Day in the Life of a Media Relations Information Officer

Media Room TPD

Media Room TPD

I arrived to Tampa Police Departments on June 27th, around 9:30am. I was greeted by the desk officer who accompanied me to the media relations office. From the outside, it didn’t seem much, but when inside, it was quite roomy. The media relations office itself was divided into three sections. One was offices, two was storage rooms and last was the main lobby where press conferences were done. There was supposed to be a press conference that day but it was postponed for another date.

The person that I was scheduled to be with that day was Janelle McGregor. McGregor works for the Tampa Police Department’s media relations unit. McGregor is one of three spokespersons who work for the department, who’s main job is to document and report any news within the city. She proceeded to show me around the office, and tell me a little about herself and what she does for her job.

McGregor has been with the Tampa Police Media Relations for several years now. The 2012 employee of the year started working at TPD first as a secretary in the personnel unit, gathering information on potential candidates. Right before they were about to relieve her from her duties due to budget cuts, she was offered a position in media services, and has never looked back since. McGregor has many different job details she is responsible for. A few are to report past or current breaking news stories within the city of tampa, keep up and update the agencies social media such as Facebook and Twitter and also make sure she publishes magazines and articles on paper.

As a media relations spokesperson, it differs slightly from that of an “ordinary” journalist. With McGregor, she starts out her day looking through police incident reports and things that occurred the previous nights. She uses public records such as the jail log to see if anything “newsworthy” happened. She also receives phone calls from local news stations and newspapers with inquiries about any breaking news in the city of Tampa. If she finds anything worthy, she researches, makes sure it is accurate, and proceeds to write a story on it based off of the information she acquired.

With the social media aspect, she stated that “With younger police officers getting on, and with the ever grow in community policing, social media is one of the biggest tasks I see myself being involved with”. Tampa Police’s Facebook has over 7000 followers, and on it, there are post ranging from weather, to detours and events around the city. “Most people, at least I am speaking for me, get their news not from t.v but some sort of social media”. Community policing is primarily focused on bringing the relationship between cops and the citizens much closer. Facebook itself has helped that process with allowing people of the community to become much closer with the department.

Another one of McGregor’s task is to set up news conferences. These can be anywhere from her reporting on scene of an incident, to having to arrange a conference for the chief of police. McGregor has worked all facets of media, from the republican national convention to the super bowl back in 2009, she has seen it all.



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America should stay out of Syrian war

An editorial from the JOU 101 class

You’re at a gas station. Two large men get out of a truck and begin to shout at one another. They’re father and son and the fight is getting out of control. Punches are being thrown and bottles broken. Suppose you know one of them. Would you step forward and join the fight?

This is the question the US has been faced with while Syria is being torn apart —determined rebels against a confident and tyrannical ‘semi-presidential republic.’

We would argue that you get back into your car and drive away.

Let family deal with family.

The conflict that has been going on in Syria, without a doubt, has been weighing heavy on all involved. The U.S. being the referee to the world has made a decision to arm the rebels, whose goal is to overthrow the corrupt government. By making this decision, the United States has made it clear that they are sided with the rebels and that any other group is to be considered an “enemy.”

The United States already has enough issues to worry about. In the last 100 years, the United States has claimed the position of the leader of the free world. This is not an easy place to be. Winston Churchill once said that the price of greatness is responsibility. A responsibility to the tired, the weak and the poor. But we cannot save everyone, cannot rescue all who venture into conflict in the name of freedom.

Even the most loving of parents, at one time or another, allows their children to resolve conflict between themselves. It can, sometimes, be the greatest lesson two individual mindsets can learn.

There are other alternative ways the U.S can assist the people of Syria besides arming them for more violence to occur. Aid such as food, water and basic necessities can be supplied as well as diplomatic people to maybe come up with a resolution.

It is clear that the United States government does not agree with nor like the Syrian government but that cannot be the only grounds to supply weapons to people who we do not know much about. It leaves too much room for error and a chance for the weapons to end up in the wrong hands.

With weapons “made in America” used in any war, is a way of saying, America itself is fighting the war as well.

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Video Response

By Elise Pattison

These reporters went to great lengths to find the truth. They spent an entire year investigating charities in Tennessee, Arizona and other states. They travelled across state borders and dared to be assertive with people who didn’t want to speak to them. While people were running away or pushing them away the reporters continued to fit questions in in a way that the people would feel inclined to answer.

The reporters also used public tax records (Form 990s) to determine how much the centers were making and how much they were spending to help cancer patients. They were in contact with professionals at Guidestar, the Association of Direct Response Fundraising Council, and the University of Washington in order to validate the methods used to determine which charities helped people the least.

They faced other challenges: some public records requests were denied, and some were inadequately answered. In addition, some charities hide the costs of fundraising such as telemarketing from the tax forms by conducting it “in-house.”

Many other complications plagued these reporters who simply wanted the truth. They had to sift through over 5,000 charities by identifying things such as how much money they kept, how many fundraisers they ran, and where they got their cash revenue.

