Sunday, July 29, 2012

One week, three historical events unfolding

This week was major in terms of media. From the NCAA's Penn State ruling to the alleged theater shooting killer's first court appearance to the more recent opening ceremony for the London 2012 Olympics, media have been very, very busy.

It would, of course, seem as though worldwide Olympic games received the most media attention. And among the other controversial and tragic events, it truly has: the opening ceremony already set record-breaking viewership, totaling 40.7 million viewers and launching this summer's opening ceremony to the most viewed in Olympic history, surpassing the previous record of 39.8 million people that watched the 1996 games in Atlanta commence.

What I've noticed about each of these recent events is that they are all ongoing. They're hardly a one-time article read or fading Twitter trend; they'll be featured through countless media channels for a while. While the Olympic games last a short two weeks, the records set, metals won and countries honored will endure long after the closing ceremony.

As for Penn State, the penalties announced have banned football from bowl games for the next four years, charged a fine of more money than I can fathom, stripped the Nittany Lions of winnings in the past 14 seasons, and reclaimed ten scholarships per season over the next four years. Fines can be paid, football can still be played and four years can fly by faster than imaginable. But the reputation of Penn State--not solely that of its football program, its board and its coaches who have been brought into the scandal limelight--is already generating long term predictions of recovery and if that is even a possibility. There is a core value system at stake here: a college culture that place football over core academic values of a higher education institution. And that is ultimately the basis for the NCAA's penalties, as explained by NCAA President Mark Emmert. These terms were accepted as a guiding compass by Penn State President Rodney Erickson, the first step of crisis communications.

The alleged theater shooter James Holmes appeared in court last Monday and is due to be formally charged tomorrow. It is rumored he will receive the death sentence, as he murdered 12 innocent people and injured dozens more during the premiere of The Dark Knight Rises. As tragic as it was and continues to be, the backstory and possible motives behind his senseless act are being speculated. Personally, it surprised me to find endless articles focusing on the life and any supposed mishaps of James Holmes because people try to rationalize these types of events; they want to know exactly why. The timeline at this moment can not be determined, but it might be a year until he is put on trial.

This week marked events that will go down in history and, simultaneously, the history of public relations, as each situation offers opportunities to analyze strategic communication, relationships with audiences, and reputations. Though as we see each event unfold before us, we will further be able to learn something more, whether it may it be through the trial of a relentless murderer, the reputation rebuild at Penn State, or the buzz generated by the most social Olympic games we've ever had the technological luxury to witness.

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