Keep Your Faith in Humanity

Despite the seemingly constant stream of bad news we get from the media, we must remember that the overwhelming majority of students, patients, faculty, staff and visitors on campus aren’t murderers, thieves or rapists.

It’s been years since I’ve watched the nightly news on networks like ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox or CNN, and last night when I inadvertently turned on the TV to a newscast, I was reminded why I made the choice long ago not to watch any of these programs. Regardless of which news show I turned to, it seemed like each anchor uttered sentences filled with words like “tragedy” or “horrible” or “massacre” in them.

Yes, it’s important for all of us, especially those of us responsible for protecting our nation’s hospitals, school districts and colleges, to be informed and sensitive to the plight of victims of crime and other disasters. Doing so helps us prevent crime, respond to emergencies when they do happen and support our colleagues at peer institutions when they are faced with tragedy. That’s why Campus Safety publishes its magazine, eNewsletters, webinars and other content.

What concerns me, however, is how many of the consumer media outlets needlessly stoke the public’s fears. They seem intent on whipping their audiences into a state of panic.

Being a journalist myself, I understand the concept of “If it bleeds, it leads,” and I know that using hyperbole can garner a lot of attention and ad dollars. That said, I find it unfortunate that most of the news outlets in America feel compelled to freak people out to improve their ratings. Moreover, this type of reporting – if you even want to call it that – is irresponsible because it could actually be creating more problems than it solves by fostering a culture of fear, stress and distrust.

If you are a campus protection professional who must regularly deal with the small minority of people who do bad things and then you come home and turn on the TV, only to be bombarded with more messages about how the sky is falling, I can see how you could fall into the trap of believing that the world is a dangerous, evil place.

Truth be told, however, most people obey the law most of the time and get along remarkably well. Most are not murderers or thieves. Despite the recent and much-needed focus on campus sexual assault and the awareness it has created, the vast majority of men are not rapists.

As an overall view of life, I urge you to focus on these facts rather than on the small percentage of individuals who do bad things or the statistically rare tragedies that get so much attention on the evening news. Even if you do encounter someone who is doing something truly terrible, can you still remember that he or she was once an innocent child who, for whatever reason, went astray? I doubt the person you are dealing with aspired to be a criminal or wrong-doer when he or she was 4 years old.

Now, don’t get me wrong: campus public safety and security professionals, as well as those they are charged with protecting, must be aware of and prepared to respond to the risks in this world. The time to sing “Kumbaya” with someone is not when they are pointing a gun at you. But, we can shift our focus when we are not in danger, which is 99.9% of the time.

In his article Using Situational Awareness to Identify Pre-Attack Indicators , Brad Spicer warns against “looking for assassins.” Being too focused on potential risks will inevitably backfire in that you will become exhausted, and safety and security will suffer. I also believe that focusing on what’s wrong and dangerous all the time has a way of becoming a self-fulfilling prophesy.

Instead, Spicer recommends maintaining good situational awareness that enables you to recognize physical and behavioral activities that differ from the baseline.  When you do observe behaviors that are concerning, then you take the next indicated step, which may or may not call for an active response.

This balanced approach should also be applied to our consumption of news, and Campus Safety attempts to achieve this balance whenever we can. We will continue to strive to be as responsible as possible, providing our readers and audience with the information and solutions they need to make the world a better and safer place, while not resorting to scare tactics.

So, are the news outlets you’re watching, listening to or reading using language and other methods of manipulation intended to put you into a state of panic? If they are, change the channel. Life is good, and for the most part, so are people.

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About the Author

robin hattersley headshot

Robin has been covering the security and campus law enforcement industries since 1998 and is a specialist in school, university and hospital security, public safety and emergency management, as well as emerging technologies and systems integration. She joined CS in 2005 and has authored award-winning editorial on campus law enforcement and security funding, officer recruitment and retention, access control, IP video, network integration, event management, crime trends, the Clery Act, Title IX compliance, sexual assault, dating abuse, emergency communications, incident management software and more. Robin has been featured on national and local media outlets and was formerly associate editor for the trade publication Security Sales & Integration. She obtained her undergraduate degree in history from California State University, Long Beach.

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