Solving crime with social media

‘Be ballsy yet compassionate’ – the advice of renowned Sydney Morning Herald crime reporter, Rachel Olding.

As a law student, nothing excited me more than our final forum. An insight into the life reporting on crime with established journalist Rachel Olding.

What excited me the most was a personal insight into this changing realm, straight from the horses mouth. With the uprising of online media comes many challenges particularly with the likes of reporting of crime. Today, the police (well at least the QLD police) have their own media team who utilise social media the same way journalists do. See examples below (Note Thor reference):

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For stubborn journalists like me who are set on the idea of not wanting to transition to the “dark side” or Public Relations, this movement worried me. Although, when we posed this question to Rachel, she gave us a very reassuring answer. She says rather than seeing Police media posting like journalists as a burden, rather she sees it as a way to ironically better society. She links this to the fact that there has been great examples of NSW police solving crimes through social media rather than traditional media.

Take a look at this scholarly journal article from LexisNexis, which really break down these vast benefits:

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Once I thought about this, it’s definitely very true. Each media organisation, alike the police have their own networks of people who would rather consume one more than the other. Consumers today are spoilt for choice and with such a significant area like crime, the more people who are informed – the merrier.

As well as this, Rachel suggests that the up-rising of Police media actually assists her with her job. She watches the police media feed to see if people are actively engaging with a certain post more than the other. This allows her to know which story would be more beneficial for her to investigate and therefore be more popular with her audience.

It seems like such a bizarre concept that the activity of the online world could drive what criminal activities are reported by news outlets but yet- this is the reality of journalism today. Rachel states that although she still takes into account the old school reporting techniques of proximity, timeliness and etcetera. Today what she really takes into account are the activities that create shareable stories what will go off on the web.

“…we had a naked intruder a few weeks ago that was the most read story on the SMH site all day,” she says.

So, I guess we use this online reality of criminal reporting to conquer the big question on everyone’s mind, “Is Journalism really dying?”.


It’s true that this new world has made us have to act and react differently, but just a Rachel unknowingly spelled out within our discussion, Journalism is and will certainly not ever die. I absolutely love Rachel’s advice of what she wish she’d known when she started out in this crazy profession – ‘be ballsy yet compassionate’. It’s a good reminder that while the system may be changing the genetic make up of a journalist will always be the same.

Even though we’re having to do things a bit differently, we never have to lose our drive to ask the big questions or our empathy for the people that we’re asking.


1 Comment

  1. October 13, 2015 / 9:34 pm

    I’m not sure that it matters which delivery mechanism is used to convey the messages that journalists uncover. Some prefer social media; perhaps most in fact. Other still prefer the local paper or a magazine. Why not branch out to have certain information on billboards and signage at bus stops? People’s minds need to be stimulated so we just need to keep putting literature in front of them. In our local area, libraries have been closing down around us which is a sad notion. Keep writing alive, Jorgia and other budding journalists. 🙂

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