Breaking News Stories
Covering Specific Victim Populations
Other Considerations
Special Challenges in Reporting
Special Challenges in Reporting
High Impact Stories
Working With Service Providers
Creating Ethics Policy
Victims Right to Privacy
Self Care for Journalists
Resources and Promising Practices
Glossary and Endnotes

Link to A News Media Guide for Victim Service Providers
Link to Crime Victim Outreach Tip Sheets



Working with Service Providers

Page Index

a. Victim advocates
b. Victim service providers
c. Citizen volunteers
d. Provider and media advisory boards
e. Offer tours of the newsroom

Advice for Reporters on Interacting
With Victim Service Providers

The history of the victims’ rights movement coincides with the emergence of various specialists who work with crime victims and witnesses and their families and friends. The federal Victims of Crime Act (VOCA), passed in 1984, provided a mechanism that allowed using fines and fees collected from convicted federal offenders to pay for crime victim compensation and for victim services administered by the states. These new resources sparked the expansion of existing groups and the development of new groups to assist victims and witnesses. These specialists typically fall into three broad categories, each with its own history and dynamic:


As this suggests, these three groups can play important roles as facilitators or buffers between victims and the media. Painting with a broad brush, advocates will often pursue reporters, particularly columnists and editorial writers, in the hope of bringing attention to and enlisting their support for various causes. Justice system-based victim service providers, on the other hand, may prefer that victims refrain from speaking to the media before and during trial, to avoid potential contradictions in their testimony. Citizen volunteers who may or may not have media training may be asked to handle reporters who arrive at the door wanting interviews.

While journalists may be tempted to view these three groups as obstacles to getting an interview, they can also be valuable sources of information and assistance. Victim advocates know the history of the movement and can direct reporters to valuable sources within the field. Service providers typically know the system and can help reporters thread the maze of the criminal and juvenile justice systems. Reporters who develop rapport with these groups can find that they will help them get the interviews they seek.


Some service providers are themselves national, state, and local experts in particular kinds of victimization, from domestic violence to sexual assault and rape to child abductions. They can offer current and past statistics, as well as access to people with specialized knowledge and analysis. There are also charitable foundations with specific missions, including the Carole Sund/Carrington Memorial Reward Foundation that worked with the families of Chandra Levy and Laci Peterson to draw attention to their missing children.

News organizations benefit from learning more about victims and the people who work with them, just as those groups benefit from understanding the role of the journalist. A proactive approach to developing communications and positive relationships with these advocates and service providers includes—

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