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Somebody gets it. Somebody doesn’t. Running from reporters & the issues just doesn’t work.

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Don’t run. Don’t hide. Words to live by when you are a public official who has to deal with bad news on your watch. It’s very rare you will make the situation better by forcing reporters to do an ambush interview and then running away from them on camera. And probably more important than all of this, is finding a way to deal directly with a citizen who believes they have been wronged by your agency, especially one who has lost a loved one.

The man in the picture is Collier County, Florida EMS Chief Walter Kopka. He is trying to get away from a TV reporter outside a public meeting. Kopka has been dealing with the fallout from a delayed ambulance response in December when Charles Minard’s son died. Minard wants some answers and doesn’t think he is getting them. WFTX-TV reporter Matt Grant has also been trying to get answers. On Wednesday they both confronted Kopka at a public meeting and it wasn’t their first time. Click here to see the results. They aren’t pretty.

The only bright spot comes near the end when Capt. Andrea Schultz with the East Naples Fire Rescue District decides to step in and do the right thing. We certainly don’t know all the ins and outs of this story other than what WFTX-TV is reporting. But we do know who looks responsive to Mr. Minard, the TV reporter and ultimately the public and who doesn’t.

We also know that this story has been going on for almost five months with report after report. In the story before this, Walter Kopka called police to get Minard and Grant removed from the property. Here are links to the previous coverage:

There are many factors that could be behind the manner in which Walter Kopka is responding to this incident. Kopka could be under orders by a boss or legal counsel not to talk. It could be he is fed up with the father and the reporter. It could be ego and pride. But when bad stuff happens, until you admit mistakes were made, apologize, explain those mistakes and how they will be corrected to both the victims and the public, it isn’t likely you or your organization will be able to finally look at the bad news in the rear view mirror.

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Comments - Add Yours

  • Capt 452

    Admitting that your department is reactive not proactive??? WoW is all I can say

  • Fire21

    Don’t they teach media relations in business schools? I assume all the civic leaders who have been featured in the stories on this site over the past several weeks have degrees in some sort of leadership. I could be wrong, because most of them show no interest in or ability to deal with media or the public. Good luck to Mr, Minard in “dealing with city hall”.

  • RJ in florida

    Good Christ we have the most proactive EMS watchdog system in the state. I’m suprised that they aint all over this because if it was my kid, i’d be at every public meeting asking questions until i got an answer. i know that CCEMS has some issues but not to answer means you have none or are just waiting for it to get swept under the rug or just go away but in the way the director dodged the media, it would not suprise me if they went digging on their own

    if i havent learned anything about PR i have learned that when you refuse to comment, you give the media a GREEN LIGHT to dig and create news. control the statement you make with intelegence and (assuming LRB aint handeling it) and it will come out fine

    dave, how a bout an update on Capt smart and the videographer, MDFD should have their story redy by now

  • Kyle R

    I think what she was saying is sometimes this line of work is reactive not proactive, not just stating that her department is that way. In this field there is no way to think of all the different possibilities of what can and can’t happen, so we will always be reactive in some ways but put great effort to become proactive at ever opportunity.

  • Tree

    Indeed – while we can be proactive in our preparations, in the end we are reacting to what the public deals us. We can only hope that our preparations have made us ready to deal with the situation. Sometimes they don’t.

    This case is proof, once again, that ignoring a problem won’t make it go away. Whether the reason for the delay is legit is certainly open for discussion, but to brush off this father is to imply that mistakes were made and the agency is in no hurry to do anything about them.