Missing persons – working with the media

Always consult with the Police case officer before approaching media such as television, radio and newspaper.

Police or search agencies may use media outlets to broadcast details about a missing person to try to get information and help from the public. Case officers will usually encourage the use of media if the missing person is a young child, elderly person, has an urgent medical need or there are grave concerns for their safety and wellbeing.

Basic information for the media

The media will need basic information about the missing person, including their name, age, physical description, last known whereabouts and a photograph. With authority from the next of kin, this information may be published or broadcast in the media.

Information about the missing person may be supplied to the media via a press release, which is usually prepared by Police or the search agency and is distributed to television, radio and newspaper outlets.

Police will also send out an immediate notification, in the case of urgent matters (such as young children who have gone missing), to all media outlets and people registered to receive media alerts through the Police website.

Talking to the media

A relative or close friend may act as a spokesperson if family relatives of the missing person are too overwhelmed with emotion to answer questions from the media. Alternatively, the case officer may provide someone to speak to the media on behalf of the family.

Some families and friends may decide to read a prepared statement rather than be interviewed and have to answer questions.

If you are interviewed by the media, you may find it useful to have the case officer available. They may be able to provide additional information.

Prepare thoroughly for a media interview. The information that can be mentioned about the missing person and case should be discussed with the case officer. In some situations Police may wish to keep some details out of the public arena, as certain information could hinder an investigation.

Dealing with intrusive media

If the media are being overly intrusive or disruptive you can request respect for privacy. If this fails, any problems should be discussed with the case officer, who may be able to liaise with media about maintaining privacy wishes.