CEA Cracks Down on "Journalists"

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) has always been aimed at the electronics industry and the reporters who cover it. Other than a brief experiment with "open" days toward the end of the summer CES held in Chicago in the mid-1990s, the exhibition has never been open to the public.

Adventurous and persistent audiophiles have almost always found ways to attend, however. Either they finesse dealer credentials from their local retailer, or, as was the case with more than a few of our more obsessive acquaintances, they claim to represent fictional periodicals (or, more recently, websites). For years, this practice was winked at, but never actually acknowledged.

Until the 2007 CES, which created the perfect storm of fake media attendees, that is. Perhaps it was the shift in venues, especially the high-performance contingent's move from the Alexis Park to the Venetian Towers, or perhaps the scam became too well-known, but for whatever reason, 2007 marked the first time legitimate journalists began finding themselves crowded out of rooms by Press badgeholders for sites and publications no one had ever heard of.

On the unofficially "official" Press day (the day before the exhibition opens, when major manufacturers schedule huge press conferences and line shows), the crowds exceeded capacity and doors were closed in reporters' faces. UltimateAVmag's Shane Buettner and Fred Manteghian barely squeaked into LG Electronics' line show, but the press contingents from Home Theater and The Perfect Vision, who were right behind them, did not. Even getting into the room didn't guarantee a press kit, however. LG had only printed enough for half the actual attendees.

The CES press room was frequently overflowing, meaning that some of us were sitting on the floor frantically typing live show coverage into our laptops, while others waited in long lines for the CEA-provided computers.

One member of our contingent, who foolishly left his laptop at the hotel, assuming he could use a press-room computer, was fuming after waiting 40 minutes for an available keyboard. "The guy in front of me wasn't even filing a report, he was just checking his email and surfing the Web," he groused.

"Who are these people?" Jon Iverson asked me the third day of the show.

It was a legitimate question. Those of us on the beat know most of the audio regulars and, over the years, we've come to recognize many of the Lifestyles reporters from national newspapers and periodicals—the folks who file the stories from CES about the "hot new" trends in consumer electronics. All of the familiar faces were present, but were dwarfed by the new faces and obscure affiliations.

Apparently the CEA heard from more than a few of us: Press registration is no longer on the honor system. All bylined press, freelancers, and analysts are now required to provide masthead proof, bylined tearsheets, or URLs of bylined electronics-industry–related features—a marked contrast to years gone by when all it took was a business card. Advance registration for press credentials can be accomplished by going to the CEA website or by faxing (703) 907-8105 with tearsheets. Advance registration closes December 29, 2007, after which press can register onsite starting noon January 6, 2008—and bring those tearsheets/mastheads or you'll be turned away.

CES 2008 boasts more official venues than ever: the Sands Expo and Convention Center, the Venetian, all three halls of the Las Vegas Convention Center, and the Las Vegas Hilton. That doesn't even count unofficial exhibitors or the competing T.H.E. Show, which now occupies two adjacent hotels, the St. Tropez and Alexis Park. Covering it all certainly isn't easy, but the CEA's decision to limit its press accreditation to the legitimate working press certainly will help.

Thank you, CEA. Thus endeth the rant.