I’m a leg man, but …

If you live in Northeastern Pennsylvania, and even if you don’t, you probably have heard something in recent days about Wyoming Area High School, the Wyoming Area 2017 commencement, and the 2017 class president, Peter Butera.
If not, here’s a brief synopsis. During his remarks at the WA commencement, Butera went “off script” and made some suggestions at how the administrators at Wyoming Area can better relate to the students. Well, he tried to.
Once the principal, seated next to the podium, realized what Butera was up to, he had the mic turned off and told Butera to sit down.
And in doing so, he gave me brand new material when teaching public relations to my students. In those classes we discuss something called “damage control,” basically how to handle a situation that goes awry. And one of the things we emphasize is to not “give a story legs.”
Legs are made for walking, and the last thing you want when it comes to bad news is to have it walking all over the place.
Too late, of course, for Wyoming Area. Once the plug got pulled on Peter Butera, the story got its legs. And the crazy thing is, it was really a non-story in the first place. But not after the principal over-reacted.
Stories about the incident appeared in major out-of-town newspapers, including the Washington Post, and Butera even wound up on the Jimmy Kimmel show where, I wish to point out, he came off as very mature.
Now, let me say that I am well aware that this is a bit of Monday morning quarterbacking and that, as the saying goes, hindsight is always 20-20. But there’s a lesson to be learned. And it’s all about keeping your cool.
If only the principal stopped to consider that 75 percent of the audience most likely was not listening anyway.

Ed Ackerman