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Unpublished Paper
The Function of the Media in Community Policing
  • Joanne Ziembo-Vogl, Grand Valley State University
While media were identified by Robert Trojanowicz as one of the "Big Six" necessary for successful implementation and maintenance of community policing initiatives, the exact function of the media in community policing has been unexplored and untested. The purpose of this research was to examine the nature of media's function, per se, and to identify the news production processes and police-media relationships (micro and macro-levels) inherent in the media's involvement in community policing. Given the paucity of research related to the function of media in community policing, the interdisciplinary nature attached to examining law enforcement and media organizations, and the sociological underpinnings which surround such an inquiry, a case study approach was chosen to examine the research topic. The Lansing Police Department and the Lansing State Journal were chosen as research organizations. During the 1989 to 1993 time frame of this study, Lansing Police Department enjoyed a national reputation as a model community policing agency practicing the Trojanowicz Paradigm and the State Journal was the city's only daily paper. This case study was comprised of several qualitative components: field observation at the Lansing State Journal, interviews of community police, public information, and other Lansing Police Department officers, interviews of Lansing State Journal police beat and other reporters, and a five-year, chronological content analysis of police-related newspaper articles. An interdisciplinary literature review--including expressions of media's function as specified in government and community policing literature, the historical evolution of media function from a journalistic perspective, civic journalism, and a discussion of Ericson, Baranak, and Chan's paradigm research related to the police and news production--provided a framework for this research. Several significant findings related to reporting, news production, and media function emerged from the data and portend interest for law enforcement. First, police-related reporting became significantly more positive after the implementation of community policing in Lansing. This finding remained significant in spite of an increased amount of violent crime reporting. Second, newspaper articles related to community policing were not written by police beat reporters. Community policing coverage was realized via "feature" and "metro" reporters who developed stories about Lansing neighborhoods. Third, police failed to educate the media about community policing which, in turn, hindered the media from educating the public. In terms of producing news, conflict between individual officers and reporters was superseded by the news production process. This conflict, which often hindered the gathering of information was circumvented by reporters who accessed alternative sources when police "gates" were closed. This fact is reflective of the media's main function in community policing--providing news.
  • media function,
  • community policing
Publication Date
Citation Information
Joanne Ziembo-Vogl. "The Function of the Media in Community Policing" (1998)
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