BOOK REVIEW: Winning with the News Media
Donlon-Cotton, Cara, Law & Order
"Winning with the News Media," the book by Clarence Jones, is quite properly subtitled, "A self-defense manual when you are the story." This book is for anyone who interacts with or may have to interact with the media. Let's face it, as law enforcement professionals, if you haven't been thrust into the camera's unforgiving eye yet, you will be soon. The media and law enforcement have a long history together. We need them; they need us. We don't trust them; they don't trust us. We avoid them; they chase us. You get the idea.
You can make that relationship better, or at least less nerve wracking, through preparation and knowledge. Jones offers knowledge of media relations from the insider's point of view. As a former newspaper and broadcast Journalist, Jones offers insight both on how things work and why the media do the things they do. Then to tie it up with a pretty bow, he tells you how and why you should do an interview, a press release, a press conference, deal with a crisis, pick a PIO, do damage control, and make heads or tails of media law.
While the book covers many, many topics, Jones does a good job breaking it down simplistically and with boldfaced subheads generously placed throughout the book so it can truly be used as a manual on the fly. He divides the book into three sections: Strategy, Skills and Inside the Media.
The Skills section will be most valuable to chiefs, sheriffs and PIOs as it offers instruction on how to give good un-misquotable quotes in interviews, as well as how to look and sound one's best during an interview. He offers guidelines in the form of Ten Commandments and also addresses such hot topics as "off the record."
This book is used as a textbook in many media relations classes, ranging from government agencies to corporations, therefore, it is broad-based. This is not a manual exclusive to law enforcement, although Jones does throw in some references and offers some examples using law enforcement agents.
Certain sections will need to be tweaked as you read, for example, crisis management. While the book suggests how a corporation would react and respond to certain crises, it's not too far off from how a chief or sheriff should handle such a situation. But because topics like evidence preservation and investigative integrity are not included in the sample plan, one should just mentally add those and similar components in.
Jones also offers a section on privacy laws, briefly summarizing some cases that established the rights of journalists and their cameras. The topic is important, as undoubtedly at some point in your career, a reporter will tell you that he is entitled to gain entry or to access some information based on such-and-such a case ruling. …