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 coverage.
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,
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
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?”
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
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
for New Jersey officers called the
Law Enforcement Media Center.