Police reporting crucial to a newspaper

My newspaper reading habits have changed since I left the employ of the Grand Haven Tribune.
Feb 20, 2013

 

When I was managing editor, I focused on all of the pages in the newspaper. Now I find myself first turning to Page 2 to read the obituaries and the police news.

I have an acquaintance who once told me that he felt fortunate that his name never appeared on Page 2. I understand what he was saying.

I read the obituaries there to see if anyone I knew passed away. I’m sure many of the Tribune’s readers do the same. And I have to admit, that I follow police and court news as well.

The police activity log and police blotter items, in my mind, serve as useful tools for us all. They let readers know where crimes are occurring. I know that in my neighborhood recently, there were some vehicles broken into. I now make sure our car is locked up at night.

You’ll also often find stories about fires and automobile crashes on Page 2. It’s been a longtime tradition for newspapers to report those kinds of stories. If you’ll recall, my bicycle accident made it on that page. It was the first time that my name ever appeared in a police story – honestly.

It’s ironic that I have become so interested in police news. As a reporter, I disliked reporting crime and court news. Of course, I covered my share of accidents and fires. I even covered several murders in Del Rio, Texas.

Reporting on accidents, fires and crime is a tough assignment. Some are better at it than others. I fell into the latter. But Tribune reporter Becky Vargo is one of those journalists who I found to be very good at covering police news.

It’s a difficult task. Police reporters will sleep with a police scanner close by. They’ll jump out of bed – no matter what time or how cold it is – if something “big” is brewing.

Before the Internet became an important tool for journalists, reporters could cover a story at night and not have to worry about writing it until the next morning. Now newspapers cover news 24/7. That means the story is uploaded to a newspaper’s website soon after the event occurs, and oftentimes while it is occurring.

Yes, the Tribune, as well as any newspaper, has its critics. All newspapers do. I have been told a number of times that the Tribune is nothing but wrapping for fish – a worn out cliché.

I will argue that the newspaper plays an important role in the community by informing readers about what is going on. And police reporting is very important in that role.

As a reader, I want to read about the kid who took a small knife to school. Regardless of the circumstances, people should be made aware of this incident. I want to know about the student who threw a party at the home where he was house-sitting.

I want to know if there are burglaries occurring in my neighborhood.

The knife and house party incidents were news. They should be reported in the Tribune and any other community newspaper. Newspapers that are doing their job will let readers know about such incidents.  If anything, those kinds of stories can serve as a reminder to parents to talk to their kids about what is right and what is wrong.

 

Comments

woods walker

Hi Len

As always, enjoy your work. Your comments today about being able to read the police activity logs in Grand Haven and how it helps you to be aware what is going on around you, the better to protect yourself, raises a question I have.

Why can't the Grand Haven township have the reporting that the city has? The masthead does read Grand Haven Tribune after all. And we would like to see where the potential threats are also.

If you could get the powers that be to move on this, it would be appreciated.

Thanks

Jim Taylor

Cheryl Welch

Thank you for the feedback, Jim! We actually have been trying to get the information regarding Grand Haven Township, Spring Lake Township, Robinson Township and Crockery Township for the police blotter from the Ottawa County Sheriff's Department. We requested this a few months ago, and haven't gotten the cooperation we've been lucky enough to obtain from the Grand Haven Department of Public Safety and Spring Lake/Ferrysburg Police Department. We will check in with the Sheriff's office again to see if they will partner with us to provide this crucial information to our readers. Thank you.

Unrepresented

Moderators have removed this comment because it contained Libel and defamation.

Huckle

Ottawa County Public Incident Mapping

http://gis.co.ottawa.mi.us/ottaw...

 

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