Twice in the last six days, I've been left holding the bag by local police departments that had easy opportunities for positive press. In the spirit of giving you the punchline first: it's time for some local cop shops to get a PIO: Public Information Officer.
Both times, the departments made good busts and would have received positive press for catching the bad guys .. yet neither got much play on the air because of gaffes on their part.
Cop Shop #1 sends out a press release that they've busted a child killer and lists a lieutenant's name and phone number as the contact. Knowing this is a big story, I call the # on the press release and leave a message that I'm on the way. When I get to the department, the dispatchers keep me in the lobby for 45 minutes and then tell me, "the lieutenant says he doesn't want to do any interviews because it's not really his case and detective so-and-so knows a lot more about it so why don't I come back after 3?"
Seriously folks. A government agency sends me a press release and then doesn't want to talk about it?
Open holster .. insert foot.
Cop Shop #2 makes the opposite mistake. Their officers made a major arrest of an armed defendant which should be really good news and probably a lead story. Yet, when it came time to notify the press, the lead detectives didn't know what to do ... so a secretary got out the yellow pages and started to call "the media." Unfortunately, after calling a few of the agencies, she assumed that all the media talks to one another and therefor we'd all know to come to the cop shop for the story.
Seriously folks. A government agency with a big arrest thinks the best way to get all the media there is to just call a few? That's like ordering food and assuming that if I tell the waitress what appetizer I'd like that she'd automatically know what to bring me for dinner and dessert.
Bottom line: I like the officers at both of these departments (I'm intentionally not naming them) ... and I know that neither of the slights was intentional. I was still able to find other stories each time to fill up our news, but I couldn't help but think that these agencies dropped the ball.
Still ... Seriously folks. It's time for some of these agencies to train a PIO who knows how to deal with the media. It's a process that works quite well with other government agencies so that the right information gets out in the right manner.
With so few reporters left covering Akron full-time (radio, TV, and print), agencies really need to take advantage of the opportunities they have to get positive press.