“I’m just a messenger” – that’s what the press officer at South Yorks police tells MCN (Motorcycle News Magazine) in a 10 minute recording of journalist Steve Farrell seeking answers regarding why a speed camera staff member resigned after a criminal inquiry.
Listening to this, it is easy to understand why journalists often hold such a poor opinion of public relations practitioners.
Press officer Penny cites policy, hides behind legal advice, reads out the “statement” already provided, refuses to expand on it, says she is relaying a message, states she is “not in a position” to find out anything further, retorts she’s “not dealing with this case”, then advises the journalist to resubmit an email request under the Freedom of Information Act.
Her ultimate answer is “you’ve got your statement, you just accept that”. When he says he doesn’t accept it she asks “what are you going to do about it?”
An increasingly frustrated Steve is polite, professional and persistent – exactly the role of an investigative journalist. Penny comes across as rude, condescending and unhelpful. Frankly, I’m shocked if this is the way this, or any, police press officer has been trained to respond to the media.
Note: Although Steve doesn’t appear to have informed the press officer she was being recorded, this is such a brilliant case study in how not to respond to media enquiries.
[Thanks to Rich for the heads up on this]