The TV Station Boss Vs. The YouTube Cop

30 combined years in journalism and communications consulting, and I don’t believe I’ve ever seen anything quite like this.

A TV general manager has taken to the airwaves of her own station to call out the actions of the local police chief, whom she and others accuse of shunning reporters in favor of social media.

KOAT (Albuquerque) President and General Manager Mary Lynn Roper broadcast her complaints after two Albuquerque police officers were accused of using excessive force against a homeless man. According to Roper, Police Chief Gorden Eden, Jr. refused to answer reporter questions, and instead announced an internal investigation via video.

First, watch Roper’s extraordinary editorial.

And here is the video to which Roper was apparently referring:

Playing the Wrong Notes

To be clear, I don’t know whether the chief has been as elusive as Roper claims. I do know that his video is a textbook example of how not to communicate an important message. The two-and-a-half minute clip is an exercise in platitudes, offering precious little in the way of style or substance. At times it approaches the right conciliatory tone, but at other times it sounds more like an award acceptance speech than an explanation of police brutality allegations.

Choosing the Wrong Channel

Social media can be a wonderful thing when it co-exists with traditional media. But when the former starts to replace the latter, we should all be very afraid. What is the status of the officers accused of brutality? Who are they? Are they still patrolling the streets of the city? And what of their alleged victim? The citizens of Albuquerque might have gotten answers to those important questions if their police chief had stood up in front of reporters instead of a webcam.

Certainly, there are some things that police cannot discuss during an active internal investigation. But announcing said investigation via video instead of holding a news conference sends all the wrong signals, particularly in a climate where police abuse cases seem to dominate the headlines and the public consciousness.

Delivery Failure

Putting aside the content of his video, the chief’s delivery also worked against him. It is impossible to convey compassion and conviction when you seem awkward and uncomfortable delivering your message (and to be fair, the KOAT general manager had her challenges, too). We work hard with our clients to help them overcome these very common issues through the new presentation training division of MediaWorks. Drop us a line if you fear you may become the next Media (or Presentation) Disaster.

Mark Bernheimer

Mark Bernheimer is a former CNN correspondent and the founder of MediaWorks Resource Group, an internationally renowned media training and consulting firm.