Dealing with Tradgedy: The Indiana Stage Collapse

Posted on August 15, 2011


By now I’m sure you’ve heard about the terrible events before the start of the Sugarland concert Saturday at the Indiana State Fair.

In the band’s statement about the event, Jennifer Nettles, one half of the popular country duo said, “there are no words to process a moment of this magnitude and gravity.”

Unfortunately, for any country talent going on the air today not having words for what happened probably isn’t an option.

The reality is most talent don’t deal with serious issues very often. Even talk hosts who discuss current events rarely are faced with discussing any sort of heart-wrenching tragedy.

While I wish I could offer some sort of magic formula for what to do or say on your show in a situation like this there just isn’t a “right” answer.

What you should do depends on a number of variables including your station’s format, your on-air persona and your geographic proximity to the event.

All I can is offer a few suggestions:

Test the Waters: Post a note on your Facebook page about what happened. See what kind of responses you get. The audience can help guide you toward the right approach.

Localize the Story: If there are any ties from your local community to the tragedy focus on them. It makes the event more relevant to your audience.

Educate the Audience: Interview a local promoter or fire marshal about concert safety. Talk to a weatherman about what happened. Talk to a counselor who can help parents explain what happened to their children. If your area has a big state fair have one of the organizers on to talk about their safety precautions. If you can be informative you are being helpful.

Be Sincere and Respectful: Don’t make jokes about what happened; it’s a good way to lose a job. Remember, if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.

When In Doubt, Leave it Alone: If you really aren’t sure how to talk about a tragedy it’s better to err on the side of caution than to risk saying or doing something stupid or insensitive.

Finally, before you decide to anything grandiose talk it over with your program director. Make sure your plans fit the tone he or she wants the station to project.