Service Journalism Circa 2016: 'Tips for Surviving a Mass Shooting'

The Washington Post Offers Its Readers Advice Such as 'Know Your Secondary Exits'

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The Washington Post's "Nation" section isn't usually the place its readers turn for service pieces. But there on the top of the second page of the Saturday edition of the "Nation" section, the paper offered a story headlined "Tips for surving a mass shooting." You can be forgiven for doing a double take (as I did) when seeing that headline (I was in D.C. on Saturday and spotted the physical paper in a coffee shop), or its slightly more context-y online version: "How to improve your chances of surviving a mass shooting like Orlando."

The story is exactly what the headline suggests it is. Post science and politics reporter Joel Achenbach explains that "A number of private companies now train office workers in how to respond in an active-shooter event. The experts agree: Following a few simple rules can help boost a person's chance of survival."

He then proceeds to share advice, such as, basically, get the hell out -- or if you can't, don't pick a dead-end hiding place, quoting experts such as J. Pete Blair, executive director of the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training Center, who says, "You don't want to put yourself in a situation where if you get found, you don't have any options." The horrifying example of the Orlando Pulse victims who tried to hide from the shooter in the nightclub's bathrooms is cited.

Other advice served up includes "Know your secondary exits" ("As a routine matter, people should understand how to get out of a building through emergency exits or back doors in case some event takes place that demands speedy evacuation"). This being 2016, the Post also supplied a short animated video to accompany Achenbach's story online. The video, based on reporting by Bonnie Berkowitz, expands on the basics of the "Run, Hide, Fight" program created by the Department of Homeland Security, which Achenbach discusses in the main story.

You just watched it, right? Do you feel safer now? Or just more depressed?

Simon Dumenco, aka Media Guy, is an Ad Age editor-at-large. You can follow him on Twitter @simondumenco.

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