Wick Communications

Scratch each other’s back

In journalism on September 16, 2010 at 5:17 pm

The Argus Observer in Ontario, Ore., helped local police nab an alleged local child molester the other day and the incident points to the potential for everyone to benefit when media and police cooperate.

Here’s Argus Observer Editor Larry Hurrle:

The first story was uncovered doing routine cop calls about a man who sexually assaulted two young girls in a local Wal-Mart. The police asked us to run the story and a photo from the surveillance camera in the store. Upon seeing the story and photo, a relative of the suspect contacted him and suggested he turn himself in, which he did. Our follow-up story explained that sequence the next day, after police contacted us to say the first story was a success.”

That is wonderful news and here’s hoping authorities in the Ontario area took note. I doubt they would have caught the suspect as quickly without the cooperation of the local newspaper…

In the course of my career I’ve sometimes had strained relations with local law enforcement. I think there are several reasons for that – including my own hubris and self-righteous behavior, and the fact that police sometimes have trouble with the First Amendment – but I’ve come to believe incidents like this one in Ontario provide the best way to assure positive relations.

You can try to make nice with the local chief. You can meet him for coffee and praise him in your pages. And chances are he’ll still ignore your calls in the midst of a crisis. But if you convince him that you can help him, as the Argus Observer did, you are likely to develop a sustainable and positive relationship.

(Here at the Half Moon Bay Review, we had occasion to run a survellience shot this week. Police collared a guy suspected in a string of California bank robberies. Turns out he is a local actor – the top shot at right was taken during rehearsals for “South Pacific.” The others come from the police. We ran them together, just as you see here.)

Clay

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  1. On a side note, I like it that the only time the word “nab” is ever is used is in a newspaper.

  2. It’s like “blaze” or “temblor” that way. And you make a good point. Best not to use fancy newspaper words when you can help it.

  3. Don’t forget using the Internet in such situations. No need to wait a couple days to run a police photo. If you get a pic of a bank robber today, put it up immediately when possible.

  4. That’s absolutely true. It’s not clear to me whether Larry and his staff posted it the minute they got it. It didn’t appear online until Tuesday morning and the incident was Sunday evening. Perhaps that delay just reflects the delay getting the image from police. Larry, care to clarify?

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