Wow… it’s been almost a month and the turn of events our lives have taken were never something we imagined possible only a few short weeks ago. If you’d have told any of us in my family that we’d be known world-wide for something, we would never have believed you. It’s just not something that happens to normal people. Looks like we were wrong about that, I guess.
Right after all this happened to us, we were bombarded with media requests, talk show requests, and interview requests on every available medium imaginable. Almost overnight, my daughter and I were tweeted about, Facebooked about, blogged about, written about, and more. We, or more specifically, I, was loved, hated, admired, despised, raised onto a pedestal (way undeserving), and kicked while I was down. We’ve dealt with everything from malicious users posting our home address on the Internet to telephone stalkers, to North Carolina Department of Social Services in our home at all kinds of hours investigating our family. All of this happened mostly within the first 72 hours of this event going live on YouTube.
As a direct result of this we agreed, and I posted repeatedly on Facebook, we would not be doing any media interviews unless we conducted them via email where we could be sure we have control of how our words are displayed; so no one can take what we say out of context. Fox news out of Houston was the first actual television coverage I saw and they completely misrepresented the context, the facts, and the actual words I used. It was amazing how a professional news organization could turn around and screw up something so badly. Imagine what the actual professionals could do to us if they had the chance on live television… *shudders*
So, for three reasons, we decided not to talk to the press.
Reason 1: Context
It was quickly apparent that even with my words in plain language, people were already spinning fabrications and twisting words with skill Dr. Seuss would envy; so there’s no way we were going to take the chance of having it worsened with an interview, especially a pre-recorded interview that would allow engineers to cut it up and clip it together. We didn’t know who we could or couldn’t trust. Suddenly these national figureheads are calling and showing up on our doorstep promising an open and honest interview, with no ambush tactics. Three weeks of research has taught me that a LOT of those were lies. One can spend a fairly small amount of time going online and quickly see video examples of ambush interviews performed by these shows and networks. There was no way I was going to let that happen to myself or my family. So, we stood our ground.
Reason 2: The Lesson to My Children – and Anyone Else Watching
My daughter made a nasty Facebook post that was intended to be seen by her 400 or so Facebook friends. I made my own response, intended for that same 400 or so friends. Hers was seen by a couple hundred people. Mine seems to have been seen by 31 million and counting. I’ve said this before, but it was truly a case where the punishment accidentally outweighed the crime.
I can’t turn around as her father and start taking advantage of all this publicity and “fame” and use it as a platform to to make money on a national or international stage. What kind of message does it send to my child to show her that it’s ok to embarrass someone as long as you profit from it in the end?
That’s not a lesson I want my kids to learn from me. That’s the kind of lesson that would have had me spanked as a child, and deservingly so, until I couldn’t sit down for a week!
Reason 3: The difference between a headline and a story.
After all the hoopla died down a little, this became my single core salient reason, so bear with me while I explain, because this sets the stage for my next thought in this post.
When all this happened, I could have had my pick of news outlets (and realistically still can). However, and maybe I’m wrong, but I feel like the only story anyone could have told three weeks ago would have centered around a few meaningless questions:
- Why did you shoot your daughter’s laptop?
- Do you abuse your daughter?
- Isn’t Hannah going to be damaged/scarred/irrevocably humiliated for the rest of her life from this?
- Do you think you’re a bad parent?
- Are you going to seek counseling as a parent or for your family?
That was basically it. It was a headline piece. It wasn’t a story.
Telling the Story
A story has a beginning, it has a middle, and it has and end. We agreed as a family that we weren’t going to talk to the press until we had the “story” completed first, if at all. Then and only then would we consider talking to anyone on national television. No, we haven’t really publicly stated that caveat on Facebook because it would only encourage them to keep vying for attention.
By having our “story” I mean that we have collectively gone through this process we accidentally started, from beginning to end. We’ve had time to process the effects of our actions on ourselves, and on each other. We know whether or not we’re better or worse for having lived through it. We can look back with perspective and understand how this affected us individually and as a family. Then, after all that has been accomplished, do we feel strong enough as a family to subject ourselves to that?
The answer was, yes. IF we pulled through this ok, and IF there was something others could learn from it, and IF there were substantial enough reasons why we thought it would be important enough to do this, THEN we would consider a television network interview.
After almost a month of this circus lifestyle, we’ve all agreed that we’re OK. We’re good. I know some people have cheered us on while others have ridiculed us. Some think we’re a stronger family for it while others think we’re irreparably harmed and have sentenced our daughter to a life of drug use and dead end jobs. That’s ok. Those people are entitled to their opinions and no amount of verbage I can spew is going to change that. Time will prove, both to us, and to everyone else that we’re OK and we’re a happy and healthy family.
Sticking to your Guns
Yeah, I carried the metaphor forward there didn’t I? Sorry about that. We have received a lot of support from people about sticking to our guns and not letting the media take control of our story. That isn’t going to change. This story, when it gets aired, will be our story, not someone else’s version of what we were thinking, what caused our actions, or how it affected our family.
I have learned a really important lesson in all this that, while not part of the real message I’m trying to convey here, is deserving of a segue.
When, and if God forbid you find yourself on the other side of the door from every major national network news agency… close it. Then lock it.
