Jaycees Family Should Use the Press - News - Opinion

Jaycee's Family Should Use the Press   by Coleen Bennett

in News / Opinion    (submitted 2009-08-28)

Jaycee and her story are hot news right now. The press is trying to get information to feed the public's desire to hear about what happened. The girl and her family have suffered for years, and the situation has become even more stressful for them since Jaycee was found.

I think this family and other families of missing children should use the press. That sounds terrible because 'using' someone or something has gained the same connotation as 'taking advantage of' someone in an unfair way. But this family needs a lot of help. There are three young ladies who are going to need everything from counseling to privacy to education, and it's going to take time. The other family members are the people who are central to the girls' healing. They need counseling and education to help these girls. Years ago this family needed help to find their daughter. The public can provide much of this help, and they're willing to do so.

But the press is not a single entity that a family can negotiate with. The only way to predict their behavior is to know what their goals are (provide the news to the public) and to know the reputation of individual reporters or organizations. It takes skill to negotiate the press to the advantage of the family. Ed Smart seems to have done it well. He got the word out, and it helped find his daughter. When she was recovered they gave the press (and the public) enough information to pay them back for their assistance, and then asked for privacy. (I'm sure they had to do more than ask, but they managed.)

Celebrities use the press every day. Being seen at the right places and doing things that will get tongues wagging furthers their careers. The press goes along because it's good business. They sell more advertising when they report on stories that people want to hear. Everybody wins. But celebrities have professional help in using the press to their advantage.

Families who suffer a tragedy like this are thrust into the limelight with no warning. They have to act fast while the public is interested. If they can do that well, they stand to gain a lot - help finding a missing child, help with the healing process and help with some of the financial burdens. They also lose a lot of privacy. They don't have much choice about losing their privacy, so they might as well take the benefits. Maybe Jaycee's family is already navigating the situation well. Maybe the dad is talking to reporters to take some of the heat off of Jaycee and her mother. Good luck to them all on the long road ahead.