Colorado PR pros plan for Columbine’s anniversary

LITTLETON, CO: With the April 20 anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre only two weeks away, Colorado PR pros are bracing themselves for a media onslaught that is likely to test their patience and strain their resources.

LITTLETON, CO: With the April 20 anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre only two weeks away, Colorado PR pros are bracing themselves for a media onslaught that is likely to test their patience and strain their resources.

LITTLETON, CO: With the April 20 anniversary of the Columbine High

School massacre only two weeks away, Colorado PR pros are bracing

themselves for a media onslaught that is likely to test their patience

and strain their resources.



The predicted numbers are overwhelming - at least 35 satellite TV

trucks, 100 media outlets and 100,000 people expected for a memorial

service in Clement Park - and Jefferson County School District spokesman

Rick Kaufman conceded there’s no right way to plan for such an

onslaught.



’We’ve been meeting regularly with the local media and national

correspondents to ask them what their needs are,’ he said. One

surprising request, he added, was that the media covering the event have

asked to be as invisible to the public as possible - less out of respect

for the occasion than due to fears of a public backlash.



Kaufman has set his share of ground rules: ’We won’t let any media on

school grounds on April 20, and we’ve asked the media to be respectful

to the people they are talking to.’ His staff is also coordinating

interviews with figures such as Columbine principal Frank DeAngelis,

who, on the two days preceding the anniversary, will be available to

local and national reporters in 20-minute intervals from 4 to 7:30 pm.

’It will be very tiring for him, but that’s the best approach given all

the requests for interviews we have had,’ Kaufman said.



Denver PR firm Barnhart/CMI, which has been counseling families of

victims about the media, has been besieged by hundreds of requests for

interviews.



’They are pretty savvy about the media,’ said Kyla Thompson, senior

counsel in Barnhart’s Santa Fe office. ’They know the crush is going to

come, but they won’t predict what they will do on April 20 and purposely

have chosen not to commit to anything, because they may not even be able

to get out of bed that day.’



Barnhart president Terry Barnhart is absorbing all costs of the media

counseling and donated the firm’s services to a dollars 3.1 million

fund-raising effort to rebuild the school library, in which most of the

students were slain.



A statewide association for public information officers (PIOs) is poised

to assist with media relations as well. Like the school officials, the

PIOs brought the media into the loop during a planning summit in

March.



’We’re concentrating on the theme of the memorial: a time to remember, a

time to hope,’ said Pam Russell, PR director for the Jefferson County

District Attorney’s Office.



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