Take time. I don’t know what your story might be, but if it’s important enough to them, they’ll wait for it on your terms. Don’t be flattered with all the gifts, offers to travel to New York, or Los Angeles, dinners, and patronization. It will come in waves like you’ve never imagined. We said something to someone in a conversation about my wife loving Italian food. Two days later a package from a New York deli appears on our doorstep. In the same conversation we were discussing favorite shows on television. (Networks always want to know what your family’s favorite show on their channel is. I’m not sure why.) Anyway, my wife loves the Food Network channel and said so, talking animatedly about her favorite chefs. Within two days a signed, autographed, copy of his book arrives in the mail. The list goes on and on. I now have enough hats and t-shirts to start my own network little league teams. (Maybe we could donate THAT to charity too. lol)
No, we didn’t ask for any of this stuff. We’ve gone out of our way when we can to tell people NOT to do that kind of thing. My wife and I are both fairly intelligent people. The more you attempt to “buy” our affections, the more we know you’re not genuine about it. But apparently it works on most people because that’s how the networks do it. Personally if someone’s going to spend that kind of money tossing stuff our way, we’d rather just have the money to pay the mortgage. The amounts of money networks will spend wooing you is staggering, but it doesn’t actually “help” you in any way. It’s just flattery. It’s just a shame because I can imagine that just the airfare alone that networks have dished out in the last three weeks would pay my mortgage for an entire year. If you’re going to spend all that, just send the money and let me call you on the phone. lol. I mean, really. It’s crazy.
No… I don’t want television or anyone sending us money. We’ve earned every dime we’ve ever made and we’d both prefer to keep it that way. I like knowing that I deserve something when I go out and buy it, because I worked hard for it, paid all the bills, and saved accordingly and then I finally had enough left to reward myself, my kids, or my wife.
Anyway, I digressed there.. a lot. The point of this part of the story is this. If you can evade the gifts lavished at you long enough the networks will eventually come to you and say “Ok, we want you on our show for our story. What can we do to make that happen?” Then you get to do something good with your fame. Then you get to do what we’re doing now.
Uh oh, what are you doing Tommy?
Yes, we’ve agreed to go on a news program. (and I’m literally cringing as I prepare to hit the publish button on this post) I’ve spent an untold amount of hours trying to run my own business, be a father, be a husband, and trying to juggle all this for three weeks now while somehow remaining sane at the same time.
In the end, it came down to a couple of networks that we believed the most in. From those networks, for our first interview we’ve chosen NBC. This isn’t to say we won’t go on other networks if they ask, but we’re only going to do it if we can tell the stories that matter… not the ones they want to sensationalize. ABC network really has put forth some amazing efforts and offered some great things for us to do, and if they still want us to do them, we probably will. However, we also realize that part of the allure in having us on the show is to be the first show to do it. Once that first bubble is burst, it’ll likely be over. And you know what? That won’t be so bad either! I’d actually like to get back to work in my wood shop and my customers would prefer I be working on their IT issues rather than what I’ve been tied up with these last few weeks.
In the end the big decision came down to the Today show and Good Morning America. Both are truly great shows and have great things to offer. At the end of the day it comes down to two things for us. First, NBC has treated us with kid gloves all the way. They’ve been the most respectful of every network that’s attempted to talk to us. That has to count for something. Second, it just seems from my research that Today has a larger following than GMA and they resonate more with the age group we want to share our story with. So, if it ends up only being a one-shot deal, then we’ve chosen this as the venue to host it.
Why Do It?
Like everything surrounding the video that started all of this, most of the unintended conversations that sparked across the nation have been accidental in origin.
Who knew this was going to blow the top on a volcano of parents who really want to be firmer with their children but are scared to because of the constant threat of “I’m going to call social services” screamed from their out-of-control teenage child?
Parents have been coming out of the woodwork these last few weeks asking for more information on how to protect their children. Some have the naive opinion that their kids don’t need protection in cyberspace. Others have no idea of the possible dangers, both immediate and far-reaching, that social media can have on their families and even their children’s future employment or college acceptance.
This news coverage has allowed us to bargain. The news wants a chance to tell the “Laptop Shooting Dad” story and ask all the tough questions parents and kids across the nation have been repeating for weeks now. Fine. We’ve agreed to give them that.
I want a platform that, even if only for one day, can allow us to the chance to get out in front of this issue and educate parents on the dangers out there to their kids. We have a chance here. We have, whether we wanted it or not, gotten our 8 minutes of fame, so we’ve decided to use them as best we can.
What’s the Goal?
If I had to put it into a simple phrase, I’d have to say the goal of this is to “raise awareness” on a national level. We’ve got the chance to get out there for one day and hopefully not stumble over our words too much; to use this brief time to let all parent’s know that they need to wake up! There are two calls to arms I’m going to be shouting as hard as I can.
The first is to protect your children and your family from the effects of social media, and I believe that no one right now can say that with as much experience as we can. We are literally the poster-children for what can happen!
The other reason is to hopefully inspire parents to stand back up on their feet and stop bowing to pressures from their children or from social services or anyone else; to take their job seriously and realize that their first job as a parent is to raise a fully-functioning adult that can survive and thrive in the world when you finally have to let them go. A parent’s job isn’t to be their kids best-friend.
If parents can do both at the same time, then I want to urge them to tell the rest of us how. Stand up and be heard. Get your own 8 minutes of fame and help the rest of us out. That’s what this site was designed to do and that’s the message we hope they’re going to allow us to send on national television!
See you all on Wednesday morning!
Have a good day y’all…