Chicago Reporting Help Desk, an independent nonprofit project, is staffing a help desk which connects reporters to resources like legal assistance, official and community spokespersons, and logistical advice. Our agenda: we want accurate, context-rich journalism about Chicago.

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How to contact the Reporting Help Desk

Phone: 312.369.6400

More information can be found at Community Media Workshop

Frequently Asked Questions

This list will grow as requests come in.

PRESS CREDENTIALS: How do I get a Summit press credential? Do I need a credential to be in the “red zone” or cover protests?

  • State Department Media FAQ addressing credentialed media.
  • Unless you already applied, you can’t get a credential to McCormick Place. Applications closed a month ago to allow for background checks by Secret Service.
  • Press Credential announcements were emailed evening of May 8th; if you applied, you should have gotten an email (check your spam folder).
  • There are a number of outside events, official and unofficial, which do not require a credential. Check our calendar for a list.
  • You do not need a credential to cover a protest. Wearing a press ID is a good idea; even with a press ID or Summit credential, police may tell you to leave. You (sometimes) have a legal right to stay and report, however in our experience this is not a fight worth having. Exit, regroup a block away, and keep working.

TRANSIT & ROADS: What’s open, when?

INSIDE SUMMIT: What’s the deal with busses, food, TV feeds, hours of operation for the Summit press hall?

OFFICIAL  SPOKESPERSONS: How can I reach official information people for…

Call the help desk (312.369.6400 / for more sources at specific agencies, organizations or protest groups.

  • NATO Media Coordinator:
  • Host Nation Media Coordinator:
  • NATO site for media < Many useful contacts and schedules


  • City of Chicago SMS notification system.
  • Chicago Police, Director News Affairs – Melissa Stratton , Phone: 312-745-6110
  • U.S. Secret Service, 202-406-5708 (summit)  312-353-5431 (Chicago office)
  • Federal Protective Service, Chicago  312-353-1496
  • Public Affairs Homeland Security  202-282-8010
  • Federal Aviation Administration, 202-267-3455
  • U.S. Coast Guard, 414-747-7152

LEGAL: At protests, how can I avoid arrest? Who can help if someone on my team is arrested?

  • Carry with you, at all times, (1) your press credentials, if you have any, (2) a government issued photo I.D., and (3) cash and/or a credit card (to post bond).
  • If you are detained, (1) comply with police orders; (2) identify yourself as a member of the press; (3) ask the arresting officer to notify a supervisor that a reporter is being detained; and (4) call Reporters Committee for a Free Press hotline 312-251-1000. 
  • A resource for any citizens: National Lawyers Guild hotline: 312-913-0039. Before attending protests, write this number on your arm in permanent marker.
  • The 24-hour media legal help hotline by the Reporters Committee for a Free Press is 800-336-4243 (permanent) or 312-251-1000 (NATO Summit). Also, attorney Steve Mandell at (312) 215-1001, and Attorney Steve Baron at (312) 505-4452.
  • ACLU Guide to photographers rights.
  • Chicago Police have stated during meetings with media that journalists get no special protection from mass arrest. If you are ordered to leave an area, and you stay, you will be picked up with everyone else. Once arrested, you may serve your 48 hours like everyone else.
  • When arrested, you will lose your hardware for the weekend. Have a buddy to hand hardware off to; police may facilitate this. Consider this when packing: less is good. If you can shoot from a phone only, do that.
SAFETY: How do I cover potential conflict and unrest responsibly?
  • The Chicago Headline Club and International News Safety Institute has safety tips. Scroll down.
  • If you see police tape or temporary barricades going up, get out immediately. This is a preliminary move to confining a group to an area and holding people or arresting them. Once the wall goes up, police will not let you leave.
  • Work in pairs or threes. A bigger group is too many to coordinate. If someone is working close (for images of arrests, usually), then someone should be distant to avoid arrest and see what happens.
  • Don’t enter the space between police lines and protestors. When police move in, you can get hurt.
  • Do not enter crowds of protestors. Work from the edges. Once you’re in the crowd, the police will treat you like a protestor. Protestors may also be hostile to some media outlets (NBC, FOX in particular).

BEVERAGES: Any good bars in this town?

  • Seriously?
  • Try this one: Billy Goat Tavern 430 Lower Michigan Ave (in River North, between Hubbard St & Illinois St, down the stairs to Lower Michigan).

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