On Social Media, Cops and Reporters Parry Over Control of Message


The use of social media as a public information tool for law enforcers is fundamentally changing the way some police departments interact with the media and citizens, writes veteran crime reporter David J. Krajicek at Poynter Online. The ability to reach the public directly though Facebook and Twitter—outside the media's prism—has roused the police and, at times, nettled journalists. “It's much more democratic in a way. Everyone gets to have their say,” says Gitte Laasby of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. She adds, “I'm sure it must be empowering for them. It's not quite so empowering for us.”

“Law enforcement is realizing that they don't need the traditional media to get their message out anymore,” says Lauri Stevens, who consults with police departments about social media through her Boston-based firm, Laws Communications. “You don't ignore them. You can't ever do that. But you don't have to cater to them like you used to…The dissolving of the media filter is definitely going on.” Eric Hartley, a reporter for the Capital in Annapolis, Md., says Twitter and Facebook have throttled back information, not opened it up. Hartley wrote in a column that the social media offer “such sketchy information it’s impossible to tell what’s news and what isn’t.” He calls its use by police “a façade of openness.”

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