Media Lessons For Sandy Hook Anniversary Coverage

Kim-Allen-HeadshotBy Kim Allen, Managing Partner, Public Relations, Dixon Schwabl

 As the events of December 14, 2012, unfolded at Sandy Hook, reporters rushed to deliver confusing and changing facts. The consequential inaccuracies of those reports, and the political conversation that immediately took shape, instigated intense media scrutiny. In the age of entertainment as news and headlines that bleed, I hope our media learned something from Sandy Hook about where to point their anniversary coverage.

That day, 26 people—most age 7 or younger—died gruesomely at the hands of a deranged man. Horrible as is this fact, it was and continues to be newsworthy. The issue that media critics have with the news coverage of Sandy Hook today, and had last year at this time, is that the media seems only interested in using the families’ pain to attract viewers and to inflame a political conversation.

Many families quickly turned their pain to purpose, memorializing their lost children and loved ones with foundations and social initiatives. As a publicist and friend of one of the families, I directly experienced the lack of media interest in telling this part of the story. The major network news teams were interested in the families’ opinions on gun control just days after the tragedy and apologetically turned down opportunities to report on families’ efforts to carry on the legacies of their departed.

If the media handles the anniversary right, it will focus on the lessons we learned from the short lives of those children—not about the fact that we need stricter gun laws. It will highlight the Caroline Previdi Foundation, which carries on the young first-grader’s care for other children. It will feature the plight to build the Catherine Violet Hubbard Animal Sanctuary for a young victim who caught and released butterflies, telling them, “Tell your friends I am kind.”

The lesson from that day moves far beyond our need to examine who carries a gun. It rests with the legacies left behind by the victims and what their lives taught us about where we should aim our conversation.

Visit the family-endorsed web site to learn more about each victim, their memorial funds and to send messages of support to the families.

About the Author: Kim directs the overall growth and development of the 15-person Dixon Schwabl PR team. She provides strategic marketing and public relations counsel to agency clients and develops and supports all agency public relations new-business initiatives. Kim also leads Dixon Schwabl’s crisis communications practice. A 20-year industry veteran, Kim has worked on brands such as Constellation Brands, Frontier Communications, Kennedy Space Center Visitor’s Complex, Black & Decker and SentrySafe.