College of Criminal Justice News

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Building Healthy Relationships with the Press

Kelli Arena stands outside the Communications Building at Sam Houston State University.
Kelli Arena, Executive Director, Global Center for Journalism and Democracy

Criminal justice professionals and the media both work to serve the public, but that relationship can often be strained. The Global Center for Journalism and Democracy (GCJD) is collaborating with the College of Criminal Justice to help bridge that gap.

Led by Executive Director Kelli Arena, a former CNN criminal justice reporter, the GCJD at Sam Houston State University will provide two cross discipline opportunities for criminal justice and journalism students this spring.

Jay Dobyns
Jay Dobyns, former ATF Undercover Agent
On March 4, Jay “Jaybird” Dobyns, a former undercover agent for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, will discuss how he infiltrated the notorious Hell’s Angels biker gang and later sued the federal government for breach of contract for failure to protect him and his family after his identity was revealed. He argues the media helped force policy change and gave his complaints credibility.

On April 12, the Center will collaborate with the School of Music to present “Social Justice and Music” as part of the 52nd Annual SHSU Contemporary Music Festival. The unique program will feature original music entitled “The Innocents” by Dr. John Lane, Director of Percussion Studies, and a panel discussion on those wrongly convicted of crime. Panelists include Anthony Graves who spent 18 years behind bars before he was exonerated, a representative from the Innocence Project and Dr. Dennis Longmire of the College of Criminal Justice. The panel will be moderated by news anchor Don Teague of FOX 26.

Dr. John Lane, composer of The Innocents
Dr. John Lane, composer of The Innocents
“Since our inception, there has been a very organic synergy with criminal justice,” said Arena. “Clearly, it’s sometimes complicated to maintain a healthy relationship with the press, to have more transparency and to better serve the public.”

The mission of the GCJD is threefold: GCJD trains professional journalists, enhances industry and press relations, and educates the next generation of thought leaders. With the natural link between criminal justice and the press across the globe, it is imperative to improve relationships between the two fields.


Kelli Arena (far right) provides presentation on crisis communications to Texas Police Chiefs.
As part of its mission, the GCJD has also been working with the Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas providing crisis communication training to Police Chiefs and Assistant Chiefs from Texas law enforcement agencies. Arena uses her unique experience at CNN covering law enforcement, criminal justice, national security and the Supreme Court to educate law enforcement officials on how to develop healthy, transparent relationships with the press.

Logo for Global Center for Journalism and Democracy.In 2014, Arena also will develop a similar program for the Correctional Management Institute of Texas to train senior correctional leaders on how to work with the media.

Finally, the Center launched the International Crime and Justice Digest, which is a collection of the latest criminal justice news and research from around the globe. The digest is located at http://www.shsu.edu/global-journalism/resources/crime-and-justice-digest.html


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