How to Work with the Media as a Private Investigator
- January 15, 2013
- by Amy Thomson
- Business Tips
Editor's Note: The views and opinions expressed in this video are of the interviewee and do not reflect the views and opinions of PInow.com or any of its affiliate companies.
Considering that private investigators are working to securely deliver information only to their clients, while investigative journalists are working to publish the same information for the public, how can private investigators work with the media without jeopardizing their careers? And furthermore, journalists are working to become a known, trustworthy member of the media to whom sources can reveal information and know that their stories will be told accurately and honestly; and private investigators can spend an entire career remaining anonymous, relaying facts that their clients never want to become public. So at this point, it seems that although they may be investigating the same case, their work should never coincide – but that doesn’t mean the media aren’t going to come knocking.
Investigative Journalist Diane Dimond shares her side of the story on how to work with the media as a private investigator, why she thinks the two parties can coexist, and maybe even benefit each other.
The bottom line is, we’re [both] working for someone who wants us to go out and get the truth. Now, I want to shout it from the rooftops; a private investigator may want to wrap it up and put it in a file and hide it forever.Diane Dimond
Dimond is most notably known for exposing Michael Jackson for his alleged pedophelia in 1993, rebreaking the case in 2003 when Neverland Ranch was invaded, and her book, Be Careful Who You Love, covering his criminal trial. Since then, she has worked on numerous stories including Penn State Coach Jerry Sandusky’s conviction of serial child molestation, and released a second book, Cirque Du Salahi: Be Careful Who You Trust, which tells the inside story of Michaele and Tareq Salahi, how the media branded the couple as “The White House Gate Crashers,” and the events of the Obama administration’ first state dinner.
Dimond has worked with a number of private investigators and makes a relevant point comparing the work of an investigative journalist with that of a private investigator: Although they may be working for different parties, they are both looking to uncover the truth. What they do with it is where their careers diverge.
“The bottom line is, we’re working for someone who wants us to go out and get the truth.” Dimond explains, “Now, I want to shout it from the rooftops; a private investigator may want to wrap it up and put it in a file and hide it forever.”
Two people on a mission for the same information are bound to cross paths, so whether or not an investigator plans to correspond with the media, it is good to be prepared. Initially, it may seem precarious to talk with, or even associate with a journalist as a private investigator, although Dimond conveys that there are ways to work with the media and journalists and avoid having classified information on the loudspeaker.
The media aren’t going away, and we really focus our energy on advancing these stories, and if you’re not part of that you’re behind it – or you’ve been steamrolled by it.Diane Dimond
The distinguished journalist stresses that investigators only work with reporters they can trust. “You can’t trust every reporter,” she admits, “as I can’t trust every private investigator.”
On the other hand, Dimond suggests that every investigator agree to speak with a journalist when they call, because agreeing to an interview is not agreeing to reveal information. It is difficult for her to understand when an investigator refuses to speak with her, considering the influence the media has on society today. “The media aren’t going away,” she says, “and we really focus our energy on advancing these stories, and if you’re not part of that you’re behind it - or you’ve been steamrolled by it.”
An investigator who chooses to speak with the media may first want to confer with his or her client for permission and clarify what can be made public. And second, consider consulting with a legal professional before the interview, and drafting a contract to protect all information in writing.
Dimond outlines two ways to reveal information to journalists without the facts pointing back at the investigator. “Make sure you get the anonymity you need,” Dimond says, and here’s how:
- State the information off the record
This way journalists are not able to publish or distribute any information until they confirm it with a second source, with which they will accredit the information to. Although the story initially came from the investigator, his or her name can never be released.
- Reveal the facts on a conditional release
This allows reporters to immediately publish the information from an anonymous source. The story is fair game but the investigator’s name is still protected by law. A conditional release is dictated by the source, and investigators can require as many conditions as they choose. Be clear about what information the reporter is allowed to reveal, and on what terms.
As Dimond has already mentioned, the media are only becoming more prevalent in society. This does not intensify a private investigator’s responsibility to participate in the content, but more and more people who did not have a voice before, now can be heard. It behooves any private investigator to stay aware of what information is being circulated, because reporters are talking to everyone.
If you work together and you feel you can trust each other, it’s really a win, win [for both the investigator and the investigative journalist].Diane Dimond
Dimond explains that she works in a world where she cultivates every source available. She believes that although there may be information private investigators want to keep confidential, the truth will triumph in the end. “My bottom line is, private investigators who don’t talk to the media when the media are around, I think they lose,” Dimond says, “because then I don’t get your side of the story.”
Although at the end of the day, it is the investigator's decision to correspond with the media or not. If he or she chooses to speak with a journalist, staying educated on how to work with the media can alleviate the common qualms. When working with a trustworthy investigative journalist, after having taken the necessary precautions to protect the client, working with the media can be a valuable part of advancing a case. “If you work together and you feel you can trust each other,” Dimond says, “it’s really a win, win” for both the investigator and the investigative journalist.