BY DAN CAMPANA, Dan Cam Com Inc.
If I earned a dollar every time a police officer asked me “Why don’t you write about the good things?” I would have been much better paid over the last 18 years.
No money ever hit my pocket despite the frequency of this query, which usually wasn’t aimed at me specifically, but toward the media in general. Still, I’ve always understood where they were coming from because of my years covering the police beat for suburban papers, writing for law enforcement magazines and participating in police-media training events.
Cops do good things on and off the job every day. Somewhat ironically, while no officer seeks attention personally, they crave for the public to get a healthier dose of good police news. All of that led me to launch Ten Two News nine months ago to create a niche news site focused on the positive side of local law enforcement.
With nothing to compare TTN to, my expectations have always been modest, yet I have plenty of takeaways from the experience. Here are four things an old reporter learned from jumping into the digital niche world:
(1) Feel the Beat
Solid journalism skills, a passion for your topic and understanding what your audience wants – those fundamentals make for good beat reporters. They also help when you run a website dedicated to a specific topic.
If you’ve ever managed a beat, then you understand the importance of being organized and having solid sources to work with. Same applies for TTN.
(2) A New Pace – My Own
TTN runs at my pace. That’s still weird to me. I feel compelled to chase stories and turn things around right now like I’m still in a newsroom. The balance is about keeping engaged with the audience within the amount of time I can put into producing stories with value.
Ideally, I want to get five stories posted per week and put out a recap newsletter each Monday. Some weeks are easier than others. Creating a consistent presence for readers – and giving them meaningful content — is more important than forcing the issue with an unrealistic scheduling plan.
(3) Observe And Adapt
Traditional media outlets are not my competition, mainly because I know I can’t compete with newsrooms. What I can do is keep an eye on the papers and TV stations for story ideas.
Then, it’s just a matter of figuring out how to give TTN’s audience a unique or different perspective on the story. Usually, I can go into greater depth or focus more on the officer(s) involved, which is appreciated by TTN readers.
(4) Know What Works And Do It. Then Do It Again.
Without a doubt, profiles and features on officers are among the best-received stories presented by Ten Two News.
The “Why I Do the Job” series features first-person essays written by officers who want to humanize their profession during a scrutiny filled era for police. A collection of stories on officers who are military veterans garnered an equally positive response from readers. Website stats and social media activity have proven to be a key complement to my basic news instincts for story planning.
Ten Two News Most Read Stories
- Riverside detectives in right place at right time for injured officer
- First Degree Burn: Aurora police sweep stunned gang, turned tide on violence
- Philly PD artist’s portrait honors fallen Rockford officer
- ‘It’s just what we do’ – One family’s five-generation police legacy
- Lake County deputy relishes turn as ‘Live PD’ analyst