Sonoma Raceway implemented new guidelines to screen photographers for their weekday events but the improved guidelines aren’t any better.

Earlier this week a new set of guidelines leaked from Sonoma Raceway regarding their media policy tied to vests and photo access.

It was later revealed Sonoma Raceway implemented these guidelines to fulfill their need to screen photographers requesting vests to access dangerous areas on a weekly basis and,

” …to prevent the Wednesday night drags and drift photographers from either stealing or forgetting to return their photo vests.”

The guidelines, embedded below, outlined four criteria photographers must follow if they want a vest and photo access.

According to a call made to the VP of Communications for Sonoma and Las Vegas Raceways, it looks like Kevin Kern, Digital Marketing and Social Media Manager for Sonoma Raceways, bears most of the fault for the above policy.

“Kevin Kern acted alone to draft and introduce the new media policy (for Wednesday Night events.) It went through zero approval and was introduced soley by him.”

What drew the most outrage from social media, drawing criticism from veteran photographers and beginning freelance photographers alike, was the stipulation photographers needed to relinquish ALL non-watermarked photos taken at the event within 72 hours.

Agreeing to wear a vest also meant you consent to Sonoma Raceway using your submitted photos for their own promotional purposes, specifically saying they would not give you credit.

This also implies you’d receive no compensation if your photos are used.

Within a few days of issuing their vest and photo access guidelines, significant social media backlash forced Sonoma Raceway’s Digital Marketing & Social Media team to revisit and issue an amended set of guidelines (posted below.)

Sonoma Raceway clarified these guidelines only affect weekly racing programs like Wednesday Night Drags and Sonoma Drift and DO NOT apply to anyone on assignment taking photos for editorial purposes or nationally sanctioned events such as NASCAR or NHRA.

Instead of requiring photographers to submit ALL their photos, they are only required to submit a selection of non-watermarked photos.

As pointed out by writer and reporter Marshall Pruett, despite adding clarification and tweaking criteria, the overall policy still discriminates against “the smallest and least celebrated freelance photographers.”

If Sonoma Raceway’s problem is screening photographers, media management should seriously consider if criteria like this are just a ham-fisted way of dealing with said problem.

Pruett put it more bluntly.

Practical, more logical solutions popped up all over social media including,

The stipulation to use a freelance photographers photos for promotional use without credit or compensation reads like a roundabout way to get free work under the guise of “vetting.”

The current guidelines, as they are, do not seem to solve the alleged problems of vests theft and access to high-risk areas.

Whether Sonoma Raceway will keep these guidelines, rework them, or scrap them altogether has yet to be seen.

With so many logical and practical solutions to their problem readily available, I’ll be surprised if Sonoma Raceway doesn’t issue a retraction with a more amicable solution soon.


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