However, at the end of the day, these journalists boldly presented this information in a format that would expose these centers to the public for what they truly were—scams.

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Fraudulent Charities – Reflection

By Thierry Peters

The scams performed by these false charities were certainly built to be difficult to uncover and stay anonymous.  The mere fact that most of the public would never suspect charities of wrong-doing kept the issue under wraps until investigative reporting uncovered this disturbing issue.  The segment shown on the video clip was definitely designed to bring out anger in the public, and Anderson Cooper’s reactions only furthered that trend.  It can be argued that he did this rightfully so.

The Tampa Bay Times used Guidestar to uncover tax returns from these scam charities.  But even the investigative reporters were shocked at how fraudulent these charities were operating.  It really is shocking to see that only two cents on the dollar are donated by some of these so-called charities, especially when one considers that all the vast majority of the money they receive is from the American public, a public that has been defrauded.

Taking advantage of the American spirit of volunteerism and charity is just wrong, even if it is sometimes legal to form such a non-profit.  Escaping taxes through the formation of a non-profit is one thing, but running the entire non-profit off of donations and witnessing charity executives keeping the money for themselves is an entire new category of wrong.  How can they not be guilty, when all three charity executives wanted to avoid the camera at all costs?

But there is consolation in the actions being taken by some states against fraudulent charities, as the Tampa Bay Times uncovered.  Using public records, the journalists at the newspaper compiled a collection of regulatory actions, currently active, that are aimed at fraudulent charities.  Starting a church to squander donations and evade taxes is bad, but defrauding the public by appealing to their charity and feelings is another world of fraud.  The fact that is has been going on rather blatantly, and has only now been reported is also somewhat disturbing.  At least the TBT has done something about it.

The most difficult part of the entire journalistic process was trying to get firsthand comment from some of the employees of these fraudulent charities.  They were too guilty for that.  At least the availability of public records helped to uncover these cases of fraud; public records are extremely helpful in many cases.

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Charity Scam Review

Charity Scam Review

Written by Joe Lteif

In the required clip to watch, a charity was targeted of being very misleading to the public and to the people who trust and donate to it. We live in a world where people are driven by money. Often times, people go to great lengths to get money and move up in the socio economic status ladder, whether the money its in an honest way or not.

It is very unfortunate to see a charity that prides itself on helping the patients of cancer use fake facts and figures for personal gain. Three main subjects were the target of this investigation. They were James Reynolds Sr, James Reynolds Jr. and Rose Perkins. These subjects were the owners of Caner fund of America, Brest Cancer fund, and Children’s Cancer Fund.

When the CNN reporter when to address the issues at hand, it was not surprising at all when they were avoided. For James Reynolds to drive away, flicking off the reporter, showed the immature personality he has. The female that was interviewed who was standing outside Rose Perkins office really did not make any sense. She was trying to not get involved but still tried to make comments, which she thought were slick, but ended up sounding very dumb. And as far as “being too busy to comment” or “the board not speaking to media”, all excuses were just a defense mechanism to avoid being put out on the spot.

The use of public records was a very useful tool used by the reporter. The facts and figures gathered from the tax records and salary earnings really solidified the allegation of these charities being a hoax. Showing out of thousands and millions of dollars earned in cash, the charities only ended up sending 2% to places of need.

Where did the rest go?

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Video Response

I never thought that people running charities could be so heartless. They say they’re going to help people with cancer and I’m pretty sure they get to see little kids with cancer and they don’t care. I wouldn’t be able to look at pictures of bald children on my company’s website and then keep on stealing money from them. For how long have they been getting away with this? I don’t know how they can live knowing that they are not only liars but also robbers. Shame on their whole family.

I wish I could congratulate the reporter on such an awesome story. He and his partner were very brave in trying to stop this inhumane people. They also used resources we’ve learned in class like public records. I’m pretty sure their story is going to win some kind of award. I really wish the CEO of the “charity” is getting interviewed just to see what type of ridiculous lies he would say.

This might be a pretty dumb question but they are going to jail, right? I wish tax records were public everywhere in the world because they could prove how much money a person is stealing. If we had public records in Mexico we would finally put an end to corrupt politicians because in case you didn’t know, politicians in Mexico steal millions and millions of dollars each term they “work”.

It makes me very sad and furious every time a new president or governor is elected because all they do is steal money from our taxes, not just money we give away in charities, they steal from the money we work for and then spend it on their families and nobody does anything for Mexico.

If public records were available in my country, we could finally prove that politicians don’t seek for the good of the country; they just seek for a shortcut to get richer. I’m very glad these reporters found the real story behind these charities and now America knows the truth because journalism is about finding the truth and communicating it to the world.

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Public Records Story Ideas

By Elise Pattison

Use ZoomInfo to conduct background checks on adjunct UT professors to see what kind of people UT hires.

Use BirthDatabase to research where UT’s student ambassadors are from.

Search Deteriorating Bridges Database for Cass Bridge.

Research the toxicity of downtown Tampa (including the river) using EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory Database.

Search SheriffAlerts for the amount of sex offenders near to campus.

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