Handling Foreign Media Requests: In an Era of Global Communications, Corrections Professionals Must Learn How to Manage Requests from Foreign News Organizations

By Dunne, Daniel | Corrections Today, February 1998 | Go to article overview

Handling Foreign Media Requests: In an Era of Global Communications, Corrections Professionals Must Learn How to Manage Requests from Foreign News Organizations


Dunne, Daniel, Corrections Today


A foreign journalist who claims to be employed by the Hokkaido Shimbum Press (Japan) requests to visit your correctional facility to interview a high-profile inmate. The inmate is serving a sentence for crimes he committed while a member of an Asian gang. You immediately notice that the request is not on the news organization's official stationery. Furthermore, knowing the inmate's background. you are concerned about the legitimacy of this reporter, what type of U.S.-based press credentials he has, if any, and how you can find out more about his news organization.

Welcome to the world of international news. As greater numbers of foreign journalists expand dialogue between American citizens and institutions and their counterparts abroad. corrections professionals are being faced with an increasing number of requests from foreign media representatives to interview staff and inmates in their institutions. Several foreign news organizations have recently requested access to correctional institutions in this country to develop stories on a variety of prison-related issues. In addition, foreign journalists are willing to travel great distances in order to meet with inmates (especially foreign nationals) in U.S. prisons who are of particular notoriety in their homelands.

Because addressing foreign media requests can take a considerable amount of time. especially when attempting to verify the authenticity of a news organization and its staff. it is helpful to know what resources are available to help manage these nontraditional news requests more effectively. and thus. ensure that institutional security is not compromised.

Global Communications

In working with foreign journalists, it is important to remember that such news media representatives play a significant role in today's world of global communications. especially in regard to criminal justice issues. Foreign reporters recently have developed international stories on the conditions in Peruvian prisons (Agence France-Presse, a news service); foreign journalist access to Gaza prison (British Broadcasting Corp.): executions in American prison systems (Canadian Broadcasting Corp.): and reports of a Sinn Fein member's visit to a federal prison in California (Evening Standard, a London newspaper). Since the opening of the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) Administrative Maximum Penitentiary (supermax facility) in late 1994 in Florence, Colo., a total of nine foreign news organizations have visited the site.

As global communication advances continue, and our country's public diplomacy efforts progress, we should expect that foreign journalists will continue to seek access to U.S. prison facilities. and that the professionals who manage them will better inform the international community about specific corrections-related issues. Recent examples that highlight foreign news organizations' continued interest in U.S.-based corrections include: a Brazilian newspaper seeking information on private prisons: the Hungarian Movie Office requesting to visit the Terminal Island Correctional Institution in California: and a British Broadcasting Corp. (BBC) request to visit several BOP high security institutions for a documentary series on the history of the penitentiary CBS Telenoticias (an international Spanish news network). la Repubblica (a daily newspaper in Rome, Italy). Globo International and the Italian News Agency (the largest source of news for the Italian media) recently have submitted requests to interview foreign nationals in state anti federal prisons. In an era when public diplomacy is an inherent aspect of the U.S. government's international policy objectives. foreign journalists are looking to corrections professionals to support their efforts in reporting on U.S. policies and institutions. The extent to which we can promote mutual understanding about our correctional systems with worldwide audiences will. to a large extent. be determined by the degree of access we grant foreign journalists to our prisons, staff and inmates. …

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