Thursday, October 16, 2008

Is there A Private Investigator In Your Newsroom?

Los Angeles—If the answer to that question is no, you have overlooked an important resource. Private investigators normally have access to a wider range of investigative material to help discover needed information for those important stories.

Not all PI’s are trained or created equal. Finding and using one with a law enforcement background can bring decades of knowledge about police procedures, and criminal justice system information reporters and producers and even lawyers can never obtain.

Using the right PI as field producer on crime and court related stories will help you clobber your competition. A good PI lives and breathes public records. I can’t tell you how many times the most unused and obscure public records, has helped my break a case or news story.

As a PI, I found myself recruited in the Phoenix market into TV news and developed my practice to meet the needs. Normally I work on call for an hourly basis. Whoever calls me first gets my exclusive help on their story.

Learning news gathering and broadcasting has given me a specialty that brought me to the front lines of news events like the Oklahoma Bombing, Unabom case and the 9/11 attack. As I have helped news crews do their jobs they have taught me about journalism and broadcasting.

Particularly in television news stalker events happen. Having a PI on hand can quickly,discretely defuse and control those issues before they get out of control. The PI’s often know their way around the world of restraining orders and routinely serve them as needed.

As you get ready for the November sweeps find a good PI and give him a try and watch it make a difference. Would you put you PI on the air? If he’s ready for prime time he may prove be a great hook for viewers.

What will a good PI cost? An hourly rate on par with scale AFTRA talent is the norm.

Here is a cute news story about being a PI I did a couple of years ago:


Anonymous said...

I charge at least $75.00 an hour. A case costs a minimum $ 1,000 up front. If the funds are exhausted and more works needs to be done; they pay another retainer up front. Being a businessman is part of being a PI.
Sub contract rates for others PIs is 50.00 an hour. Money upfront also.

Crimefile said...

AFTRA rates are at the upper end of most PI rates. More importantly it’s an amount they can easily relate to. For litigants and lawyers getting money of front is always a good idea. I bill news organizations and they always pay promptly. As for a minimum charge per story that won’t work well. Instead, get yourself an arrangement allowing them to use you like a fireman with a minimum monthly guarantee.

For them to use you at all it would help if you knew your way around newsrooms. You need to have a working knowledge of the best way to showcase that special information they have obtained through your contribution.

Investigators should also consider taking a one or two month unpaid 20 hour a week internship at a medium or large market TV news organization to help gather some “producer’s chops. The other advantage is the news directors and executive producers will become addicted to your services.

Having the ability to sling a video camera microphone and lights to get interviews in exceptional situations can be important. Every PI should to have that ability anyway.

As for reporting itself you have to look smart, sound smart and be able to make that job look easy.

The bad news here is TV news money as dwindled in recent times because of lost viewership. The ability to pay for those special resources is drying up everywhere.