Police departments are constantly struggling to get the local media to report on topics that, in spite of their best efforts, still go uncovered and they’re frustrated that when they do gain media attention, the story is often reported, well, not quite right. The latest department to up the ante using open source technology and move more towards providing its own news is the Milwaukee Police Department (MPD), and the local media are less than thrilled about it.
Earlier this week MPD announced The Source, a blog where it says media and citizens alike can go for the best information about what the PD is up to. In its press release MPD said of its new website:
We’ll correct the news stories that got it wrong and highlight the ones that got it right. …. We encourage you to check back to The Source at www.milwaukeepolicenews.com when you hear news reports that prompt you to seek more information. We’d like you to check us out first, because we will provide the news to you at the same time we’re providing it to the media.
It’s not only about generating their own news but PD’s are also having to work more efficiently during a time when most are facing cuts to their ranks. Some might think that MPD is acting progressively and efficiently, but the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel isn’t seeing it that way. It an editorial entitled The bunker at the Milwaukee Police Department the Journal said to expect to hear from the MPD about “what a great job officers are doing” in The Source and updates about “when the next bake sale will be held.” The paper compared the MPD to the Pravda, of the [former] Soviet Union.
Chief Ed Flynn answered the Journal’s editorial, online, on The Source (of course). He pointed out that most large PD’s don’t do daily media briefings and that reporters will still have the same access to ask questions of the PD. He added, “We already have been engaged with the community via a robust presence on social media – Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. We’re not new to the public conversation. We’re enhancing it.”
MPD’s Communications Director Anne Schwartz says her skin has gotten a little thicker this week. She added, “There will still be news conferences, there will still be availabilities with Chief Flynn … This news site replaces the outdated face-to-face briefings with a select few media representatives, with a contemporary platform that enables anyone who wants to, with access to information for all. That is the essence of public information.”
The final word from both opinion pieces pretty much sums up the week’s events:
The Journal editorial ended with,
“The truth, unspun by government officials, usually does get out. This news organization and the others in town will make sure that happens.”
From Chief Flynn,
“To the Journal Sentinel I say, ‘Welcome to the 21st Century’.”