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
’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
’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
’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.