SPJ 2020 Journalism Conference • Sept. 12-13, 2020



Busted! Take the bite out of crime reporting

By Billy O'Keefe

JENNA SPINELLE / The Working Press
Covering the police beat is about more than sifting through reports for the blotter.
Print, TV and radio reporters at the session “Getting Inside: Crime Beat Investigations” offered these suggestions for improving crime and court coverage:
— Don’t rely solely on the Internet to find court documents. “Shoe leather reporting” and trips to the courthouse are often necessary to supplement Web research.
— Have fun on the police beat when possible. Look for offbeat or humorous stories that can give you and your readers a break from the usual police reporting.
— Look at the people your competitors are talking to and find out what information they are providing.
— Build good relationships with law enforcement and crime victims’ families. Both can provide useful information as a story progresses. But don’t believe everything these sources tell you –they may be looking to use the media to advance their own agendas.
— Establish personal standards for interviewing grieving families. Decide when and where it is appropriate to speak with them and stick to that rule whenever possible.




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