WIUM Tristates Public Radio

If It Bleeds Does It Still Lead?

May 9, 2017

Police departments can quickly disseminate information to the public through various social media sites.  That has the Shop Talk panel wondering whether journalists should de-emphasize their coverage of police blotter items.  The issue was also recently raised on the website for CJ&N, which is a media market research company.

Panelist Will Buss said two sections of the newspaper where he most recently worked generated the most interest from readers: obituaries and the police blotter.  He believes readers are just naturally curious about cop shop stuff.  He said there was always a demand for crime stories that included details and there was even demand for general rundowns of the police blotter.

Buss also said the social media posts from police departments can help reporters learn about what’s happening and help them to do a better job of covering crime in the community.

Panelist Jasmine Crighton thinks police blotter stories are more valuable for media in smaller communities because people in those communities often know each other and want to hear about what’s happening and whether it involves their neighbors.  She said that’s not the case in larger cities so there is less interest in routine crime stories.

Crighton said TV newsrooms are less equipped to cover routine crimes because reporters often need to turn around several stories in a single day to help fill a multitude of newscasts.  But she said it’s still valuable to cover the general issue of crime no matter the size of the market.

Panelist Rich Egger said TSPR prefers to focus on issues that of are wider interest and have greater impact on the community than daily police blotter items.  But he agreed with Crighton regarding the point of covering the general issue of crime.

Egger said police postings to social media sites might not always paint a complete picture, so he believes there is still a place for news organizations that want to focus on police blotter stories and are willing to dig for more details.

Jasmine Crighton is News Director of NEWS3 at Western Illinois University and Will Buss is the Director of Student Publications at WIU.