Edna Buchanan wrote of the phenomenon in a chapter of her memoir entitled "Nobody Loves a Police Reporter”:
"To be a police reporter is to be an unwelcome intruder. It can be lonesome and arduous. People blame you for the bad news. It's human nature: Somebody gets in trouble, you report it, and he turns on you like it's your fault, not his, that he is in this mess. The truth can get you in a lot of trouble.”
"Police reporters deal with lives, reputations, and careers. So you keep on – ask one more question, knock on one more door, make one last phone call, and then another. It could be the one that counts."
"You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to talk to a lawyer and have him present with you while you are being questioned. If you cannot afford to hire a lawyer, one will be appointed to represent you before you answer any questions."
Police do not "file" felony charges. Only prosecutors can bring felony charges.
Avoid writing that a suspect was arrested "for" a crime. That implies guilt. Substitute "on suspicion of," "in connection with" or, in news shorthand, simply "in."
For example: "A Memphis man was arrested today on suspicion of robbery in Sunday's church holdup downtown."
Most news organizations do not report the names of sexual assault victims unless the victims are willing to be publicly identified.
Sexual assaults warrant careful consideration in the use of details . Be careful not to identify a victim with oblique details – for example, "a 31-year-old woman who lives in the 1900 block of South Oak Street.”
Family sexual assaults can be confounding since naming the perpetrator identifies the victims. Even when the name of the accused offender is withheld, the reporting of the ages of young victims can lead to identification.
Push your sources to give you complete descriptions
Avoid generalities, e.g. black male, bald, t-shirt and jeans
Any tattoos? Birth marks? Scars? Distinct clothing? Mannerisms? Gestures? Figure of speech?
"Police were looking for a 6-foot-2, 225-pound white man with buzz-cut blond hair, an equine nose and thin chin hair. He was wearing a Green Bay Packers jacket, blue jeans and white sneakers."
A burglar stole a check book, a credit card, a Social Security card, a 27-inch television and two jars with $600 in coins after breaking into a residence in the 400 block of Northwest 111th Street between 12:30 and 4:45 p.m. Aug. 15.
A robber snatched a woman's purse as she was walking to her car in the 1300 block of Northwest 128th Street at 5:45 p.m. Aug. 28. The woman said as she was walking, she noticed a white car next to her car before feeling a man grab her purse. She then saw the man run into the white car, which had two other men, and sped away.