What cops say becomes "the news"

This is an essay I wrote for my Police Problem blog, and I'm not sure it's of interest to anyone here. I'm pleased with it, though — it's better than some of my recent crap on this page — so here it is... 

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The police perspective usually dominates what’s reported in the media. Unless a newspaper or TV station has an especially good reporter on the story, coverage of anything involving cops predictably lines up nicely with whatever cops say.

Yesterday, we got a kinda comical instance of media parroting the police perspective.

The Seattle Police Department’s public relations office publishes a blog called SPD Blotter, and the Blotter reported:

Deadly assault in Union Square

This left me momentarily bewildered, because I live in Seattle. There’s a glossy downtown skyscraper that calls itself Union Square, but the city has no neighborhood by that name.

This tragic killing, turns out, took place in Seattle’s Pioneer Square, which exists, not in Union Square, which doesn’t. Obviously, someone at SPD Blotter is new in town, or had a brain fart. It happens, it’s a trivial mistake, and I ain’t mad about it.

What happened next made me chuckle, though. This killing in “Union Square” made the news:

Seattle police respond to deadly assault in Union Square

and • Seattle Police investigate deadly assault in Union Square 

Sourcing only the cops’ blog, two local TV stations and eventually Yahoo News reported on this deadly assault in Seattle’s Union Square — which, again, is not a place.

It’s frustrating how un-curiously the media parrots whatever they’re told by police sources. If cops say someone lunged at them with a knife, it’s reported as fact unless there’s video to the contrary. If cops say they seized enough fentanyl to kill 16,500 people, it’s not questioned, merely repeated and reported.

And if cops say someone was killed in a neighborhood that doesn’t exist, that’s what reporters will report.



  1. Great piece Doug. Here's something else you might be interested in, about how the police don't just shape the narrative but create it altogether.

    Police have created portals for use exclusively by the media. They are supposed to streamline media comms so (for instance) police don't have to issue the same statement over and over again to reporters investigating crimes.

    In reality, the "investigations" now consist of... reporting what's published on the portal by the police themselves. Nothing else. Just "according to police..." Thanks to cutbacks, even big cities no longer have more than a tiny number of people "covering" crime.

    Here's a local blog (itself fairly pro-police and extremely pro-law and order) explaining how it's done with examples, particularly when there's an error of omission which every outlet that relies on the portal will dutifully "report" in one voice:


    1. Too bad that site's all about crime and yeah, from a pro-cop perspective, because the first half of that tweet is the kind of truth where even if you'd never heard it before you just *instantly* know it's truth.

      In old movies and thus (to at least some extent, I assume) old-time America, there were reporters listening to police radio broadcasts, but they didn't just sit there and type up what cops said. It was a *starting point* for then going out and getting the story, not just the cops' perspective.

    2. Right? And this is in the 3rd largest city in the country. There are actually multiple outlets here that are (theoretically) competing for an audience. If their stories are entirely generated by police, what hope is there in the Des Moines and Wichita Falls and Planos of the country? Grim stuff. I don't really believe anyone for not believing anything.

    3. Sometimes I click a news like expecting an article and it turns out to be teevee news. Usually I cancel the click quick as I can, but sometimes I try, really try to watch, but all TV news is so very, very stupid I just cyant styan it. (That's me faking a bad New Yawk accent for no reason.)

      Any TV station in town could be the very best station in town for news, with even two more reporters covering news instead of bullshit, but none of them ever try. Gotta assume the economics prove, dumb news is what the audience wants.


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