Reporting on Stories Involving DPS
I particularly want to bring up this example when reporting on stories that involve DPS or any similar USC official/authority figure. These figures may be able to share a quick statement in a timely manner or provide a good, shiny statement, but I want us to avoid going straight to the police or university comment. These statements will be polished and lackluster. It may also be missing the perspective of those in the community. And waiting for those sources that can add a new layer to your reporting will always be worth it in the end.
These figures may be able to share a quick statement in a timely manner or provide a good, shiny statement, but I want us to avoid going straight to the police or university comment.
For example, in our reporting on the increased burglaries in University Park, we did not stop at the DPS statement. In the story, DPS Assistant Chief David Carlisle brings up that the burglars would go in and grab food or shower while they are inside, attributing the cases to unhoused people. The comments shared only provided the basic facts and didn’t contextualize the reality of the situation.
There are unhoused people in the USC area who are looking for support and resort to breaking and entering. The team went the extra step to get a comment from an expert on homelessness who could share how mental health can be at play, as well as the struggle the community has in obtaining basic needs. By adding in the comments from the expert voice, the increase in burglaries had a nuanced reason and offered readers the opportunity to reflect on homelessness in L.A.
This does not mean you shouldn’t get DPS comments. It means that there is more out there to be reported. And if you are struggling to get that extra voice to take that story one step further, look for organizations in Los Angeles or at USC that can speak on the issue. I recommend talking to organizations that are on the ground doing work that directly interacts with the community or issue you are covering. They will have a stronger, first-person perspective and can add imagery and weight to your story that may have been missing before.
If you need help finding additional voices for your story, feel free to reach out to your editors and EB members present that day to get some guidance and support.