Reporter's Notebook

The art and science of the interview

Nebulous Corporate Statements

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Movie Theater

A Tennessee man was killed yesterday by police in the town of Antioch after he attacked theater goers in a multiplex.  Twenty nine year old Vincente Montano was shot after he was engaged by a SWAT team as he tried to leave the Hickory Hollow cinema.  Witnesses said Montano carried a hatchet, a pellet gun and pepper spray into the theater.  CBS News reports three people suffered minor injuries.

This incident speaks to the prevalence of these kind of attacks and the need to be able to better identify potential perpertrators who suffer from mental illness.  To wit, at the end of the story, reporter David Begnaud read a statement from the National Association of Theater Owners  which in part said, “People have a right to go about their lives in peace and safety. The safety of our guests and employees is, and always will be our industry’s highest priority.”

Usually, when an entity makes a statement regarding performance related policy, they are doing so because of a recognition of a need to improve that performance or to defend an existing policy.  Regarding improving policy as it relates to customer safety, they may outline policy changes that include greater vigilance, increased presence of law enforcement, great adherence to existing law or closer security screenings for the safety of those customers.  Regarding defending policy, they may outline what they are currently doing and why that is sufficient.

This statement above seems to do neither and sounds, by contrast, familiar to any reporter used to receiving press releases from corporations that have style but no substance.  Considering that there have been several mass shootings in theaters over the past few years, it will be interesting to see if the National Association of Theater Owners go into any deeper explanation of their statement or announce any measures to provide more concrete protection for theater goers and employees.

Although the news cycle may forget this incident until the next one, the public will not.  And words with no action are no source of comfort for a public seeing more of these attacks. Perhaps it is not the responsibility of news organizations to parce corporate statements in the midst of crisis but a follow up story on changes to which such a statement alludes certainly might be appropriate.

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Written by Interviewer

August 7, 2015 at 01:20

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