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Heymatt:

My job takes me down by the courthouse occasionally. The curb facing the courthouse is restricted to three-minute passenger loading and unloading. As often as not, this entire curb will be taken up by local news vans. Sometimes I leave in the morning and come back in the afternoon to find the same van has been parked in the same space all day. I've noticed this same thing at other restricted parking spots around town. How do these news vans get away with this without getting a ticket? If I painted "Mike's News" on the side of my van, could I park wherever I liked?

-- Mike, downtown

That Mike's News thing is kind of a long shot, since you'd also need some permits and placards to make you official. But as the traffic department says, they try to work with the media, within limits, so who knows. Strictly speaking, media vehicles should follow all the parking rules that apply to other vehicles, with one exception. By law, the media can't be barred from news gathering in restricted areas during a disaster. Short of a fire, flood, explosion, etc., news vans should be looking for a metered spot like the rest of us. But as you've noted, in certain locations like the courthouse, it doesn't always work that way.

A little undercover snooping around one TV station's satellite trucks reveals that the drivers feel relatively ticket-safe parking in a green, white, or yellow zone (limited-parking, loading and passenger zones). Red zones are less safe, definite ticket territory. And handicapped spaces are out of the question. So the attitude on the media end is to flout the law in the interest of not having to schlep their cameras and sound gear all over downtown.

With respect to media vehicles, the ticket squad is always on the lookout for any that are blocking the flow of traffic or creating some kind of hazard. (No media van has been towed, but a police car was. It was parked in a downtown curb lane reserved for traffic flow, not parking, during rush hours.) As for the green, yellow, or white curbs, it is up to the discretion of the ticketing officer as to how hard-nosed to be about it. In fact, media vehicles are ticketed frequently. It's just part of the price of gathering the news.

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