This past weekend Philadelphia hosted the Vatican-sponsored World Meetings of Families event and during the weekend, extreme security measures were taken.
Mayor Michael Nutter told reporters, “You all scared the s— out of people,” also saying that the reporting leadings up the event was “detrimental to the mind-set of many Philadelphians and others.”
Nutter clearly spoke without thinking, but was he right?
It was estimated that over a million people were set to attend the event, but hotel occupancy and train ridership were down. Media reported there would be an eight foot fence—a false rumor—and claimed there would be virtually no access to trains and hospitals, causing people to believe they wouldn’t be able to get to work or go to a hospital in event of an emergency.
Philadelphia was in a state of panic as Pope Francis’ visit was nearing and the reports from the media were not helping ease Philadelphians. The media often exaggerates to get a reaction out of the public and more hits on their content. Ethics come into play when we consider if media reporting was really “detrimental” to the mindset of Philadelphians. Many planned to escape the city for the weekend and stay locked away in their homes.
In this specific instance, a public relations campaign prevailed with the slogan “I’ll Be There,” and the hashtag #OpeninPHL. This campaign was created to let the public know that local businesses would be open the weekend of the festivities. Media kits were distributed to businesses and the campaign began. Though this was able to save face, the damage the media did beforehand could have made the World Meetings of Families a disaster.
Overall, the event was a success as Philadelphia hosted hundreds of thousands and welcomed Pope Francis to the United States for the first time, but the media may have done more hurt than help in this situation.