War of the wor(l)ds

Whoa, Nellie. This morning I received the following text message from a local news outlet:

97.3 WMEE: BREAKING NEWS: All Southwest Allen County Schools are on lock down due to shooting in the area. Stay tuned 4 more details on this story as they break.

As a parent with kids in two different SACS buildings, my mind started racing immediately. My first thought was that the odds of my kids being specifically involved were fairly slim, but mom hormones took over as my brain churned through possible scenarios. It took about 36 seconds for me to go into oh-no-what-happened-I-need-more-information-are-my-kids-safe mode.

Unfortunately, other than that singular, sensational text message, I heard nothing further. No follow-up text, no further details as promised. Nothing to quell my fear nor push me into rescue action. Nada.

Fortunately, I was able to learn a few details from a trusted acquaintance on–of all places–Facebook. It turns out that the seeming crisis occurred some distance away from the locations of my kids, near one of the other schools in the district. And actually, the crisis had nothing to do with the school itself; it just happened to have occurred in the adjacent neighborhood. The lockdown was purely precautionary until the police pronounced the situation all clear. *breathe easier*

Still, I never would have known that from the news outlet. Although it promised details to follow, the only subsequent text message I received was this:

97.3 WMEE: The lock down for Southwest Allen County Schools has been lifted. Suspect still at large. Stay tuned to WMEE for more details as this story unfolds.

Well, that didn’t tell me anything. If I hadn’t investigated on my own, I would still be wondering what happened and whether my kids were affected. I would almost prefer NOT to have received the original message given the lack of context or explanation. Without providing more information, the original text message was actually too much information.

This situation offers a fantastic illustration of the far-reaching power of words. They can incite, calm, inform, soothe, panic, entertain, comfort, anger, tease, bore, or mock. Whether a sentence is well- or poorly-constructed can change its very meaning. What words someone chooses to share or withhold can change behavior. Even delivery matters. If you don’t believe me, think about the panic and outrage incited by Orson Welles’s radio delivery of

Words have power. Choose them wisely and make them count.

P.S. My kids are fine, as are the kids at all the schools.

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2 thoughts on “War of the wor(l)ds

  1. That is the standard of coverage from Federated Media…they’re going to jump all over it to let you know that there’s something going on, but that is ALL they’re going to do. They have ZERO desire to do follow up on it, because once it’s happened, and they’ve sent their texts, to them their duty is done and they’ve got bigger fish to fry. Try using WANE-TV updates. (another media outlet I like to throw dirt on once in a while…for reasons known only to me…)

  2. Admitedly off the point: People need what I teach. The world is frequently scary. Fort Wayne’s violent crime per capita is higher than average.

    “The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.” – Copy to Clipboard — Albert Einstein

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