Sources: Police and Firefighters

via utlawfirefighter4070.blogspot.com

Having a positive relationship with your local police and fire departments is key. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is.

Being a beat reporter, you have to make it known that you are covering those departments. And after you do that, you have to keep in touch with them on a regular basis, whether you are looking for a story or now.

Now, I’m not a crime reporter by title, but I do cover crimes on a regular basis for all of my towns. It’s not always crimes, though. Accidents and fires happen on a daily and weekly basis.

It happens more than you would think, actually.

It pays to know who the right sources are for each accident/incident. It also helps you when those same sources are already familiar with you and are comfortable talking to you.

If this seems like a lot of work, you’re right. It’s a lot of work and a lot of effort. It’s all worth it in the end because you get the story, with quotes and details. It’s great for the paper to make a lowly brief a juicy 12″ story.

I can easily say that all of the fire chiefs and police chiefs in the area know me by name/voice. Since I started in January, I’ve had little trouble getting in touch with public safety officials. It saves me stress and it saves me time. By now, if something major happens, those sources will know that I’ll be calling them that same day or the next morning. It’s a system and they are expecting the call.

The more you call and the more you remind them that you are just doing your job, they’ll respect you more. They know you are doing your job and, frankly, some of them like to see their efforts in the paper.

It’s all a delicate situation. Some situations will push those relationships to their limits. It’s a balancing act. No matter the situation, you still have to cover it. You really have no way around it.

You’ll find some public safety sources are easier to talk to than others. That’s okay. Not everyone will be as accessible as you want. You cannot be overaggressive because they’ll just ignore you. Treat them as an equal.

And just a reminder…

If you are a scene of a crime/accident/standoff/whatever it is listen to the officers/firefighters. The last thing you want to do is step on their toes or piss them off in general. From first-hand experience, they hate that.

Jonathan

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