Monday, November 24, 2014

Coming to you live ...

So, this past week, I spent three days teaching other public information officers about the craft. It's a pretty common thing that I do, but the classes were anything but common, because of the developments that were happening in real time.

Early Thursday morning, Florida State University alumnus Myron May walked onto the school's campus, into the library and began shooting. He wounded three before being shot and killed by campus police. On that second day of our training, we would have normally had a few reporters in to be part of our media panel, where the students would have had the opportunity to ask questions of them.

The press briefing by Tallahassee Police Department Chief Michael Deleo
As you might imagine, with these developments made reporters were unavailable to come to the class. This was the first time since I started teaching that this happened, but it proved to be a valuable lesson for the class. At 3 p.m., the university held a press conference, which we tuned in to and watched as events unfolded, providing a valuable lesson in how media relations are conducted during a crisis and in front of a large, international audience.

On Friday, word also came down that the grand jury was nearing a decision in the Ferguson, Missouri case of the officer-involved shooting of Michael Brown. Given the unrest that took place immediately after the incident this past summer, the community is bracing again in anticipation of what could potentially take place after the decision is handed down.

Tensions are high near Ferguson, Missouri
As we watched the coverage of that on Friday - during the class training students about Joint Information Center operations - our major discussion was about what must be taking place in a Joint Information Center inside Ferguson, Missouri.

While it was a totally unorthodox method of instructing the class, these two incidents provided valuable insight into the operations of public information during times of crisis - quite the opportunity for our students to learn from.

Tom Iovino, Public Information Specialist
Pinellas County, Florida

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