How cops are like reporters

A friend and former journalist who now lives in a large metro writes in relation to this post, but also this post:

I have thought a good bit, since becoming a dad and homeowner, about how my perspective on news has changed from my days as a young reporter. I chafed back then at covering the “intensely local.” Now I can’t get enough of it … I was reminded of this also when taking a walk around my neighborhood here in DC with the lieutenant for my police service area and one of his young beat cops.  (I was part of an effort to organize a neighborhood walk/watch thing here.) 

The young beat cop was a good guy … a kid from Indiana … but I could tell that he chafed at dealing with the sort of prosaic, “intensely local” policing that from *my* perspective as a homeowner here makes all the difference in the long run: moving along that drug addict peeing in my alley, looking into that broken out window, investigating the junked car on the corner that’s been sitting there forever, etc.

It struck me that the young beat cop was just like me as a young beat reporter … It was the same disconnect: Young guy, without any real personal stake or history in the neighborhood he is covering/patrolling,  wants the “big story,” the big crime, when the people he’s serving want the prosaic stuff that affects them most directly ……

His lieutenant, btw, was the parallel of his editor: He understood the importance of the prosaic “local stuff” and pushed him.  I remember walking down an alley with him and this young cop, and the lieutenant turned to him and said, “Officer X, have you ever walked this alley?”


2 thoughts on “How cops are like reporters

  1. I feel as if I am almost obligated to make a posting here, but I will say that the parallels between the two jobs are remarkable. Their is an intensely local focus for being a cop – you get to know the people in your area – your sources. You get to know the faces of your repeat offenders – the repeat themes of your stories. In both, you see the constant struggle between good and evil … the people you protect and those that look to take advantage of them. I too find myself writing my crime reports just as I did as a reporter – the who, what, where, when, whys and hows are essential. And there’s the follow up, what can you do to solve this crime? What can be learned from it? You also have your daily assignment, just as with a budget meeting, a police line up is where the sarge lays out his plan for the day – where the problem areas are, the offenders to look out for, and what has happened since your last shift on duty.

    I kind of think of police work the same way as being a reporter, except it is a more raw, unedited look at life, and that you are no longer simply an observer. There are many things in both jobs that draw parallels and evoke an intense passion.

  2. As a young “hungry” reporter, I understand. However, I believe that it is just as important to know what’s going on in your own back yard as it is on wall street.

    After all, as I was told over and over again in early journalism classes:
    “you can not be a good journalist without being a good person first.”
    – prof. Buck Ryan

    Everyone has to pay their dues.

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