Over the past week and a half I've lamented not having a "professional blog" upon which I could post my impressions of events taking place in Tucson, Arizona. There, on Saturday, January 8, 2011, six people were murdered, including a federal judge, and 13 people were wounded, most gravely of which was Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
I tore up Twitter that day, kicking myself for only being able to type with my index finger on my iPhone, remarking on the breaking news as it happened. I believe that it is in the heart of every professional communicator to study events such as the Tucson tragedy - especially in real-time to see how things happen in the real world. Here are some lessons learned - or again confirmed:
- Sheriff Dupnik served as an excellent source for the news media in the first minutes of the crisis. He called in to the major networks and gave them the information from the scene that he was learning and confirming - all the while driving back to Arizona from California. He told MSNBC that Giffords was not dead as they had been reporting, he confirmed mutual aid, he confirmed that the suspect was in custody. In the press conference he said things that a sheriff should not say, especially during an initial briefing of that nature, but in those first crucial moments, he got the info where it needed to be.
- What the Pima County Sheriff's Dept. PIO was doing during this time remains a mystery - this person could and should have kept the sheriff focused and managed the information for him, as is happening now.
- In all of my years as a reporter and communications pro - never in a million years would I ever report a person was dead from hearsay. Ever. A client had an onsite employee fatality several years ago. It happened at 9 a.m. The media did not get the employee's name until 10 p.m. And then it was through the sheriff. We took care of internal needs, took care of his family, then let the rest of the world in.
- The president of the University of Arizona had no reason to be on the stage during a press conference held the day of the shootings. his big involvement was that victims were at university hospitals. Save the speech for the quarterly magazine. His PR Team should have locked him in his office if he insisted on speaking.
- NASA trains its astronauts very well on speaking with the media. Mark Kelly, Giffords' husband, has handled himself with dignity and grace when giving interviews.
- Sometimes people get caught in the crossfire - and I don't mean to be insensitive by saying that. Former friends of Loughner expressed disbelief that he could be the shooter on social media and reporters jumped in for the kill. They desperately needed someone to help them sort out their thoughts, answer questions effectively and manage the amount of publicity they were getting.
Rather long for a blog post, I know, especially a first. But let this serve as an example of the kind of communicator I am, how I analyze situations and what I intend to share here.