Opinion

Achieving delicate balance

by
March 02, 2018

Victoria Police homicide detective Ron Iddles and former News journalist Tammy Mills built a strong rapport in their bid to solve the cold case murder of Michelle Buckingham.

A close relationship between the media and their interview subject can achieve remarkable results.

News journalist Tammy Mills achieved a remarkable result in solving a 30-year-old cold case murder.

Ms Mills built a rapport with Victoria Police homicide detective Ron Iddles, who said: ‘‘If it wasn’t for her persistence it (the case) would’ve sat in a box, covered in dust.’’

The power of the media is often underestimated.

Working with Victoria Police is like a chess game that is played with caution.

More often than not police officers are reluctant to divulge information to ‘‘pesky journalists’’ for fear of ruining an investigation, by putting their superiors’ noses out of place.

Rather than risk saying the wrong thing, they would prefer to say nothing at all.

For them it is a delicate situation, a highwire or tightrope act that slowly improves over time — when a journalist gets to know an officer, and vice versa.

Increasing professionalism of police media communications has further challenged the nature and scope of the police-media relationship.

The relationship has become more formalised, driven by police policies and practices that are concerned with managing the media.

When serious incidents occur in Shepparton or the surrounds, say a murder or fatal car accident, local police will often handball questions to a media department in Melbourne.

The media need police, but police also need the media.

If a child has been reported missing or a sexual predator is on the loose, the media can help get the message out there at the earliest convenience.

As Ms Mills’ investigation and the subsequent sentencing of Steven Bradley highlighted, close ties bring great results.

The police-media relationship is not always cosy; at times, tensions and conflicts arise, but when the two work together, amazing results can be achieved.

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