Tucson Tragedy Will Unfortunately Define 2011, As We Ask “Why?”

By Edward M. Bury, APR, aka The PRDude

In December of this year,  newspapers, magazines, television, radio and online media chronicle will chronicle the “biggest” or “most significant” events of 2011.  The shooting rampage in a Tucson supermarket parking lot Saturday that left Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords gravely wounded, six killed and a dozen wounded surely will be among the events that define and shape these 12 months.

What started out as a decidedly “non-news” event — an outreach effort by an elected official to meet with constituents — now dominates the news and more than likely will do so for the immediate future.

The pivotal news stories of last year — our struggling economy, the Gulf Coast oil spill, continued wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the rise of the Tea Party movement — have not been shifted to the “yesterday’s news” file;  these and other stories will remain in the national spotlight.

Through Saturday’s violence, the national debate now will refocus on topics we’ve discussed before:  Gun control and the Second Amendment,  extreme political views, mental health, security and more.  The alleged gunman arrested in Tucson reportedly posted statements about his mistrust of the government on his website, meaning some will offer theories regarding the impact of social media on society and behavior.

Sadly, the violent attack on an elected official is not “new news.”  The nation has mourned slayings of Presidents and many others elected to public office. Violent attacks on those we elect to lead have defined far too many other periods in American history.   And, sadly we now have to put together the pieces to learn “why” it happened again.

Why was Congresswoman Giffords, a progressive, well-respected, highly accomplished public servant singled out for what prosecutors will define as murder?  Why was one of our most cherished rights as Americans, the freedom to assemble, shattered by violence?  And, why did the alleged gunman turn his rage on so many others, including a little girl?

This blog was launched to let me share thoughts and ideas regarding public relations, which I firmly maintain plays a pivotal role in modern society.  Public relations, if practiced according to prescribed ethical standards some of us uphold, promotes open disclosure of information and two-way communication on issues.  A public relations plan should identify threats and opportunities, and it should identify ways to build relationships.

Perhaps this statement may be perceived as simplistic or overly idealistic. But as we sort through the madness that took place in Tucson,  perhaps we can identify future threats to our way of life; perhaps we can identify opportunities to build and encourage dialog; perhaps we can building relationships that will prevent the madness that took place in Tucson from happening again.