dealing with the media
Gardai or the Missing Persons Helpline will often ask media outlets to print or broadcast details about a missing person in an effort to obtain valuable information from the public.
Dealing with the media for the first time can be confronting. Handing over cherished photos or other personal items for publicity purposes can also be an emotionally difficult decision.
Remember: always consult your Police case officer before approaching the media.
The following guidelines provide suggestions to help you work in cooperation with journalists, photographers and camera crews..
Deciding to make a public appeal
If you would like to involve the media, the first step is to talk to police or your search organisation.
You should not expect your case officer to immediately turn to the media for help unless the missing person has an urgent medical need or there are grave concerns for their safety.
What the media will require?
The media will need basic information about the missing person such as their name, age, a physical description and their last known whereabouts.
This information can be supplied via a press release, usually prepared by the Police Press Office or a search organisation and distributed to television, radio and newspapers. If you have already provided a photograph, and release permission, this may also be offered for publication or broadcast.
Photos should be recent, as clear as possible and preferably in colour. Some media outlets may consider broadcasting home video footage of the missing person.
Who should talk to the media?
You may find you are too overwhelmed with emotion to answer questions form journalists about your missing relative or friend. It may be helpful to appoint a relative or close friend to act as a family spokesperson.
Alternatively, you can ask your Garda case officer to provide someone to brief the media.
It is often helpful if you have a Garda or search organisation representative with you if you are being interviewed by the media. They may be able to provide additional information or step in if you are unable to continue.
What you should tell the media?
If you decide to go ahead with an interview, prepare thoroughly. Talk to your case officer about the type of information you should and should not discuss about the missing person.
In some situations, Police or the Helpline may wish to keep particular details out of the public arena. Revealing certain information could inadvertently hinder an investigation.
You may wish to read a prepared statement and not answer questions rather than be interviewed.
Once you have provided the media with a statement or an interview, there is no guarantee they will run a story. Your story is one of many news items that come across an editor’s or news director’s desk every day. Sometimes, another story may be considered more significant.
It is advisable not to argue with journalists if they don’t run your story. You may need their assistance at another time.
Dealing with the media at your home
There may be occasions when the media approaches you at home to ask for an interview or for photographs. You do not have to invite the media inside your home if you are uncomfortable or prefer to maintain your privacy.
If you have already provided Police or the Helpline with photographs, video tapes or any other items it is best to direct media representatives to them. Take care not to give original photos or any other valuable or precious items to the media. There is no guarantee they will be returned.
It is always a good idea to contact your case officer for advice before you participate in an interview at home.
Dealing with intrusive media
If members of the media are being overly intrusive or disruptive, request that they respect your privacy. If this fails, you should not hesitate to discuss any problems with your case officer. They may be able to liaise with journalists, editors or chief-of-staff about your privacy wishes.