WASHINGTON, DC: Groups that helped coordinate and hype the 30th anniversary of Earth Day on April 22 conceded last week that coverage of the event was all but buried by news of the pre-dawn Elian Gonzalez raid.
'It's very difficult to compete with scenes of the government going in and taking a little boy,' said Michelle Ackermann, communications director for the Earth Day Network. 'From a PR standpoint, it was the equivalent of being hit with a nuclear bomb.'
Organizers expected coverage of this year's Earth Day - which was not only a milestone anniversary but also the first major environmental get-together of the new millennium - to easily surpass that of previous years.
But the Earth Day Network and other groups hoping to advance their pro-environment agendas were hit hard when camera crews covering the event were reassigned to cover Elian's arrival in Washington. As a result, live Earth Day coverage scheduled to air on CBS, ABC, NBC, and CNN was quickly scrapped.
'The visuals of Elian being taken out of the home were so compelling that they dominated the electronic media,' said Deen & Black partner Christie Black. '(But) the print media gave Earth Day a lot more coverage on local issues like cleanups.' Earth Day did, however, enjoy a decent amount of post-event coverage.
The Washington Post detailed activist agendas and the Leonardo DiCaprio interview flap, while papers such as The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times printed lengthy feature stories on the national event.
Sierra Club spokesperson Susan Holmes added that NPR and other public outlets gave the event more in-depth coverage.
- The PR implications of those Elian pictures, p5.