A Cop Talking: “You Don’t Have to Talk to the Press. It’s Better If You Don’t.”

Author Laura Lippman.

From the novel Lady In the Lake by Laura Lippman: The novel is set in Baltimore and some of the chapters are in the first-person by a character in the story. In this chapter a policeman is talking; he’s dealing with a woman who discovered a murdered girl’s body and he’s telling the woman to be careful about talking with journalists.

The news people finally get wind of it. We’ve been careful on the radio, but we are less than a mile from Television Hill and the road has been blocked. . . .The reporters are kept at the end of the street, sometimes yelling out questions, but mostly quiet. . .

On the drive downtown, I give her some advice. “You don’t have to talk to the press. It’s better if you don’t.”

“Why?”. . . .

“They’re like dogs, reporters. They’ll scramble for any scrap they can get. And because they’re so many of them, they’ll all want a different angle. The one who gets to you first, he’ll build you up. So the others will have to tear you down.”

“Tear me down? What have I done?” She seems really rattled now and I feel bad.

“Nothing. I’m just warning you—the reporters can make a good thing into a bad thing. That’s how they do it.” A reporter did my dad dirty once. It didn’t come to anything in the end, but I learned a lesson from it.



  1. Barnard Collier says

    Dear Jack,

    When my son Alexander was about six and our family lived on a farm west of Washington, a reporter from the Washington Post drove out as part of his research into a story about city folk who move to the country.

    Alex was helpful and forthcoming. He showed the reporter how to hunt shrews in a post hole, where the hawks lived in the silo, where the rhubarb and asparagus was planted, and how to catch frogs in the pond.

    On the next Sunday the story appeared. We read it to him.

    The reporter described Alex’s routines and finished up with the frog story about how he took off his shoes, tied the laces together and hung them around his neck while he waded out among the pollywogs in the pond.

    “You can’t trust that reporter!” Alex said, both disturbed and disappointed.

    “Why not?”

    “His story is wrong. Only somebody who’s never hunted pond frogs would hang their shoes around their neck. I tied my shoes around my waist.”

    For reporters, trust is so easily broken. Small details observed wrongly or sloppily destroys confidence, even in small children, and trust is near impossible to win back.

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