‘Bear’ with me on this one Breaking news, News hits, PR musings

Representatives from the Department of Environmental Conservation provided a photo opportunity following the capture of this black bear at RIT. The bear was tranquilized, then transported to the southern Finger Lakes region for release back into the wild. Photo courtesy of Alexander Habermann, first-year physics major from Pittsburgh.

It’s no secret I love a good pun. The University News staff can surely attest to that. It’s to the point that—during team meetings—they can sense an opening and practically cringe before I even lob one out for their consumption.

So admittedly I smiled last Friday at the comment shouted by a student from inside Nathaniel Rochester Hall. “This is un-bear-able!” he said.

I turned to Dawn Soufleris, assistant vice president for the Division of Student Affairs, rolled my eyes in feigned disgust and said, “I’ve soooo already used that one today.”

Seeing Dawn and I together is rarely a good sign. We are generally among the early responders to a potential crisis on campus, and the situation playing out in front of us was never part of any scenario we’d ever considered.

Around 11 a.m. on Friday, I took a call from Dave Edborg at RIT Public Safety. “Paul, we have a black bear that’s taken up residence in the Sol Heumann quad.”

Come again? How in God’s name, I thought, did a bear manage its way into the dense confines of the university’s residence halls! “Monroe County Sheriff’s deputies are here,” continued Dave, “and the DEC is on route. I’ve got to think media will pick this up off their scanners.”

“On my way,” I told Dave. I was joined by coworker Vienna Carvalho, who had also got tipped off to the situation by one of her sources in student affairs. As Vienna and I arrived on scene, students were being told to stay inside their dorms. Thankfully, the bear appeared to pose no immediate threat. He had found a spot tucked inside the shrubs and was napping comfortably.

“Any calls yet, Paul?” asked Dave.

“Honestly, no,” I said, “other than the crew from Channel 13 that’s on campus covering another story.” I needed to tell them one of my University News colleagues would be helping them with their assignment instead of me. I didn’t tell them why.

It’s an interesting tightrope we PR people navigate. The local media is very good to us at RIT. They frequently respond to our requests for coverage of university events and programs, and we work very hard in return to assist them with their needs. But sometimes it’s best not to be proactive. Adding media to a situation with an uncertain outcome is risky, but denying the situation is even riskier. Best just to wait for their calls—then respond.

So I wasn’t really surprised when that same crew from Channel 13 rolled up on scene.

“There’s nothing to see here,” I said joking. The smile on their faces told me they knew otherwise. Besides, I’d already received a call from their competitors at Channel 8. The secret was out.

It’s been a rockin’ year at RIT! There have been so many wonderful things taking place on campus, and the news coverage (which occasionally extends nationally, even internationally) has certainly reflected that. Even the safe exile of a wandering black bear seems to reflect positively on the university. It’s such a happening place even wildlife want a piece of the action!

So, of course, I couldn’t help but respond in typical fashion when I received this post on Facebook from Kate Welshofer, friend and former colleague who’s now working as an anchor for YNN in Albany:

This just in! Your bear’s makin’ news down the Thruway. Story just crossed my desk!

My reply: Guess that makes you a ‘cub’ reporter. :)

I do enjoy my job.

WHEC-TV (Channel 10): Bear on Campus story

 
  1. Ellen Shady
    Nov 18

    Wow, I could bear-ly believe this story; it really gave me paws. Is it fur real?

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