IS IT THE PRESS, OR IS IT US?
As a whole, we are very critical of the
media for their coverage of law enforcement. This is especially true for
the print media. Why shouldn’t we be? After all, just about every other
time we pick up a paper, there is some negative article about law
enforcement. We cry foul and wonder why there’s not more positive
Two years of running this website has given
me a different perspective. The negative coverage of law enforcement is
not just the fault of the press.
As most of you know, this website only
covers positive news pertaining to law enforcement or issues and events
that require awareness or action. So, we are not contacting agencies
regarding some scandal or accusation made against an officer. Between
being on the job myself and only trying to get information on positive
stories, it should be easy, right?
During the past two years, we have
contacted many agencies regarding accomplishments of their officers. It is
like pulling teeth. Here’s how it goes:
1. Number Dialed The wall of suspicion
begins with the dispatcher’s interrogation
2. “Hold on!” (A minute passes) Dispatcher returns. “I’ll put you
through. Hang on.”
3. Two minutes of happy music
4. Unknown deep voice answers. “Who are you holding for?” “Well, I, ahh,
Hi, ’m calling about yesterday’s incident where your officer
single-handedly rescued 39 passengers from the plane crash.” “Who is
this?” "Well, I run a website called NJLawman.com, and..." "Hold on!”
5. This time no happy music. 30 seconds of silence and then clicks
followed by that familiar and very loud EH, EH, EH, EH, EH, EH, EH, EH,
EH, EH, EH, EH.
6. Hang up, dial again, dispatcher answers, I begin explaining what
happened. “Didn’t you just call?” “Well, yes, I ah…” “Hold onnnnn!”
7. “Chief’s office, can I help you.” “Yeah, hi, I was looking to get
press release on the plane crash from yesterday.” “You need to speak to
Lt. Dipshit. He’s at lunch. Can I have him call you back?” “Sure.”
8. Name and number given, call ends.
9. Two days later, no return call, I call again. “Hi, is Lt. Dipshit
there?” “Who is this? What’s this in reference to?”
10. Steps 1 through 9 then repeat
The bottom line is that there is no reason
for the press and law enforcement to have an adversarial relationship. We
have what they need, and they have what we need.
The press needs words to fill in columns
every day. There are times where they are scrambling to find something on
which to report.
We, well, we need public exposure of our
work and accomplishments.
A proactive approach to the press bring
with it a massive benefit to your department, your officers, and the
people you serve. Have you ever tried typing a press release and sending
to the media? Most of the time, if done right, it will end up in the
newspaper, on the radio or even television if warranted.
This month we prepared a special report on
creating an effective media relations program. We have also created the
first-of-its-kind New Jersey Law Enforcement Media Center. This page
contains the contact information for every major newspaper, radio station,
television station and cable news network. It will be your source for
issuing press releases.
In closing, we are not justifying every
action of the press or saying that they are perfect. There are some
reporters who cross the line of decency, some who don't get our side of
the story, and some who have an agenda. Most, however, are just trying to
do their jobs like us.
Creating a successful media program
benefits your agency and law enforcement as a whole. If your agency only
receives negative media coverage, chances are that it's not just them.
We have assembled two resources to help
agencies improve their media coverage.
First, read our article,
How to Launch a Successful Media Relations Program. After
reading this article, we offer a second resource called the
New Jersey Law Enforcement