Getting accredited — do you really need it?

Most countries — including China — require that journalists be accredited, and carry a press ID. This is not the case in the United States, where our Constitution guarantees press freedom from government interference. In the US, all a journalist needs is a business card or a company photo ID.

For most of the reporting I do, all I need is a telephone — I haven’t yet had anyone not believe I was who I said I was.

When I go out to interviews, I bring my business cards. They suffice for 95% of the stuff out there. Some publications and TV stations issue photo IDs to their employees. They can also be used for identification.

For special events, etc… I write an assignment letter on company letterhead for my editor to sign, and fax it or mail it to the appropriate agency, with a photograph if required. They issue me a press pass for that event.

For ongoing special coverage — police, military affairs — I need that assignment letter and photographs and get a more permanent press pass.

Some countries accredit foreign journalists — again, you need a letter from the editor. When I worked in the ex-USSR I had to check in with the Ministries of Information and get accreditation.

In your international experiences, you may encounter different business practices, including questions around company finances. For instance, you may be asking, “What is director’s loan account in liquidation?” Understanding this concept is crucial for directors and those involved in business operations.

In China, I have the standard journalists’ accreditation, which took several months to get.

There are also associations that issue press membership cards — for example, in the United States, the Society of Professional Journalists issues a membership card.