raising a record-shattering $150 million last month, is asking news organizations to pay anywhere from $410 to $1,870 depending on where they want to be and if they want telephone or Internet service in Grant Park."
The media will have free access to the "general media" area, but the Obama campaign warns that "the general media area is outdoors, unassigned and may have obstructed views," according to UPI, which adds that "Senior campaign officials will be available only in the 'press file' tent, for which an additional admission fee of $935 per person is being charged."
Fred Brown, former president of the Society of Professional Journalists, calls the campaign's plan "mercenary."
Al Tompkins, who leads the broadcast/online group at the Poynter Institute, a renowned media think tank, is also outraged. "In my years as a news director, I have approved many expenses for election night coverage. It is not unheard of for stations to pay for satellite truck parking spaces. It is certainly routine for stations and networks to pay for communication and electrical lines to their broadcast locations. Campaigns should not pay for those things.
"But the Obama campaign is going places I have not seen campaigns go in charging journalists for access to Election Night coverage."
The Obama campaign has posted its menu of fees on a Media RSVP page on its website. A couple of examples:
* "Press File Seat - $935 (includes 1 Press File Credential, seat in heated Press File Tent, Power, Cable Television, High Speed Wired Internet Service, Catering)"
* "Radio Position - $715 (includes table space and chair behind the riser, power and an ISDN BRI line for radio -- comes with two credentials)"
Lynn Sweet of the Sun-Timescalls the payment scheme "an outrageous pay-to-play plan that caters to national elite outlets with deep pockets," and indeed Chicago Public Radio reports on the concerns of a couple small local outlets in "Small Media Thrown By Obama's Fees."
Chicagoist wonders what Pearl Jam thinks in a post titled "Obama Goes Ticketmaster on Media."
One thing's for sure: given his antipathy to the media and the fact that his budget apparently won't be impacted, Mayor Daley is the only one who's come out a winner in this fight.