When things happen there is the real story, and the story we get from the media. No matter what happens the media will make the good things seems better than they are, and they will also make the bad things seem worse than they really are.
They are always looking for a story, and it’s their job to get readers attention. The new media out there is the social media. The social media lets us all post our opinions and our side of the story. The media can make or break a fire department. Social media can also make or break us, if we let it.
Social media has proven to be a way for first responders to get into trouble. There are numerous stories involving discipline and suspensions to firefighters who comment on things they have no business talking about on social media sites. There have been first responders calling patients or victims “idiots” on Facebook pages. Racist remarks have also gotten some first responders in trouble.
As first responders, we need to remember that we are involved in situations and get information that is really no business to the general public. What happens in someone’s home is their personal business and there is no reason for us to share that outside the fire station, especially not on social media sites.
There are also some very good uses of social media. Many departments promote their fire safety programs and share fire safety tips on social media sites. Personal issues like pictures of children’s Christmas program are good stuff, but a first responder sharing private information is not a good idea.
If you are a first responder and have a social media site, make sure you separate your business from your personal life. If you are one of those guys who can’t keep your mouth shut about what happens at work, you should probably not have a social media site.
No matter the size of your department, you should have a very small number of representatives that deal with the media. Make sure those that are going to talk with the media are properly trained to deal with reporters, and also that they know what they should and shouldn’t share.
Too many people talking to the media is not a good idea. Make sure your department has a defined procedure for transferring information from incidents that happen at night, to the oncoming shift. The best way to do this is for the responding officers to write down a narrative of what happened and what should be shared.
The media is generally friendly towards the fire department, mostly because our stories are on the happy side of things and people like to hear about the good things we do. When bad things happen, the media really likes to stir the pot. Fortunately for firefighters, those bad things usually happen with police departments.
I will never understand why the media always uses a picture of the victim in a cap and gown every time someone is shot by a police officer. I don’t think there was ever a situation that a police officer shot someone at a graduation ceremony. Maybe a picture of the situation that police officer was facing would be more appropriate.
Use your social media carefully and make sure your department is prepared to deal with the media. The media can be your friend if you plan wisely.
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