Monday, June 22, 2015

UGA Police PR

I saw this below at the bottom of a recent UGA cop story in the local paper:
UGA police were unable to comment due to a university policy change this year that directs questions concerning all police matters to the Office of Public Affairs.
and it got me wondering, huh? When did this happen? I found it especially interesting as the University of Alabama student paper had written last semester a story praising how UGA journalists could speak directly to the cops instead of going through the university PR office, which slows everything up. Ironic, eh? So of course I asked. Below is the email response I just received from Tom Jackson, VP (for a while, not sure when his new gig starts) of Public Affairs at UGA:
To answer your question -- in early April an institutional decision was made to assign a public affairs officer for the police department. This was done because Chief Williamson was handling media inquiries directly, and was being swamped with media inquiries, multiple inquires per day.  Public Affairs already handles media inquiries for much of the university and we’re in the same building with the police department.  Most of the information requested from police by media is readily available in the original incident reports and does not necessitate a phone call to the police chief.  If those reports do not supply sufficient information, further inquiries may be directed to Bob Taylor in my office, who will attempt to get any further releasable information for the reporter.  This is what public affairs offices do, and it will free Jimmy for more time to do what he is supposed to be doing, and that is directing the police department.
So there ya have it. Oh, I asked if there were any memos or reports justifying or explaining the decision, but was told there "are no responsive documents" to my request.The difference above to how Bama appears to do it is UGA seems to have someone devoted specifically to cop stuff. Whether that slows down getting news out there quickly -- vital on cop stories -- remains to be seen. As a former cop reporter myself, the last thing you want is another layer of bureaucracy, especially on public safety stories. I'll give it this Fall Semester to see how it works.

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