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Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by McNulty, Jan 31, 2008.

  1. McNulty

    McNulty New Member

    I've been offered the police beat at my paper, or at least been made aware that it's pretty much available if I want it.

    Anyone ever done it?

    Any thoughts on it?

    Sounds intriguing as hell.
  2. STLIrish

    STLIrish Active Member

    Well, Christ, with a name like McNulty...

    One question: Day cops, or night? Because at many papers they're very different animals. It can be hard for night cops reporters to carve out much time to do much more than chase sirens and write briefs.
    But the main day cops gig can be a great job.
  3. McNulty

    McNulty New Member

  4. Walter Burns

    Walter Burns Member

    I have done it. It burned me the hell out...I couldn't deal with the little old ladies being killed in their homes, the murder-suicides (especially the triple murder-suicides), the police standoffs, the killing sprees and all the other examples of man's inhumanity to man.
    That said, there were good points. Nobody writes cleaner than a good cops reporter, and nobody digs better. As a sportswriter, you should have experience throwing together narratives, and it will serve you well on the cops beat.
    The enterprise I turned out was some great stuff, too, and if the cops and fire departments you cover like you, then man, you're in like Flynn.
    I'd say do it. Don't do it forever, but do it. It's worth being able to say you did it.
  5. spup1122

    spup1122 Guest

    Depends on your town size, but absolutely yes. It's a great beat to be on. You'll learn a lot and getting to know the cops in your town is definitely not a bad situation. If you have any specific questions you can PM me. I was a cops beat writer.
  6. McNulty

    McNulty New Member

    I read somewhere where David Halberstam said it was the best beat at the paper in terms of lending itself to narratives, which I like to do. Though other people tell me that there's "no enterprise on that beat." I imagine it is what you make of it, though time is always an issue with anything where news breaks.

    I like sports. But sometimes it's a little too regimented for my taste. Cops seems like something wild can happen every day. Though I assume there's a lot of mundane things, too.

    Are officers as difficult to deal with as football coaches?
  7. Walter Burns

    Walter Burns Member

    No enterprise on the cops beat? Bullshit. There are personality profiles, equipment stories and trends to be written about. If there's no enterprise on the cops beat, it's because the reporter covering it isn't enterprising enough.
    And cops, once they get familiar with your face and know you aren't going to screw them over, are great to talk to. Firefighters are even better.
    Try to take a citizens' police or fire academy whenever possible. You have no idea what kind of doors that can open for you.
  8. spup1122

    spup1122 Guest

    I couldn't go anywhere in the town because the cops knew me and would give me tips. I'd come home from dates and start making calls because of something a cop had told me in a restaurant.
  9. The tough part of the cops beat is that you've got to maintain a good relationship with the cops, who are not the easiest folks in the world to deal with (and often do really bad shit that deserves to be in the paper).

    My paper has sufficiently ingratiated itself with the police, which means we don't miss much in the way of crime or bad-guy stuff. But it also means that we essentially act as a p.r. arm of the police and tend to walk the blue line a lot more than I would prefer.

    Of course, if you cover the cop beat aggressively, you can get frozen out, and your boss will be angry at you for missing the juicy details of the latest murder that are on all the TV stations.

    It's not easy, and I don't know if I could do it.
  10. spup1122

    spup1122 Guest

    I was in the same position bdwp. Then the cops decided not to tell us about a murder for 4 days and their scanners were scrambled. I was out of town, so when a reporter called to get info, they told her they planned on telling the media but wanted to wait until the cops could investigate more.

    The ME wasn't happy. She wrote a scathing column, the article was written with the cops quote about waiting to tell media and the police department was PISSED. We had a big meeting about the whole thing and the police chief acted like it was OK that they did that, until the publisher told the police chief that we could pick up cop cell phones on our scanners and that he didn't want to know what his cops were talking about on company issued cell phones. They quickly started to appreciate the relationship a little more.
  11. Ben_Hecht

    Ben_Hecht Active Member

    As a career? No.

    As a learning building block? Absolutely.
  12. mustangj17

    mustangj17 Active Member

    Don't bring donuts to soften them up. They take offense. Bring bagels.

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