U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

How Dangerous Is that Reporter?

NCJ Number
Law and Order Volume: 55 Issue: 1 Dated: January 2007 Pages: 20-22
Cara Donlon-Cotton
Date Published
January 2007
3 pages
This article describes types of news reporters according to their style of obtaining information and reporting on police activities, with attention to how police officials should deal with each type of reporter in the best interests of the police agency.
The "new/clueless" and "lazy" reporters give police agencies the least trouble, because they will depend only on official police sources for their information. They will position themselves at police command centers and press-conference sites, waiting for an agency spokesperson to present carefully crafted news releases approved by agency leaders. News "bosses" tell reporters where to go and what to cover. They are stationed in an office, where they rely on phone tipsters and the fax machine to receive information from news sources they have developed. They are not in a position to observe what is happening in a given moment or seek out information from persons involved in events as they occur or shortly after they have occurred. "Established" reporters are veterans who have developed strategic sources who are familiar with what is happening behind the scenes in police work. These reporters tend to mistrust official press releases. These reporters should be identified by police officials, along with their sources, so as to control the information they receive. The most dangerous reporters from a police agency's perspective are "real" reporters, who work outside of official police information channels to obtain additional information; "gung-ho" reporters, who monitor the police to observe how they are actually performing their duties in the field; and the dreaded "investigative" reporter, who is always looking for police conspiracies, cover-ups, and misconduct. This article provides advice on how police leaders should respond to such news reporters so as to protect the agency from scandal and a negative public image.