How Are Reporters Like Cops?

Nobody has anything nice to say about you until they need you. When they need you, they sing your praises and express gratitude for your hard work. Memories are short-lived, so when you flash your credentials, you feel like the invisible target you carry on your back suddenly appears and you have to wait for the pot shots and snide remarks — if not bottles or rocks — to be hurled in your direction. All because people in general have preconceived notions about you as a person and a professional based on your chosen career.

Who am I describing?

Based on the current cover story about the Citizens’ Police Academy, you might think it’s the cops. It is also a summary of the person who wrote that story — a reporter. Cops and reporters have a lot on common but neither will usually admit it. After sitting through every single class of the Citizens’ Police Academy in an attempt to learn more about what it takes to be a cop, I’m more convinced of this similarity than ever.

That said, no matter what I write, there will be people who find confirmation for their belief that CityBeat and all reporters are “out to get” cops. I represent CityBeat. I knew that when I took the job, just as every cop knows s/he represents the CPD when s/he accepts the badge, the gun and the hat.

All this is enough to make anyone defensive, as I’ve heard many cops say. But guess what? Being defensive is a choice. While I’m equally guilty of wanting to get in a person’s face and say, “You don’t know me, so don’t you dare presume to make assumptions about who I am and the way I approach my job,” I don’t give into the temptation because I want to be more professional, be a bigger person.

The cops are doing some good things.

The cops are screwing up.

Guess what? We’re all human. Perfection isn’t something most people can achieve in this lifetime. The true measure of a person — of an organization, too — is how each rises to the challenge of facing inadequacies, mistakes and criticism.

How are the cops doing? That’s up to you to decide.

How is CityBeat doing? Write us a letter and tell us. We publish as many as we can. For those who are skeptical, take a look at the critical letters we publish.

Let us (me) know what you think about the current cover — good, bad, indifferent. Your comments are always welcome here.

— Margo Pierce

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