Words That Really Hurt

Sensational campus safety media coverage hurts good people.

There have been a number of terrible campus safety incidents in the news in the past few weeks. Deaths linked to K-20 bullying and acts of violence on campus have been reported that cause deep concern among students, parents, the general public, educators and many others. Unfortunately, as is too often the case, the media sometimes reports incidents in an inaccurate manner leaving lasting and incorrect impressions. One of the best examples of this is the “trench coat mafia” that reportedly existed at Columbine High School but is almost certainly a myth according to Dave Cullen’s superbly researched book on the event.

These types of inaccuracies often take a life of their own as one media outlet repeats inaccurate information from another outlet igniting a string of inaccurate portrayals.  Countless school officials, students, parents and others directly impacted by these events suffer immeasurable harm by these insensitive situations.  Frequently, competent, caring and effective campus officials have sometimes been portrayed in a manner that is totally inconsistent with the reality of their performance.  These people are already typically suffering emotional pain relating to the events and to be unfairly portrayed as is sometimes the case is nothing short of cruel. 

Campus officials can take at least some comfort in remembering that though we are a media hungry society, confidence in institution surveys reveal that we tend to accept the reality that media coverage is often less than accurate.  Though it is little comfort when you are the person and organization whose good name and reputation is being smeared, take heart that many of your colleagues do understand that not everything the talking heads have to say is an accurate portrayal.

Thanks for the sacrifices you make to make our campuses safer.


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Tagged with: Managing the Media

About the Author


Michael Dorn serves as the Executive Director of Safe Havens International, a global non profit campus safety center. During his 30 year campus safety career, Michael has served as a university police officer, corporal, sergeant and lieutenant. He served as a school system police chief for ten years before being appointed the lead expert for the nation's largest state government K-20 school safety center. The author of 25 books on school safety, his work has taken him to Central America, Mexico, Canada, Europe, Asia, South Africa and the Middle East. Michael welcomes comments, questions or requests for clarification at mike@weakfish.org. Note: The views expressed by guest bloggers and contributors are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, Campus Safety magazine.

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