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Virginia Tech unloads a small document dump spurred by a FOIA and the terms of the June 17 settlement that sheds light on what school officials were thinking in the wake of the school massacre. The Post discovers: school brass were concerned about their image!
The Post writes:
“Within a week of the incident, one memo shows, university officials had developed a media strategy that centered on three main messages: ‘We will not be defined by this event,’ ‘Invent the future’ and ‘Embrace the Virginia Tech Family.'”
School administrators handpicked sources for the media and coached them, and graded published stories from a rating ranging from positive to negative. None of this is much of a surprise. I was there covering the tragedy. If you wanted to get beyond the press conferences and well-staged interviews, it was easy. V-Tech is a huge campus with thousands of students and faculty. There were plenty of people willing to go off message. And the Post did amazing work according to our media critic. But I don’t blame the school for trying to manage the tragedy.
Still. This guy really is naive. The silliest suggestion came from an administrator who tried to get the school to coin its own tragedy phrase:
“A two-page memo from Chris Clough, who works in the University Relations office, is dedicated to the language choices the school had to make.
‘We likely will live with the label ‘Virginia Tech massacre,’ or ‘Virginia Tech tragedy’ for years to come in the media, however, we can use our own language in our own media to help prevent the event from defining us and may gain success in influencing history,’ he wrote.
Clough offered three suggestions on how to refer to the killings. The first is the ‘West AJ/Norris tragedy’ because it ‘confines the incident to specific locations within the university and doesn’t allow it to completely define the university,’ he wrote. Then there is the ‘Holocaust Day tragedy’ because the shooting fell on the same day as the Holocaust remembrance day Yom Hashoah. Finally, he suggests, the ‘Best and Brightest tragedy.’