Friday, May 14, 2010

Media coverage

So I had a spot of media coverage this week after pleading out a relatively high-profile case. The story was covered by the L.A. Times as well as the local paper, The Statesman. A couple of people also heard me on the radio, KLBJ (no link 'cos I can't find the story online).

I'm normally wary of reporters, as we are all here. The assumption seems to be that if the best story involves drama and someone looking bad, well, don't let it be us! And it's true to a degree - the more dramatic and controversial something is, the better the story.

But being a former reporter I feel a little hypocritical if I turn my back on the media. After all, when I covered the court in England I felt like I always reported as accurately as I could, and accurate reporting is easiest when those involved actually speak to you.

So my policy is to think carefully about what I want to say before talking to a reporter. I'm lucky in that my experience with our local man, Steven Kreytak of the Statesman, has been good. It's crucial to be able to trust a reporter, to know that when you say "This is off the record," it doesn't sneak in somehow. And so far (thank you Mr. Kreytak!) he's been 100 percent accurate and trustworthy in all our dealings.

I do think it's important to talk to the press. We handle so many cases, do so much hard work on behalf of the community, but so much of it goes unnoticed. That's a shame because not only do you, the tax payer, deserve to know what we're doing for you, but there are some dashed interesting stories / cases / people circulating the building, every single day.

I was thinking about my first experience with the media, on the receiving end so to speak, and was reminded of it by my brother who shared this clip with me.

That's me in the lion shirt. It was reflective, very very cool. Funny that my brother, now a cop, was wearing a tin star, isn't it? Anyway, the man in the middle was Bob Helmle, my uncle. He grew up a friend of Hemingway, made himself a millionaire by dabbling in stocks from home, and was perhaps the most interesting and intelligent man I've ever met. Knew a lot about butterflies, for some reason.

But the important thing is, and I remember my youthful outrage at the time: I never said anything about having a "jolly good time." Neither of us did. The reporter, clearly, could take a lesson from Mr. Kreytak.

Although it's true, riding that fire engine was amazing. Maybe even more amazing than my super-cool lion shirt.


  1. The reporters I've dealt with over the years have been more trustworthy than the lawyers.

    But the game has changed in the era of the "24-hour news cycle." Case in point: the day after the Governor's Mansion fire, I told a reporter for a major newspaper that it was "customary" for DPS to have more than one Trooper on duty at the Mansion. I didn't think much of it, I figured I'd be quoted in the paper the following day.

    No, the story went up on the paper's website within the hour...and a headline writer at the "home office," not the reporter herself, gave the story a completely misleading headline: "Trooper's lawyer says there should have been two Troopers at Mansion." Which is NOT what I said. The reporter quoted me accurately but the headline was misleading. Next thing I knew my phone was smokin' from receiving 100 calls from 100 reporters from Atlanta to Anchorage.

    Unless there's a gag order in place, I'll rarely decline to speak to a reporter who contacts me for information, at least off-the-record. They want your story, or your client's story, and they want to do it fairly and get it right, and they're more likely to get it right if you talk to them. But it's never without the potential for complications, and care and preparation are always warranted.

  2. Hey! I have found some interesting post in your site, in fact, I have just added you to my bookmarking. You write your articles very well.


Comments posted to this blog are NOT the opinion of the Travis County D.A.'s office, under any circumstances. They are only the personal, non-representative opinion of D.A. Confidential if posted under his name.
I welcome all comments, as long as they are expressed with politeness and respect. I will delete all comments that I deem to be personal attacks, or that are posted merely to antagonize or insult.