Police corporate communications, crime reporting and the shaping of policing news

2012-08-21T13:51:11Z (GMT) by Rob C. Mawby
Police forces in England and Wales in recent years have attempted to improve the ways in which they communicate. This results from a number of converging pressures that include technological media developments and government and public pressures to provide reassuring policing services. The same media developments have had consequences for news organisations and their processes and practices of news gathering. In this context, the paper examines recent developments in police non-operational communications, explores the current dynamics of the relationship between crime reporters and their police sources and considers the implications for the ‘shaping’ of policing and crime news. Although the paper provides an examination of contemporary police–media relations, it also looks back to the work of Steve Chibnall whose 1970s research benchmarked police–media relations. Drawing on a national survey of police forces, together with data gathered from interviews with crime reporters and police communications managers, the paper concludes that although the police–media relationship is asymmetric in favour of the police, the practical dynamics of newsgathering ensure that police–media relations remain in a healthy tension; the shaping of policing news continues to be contested and negotiated.