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Law Enforcement and the Media

By Suzanne Spurgeon  December 7, 2015

The relationship between law enforcement and the media is complicated.  At times reporters and camera crews are seen as a nuisance who are interfering with the important work of first responders.  A reporter's assignment and deadline often are not the top priorities of a police department. It is now common for departments to first post to their social media sites during major, breaking news--going directly to the public. As the story quickly unfolds, print and broadcast journalists arrive in droves and their needs must be met. The best way to curb unsubstantiated rumors or incorrect reporting is for law enforcement to hold regular news conferences. We saw a good example of that in San Bernardino following what we now know was a terrorist attack. 

San Bernardino PD Lt. Mike Madden appearanced at news conferences and I can't think of anyone who could have described the situation with more clarity. The media quickly picked up on Madden's ability to connect with people, and sought him out for one-on-one interviews.  I don't know if Lt. Madden has had media training or is a natural communicator who keeps his cool when he is asked to step before the cameras.  After the day he'd experienced no one would have blamed him if he just wanted to go home and leave the media briefing to others.  

I know several  fine journalists who covered the San Bernardino story and they worked long and hard to keep the public informed.  Sometimes we forget that journalists are people who are also touched by the tragedies they cover.  

I was glued to my TV and checking social media for hours as the story developed. Relatives were sharing text messages with reporters--from loved ones sheltering in place inside the social services center. It was heart wrenching. Traditional and social media each played an important role informing the public during this horrific event.  

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