. . .
The national media didn’t descend on Sanford. Celebrities didn’t tweet about the shooting. The cable pundits didn’t start their debate about guns, race and Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law. For more than a week, the story teetered near obscurity, at risk of becoming just another tragic but forgotten encounter on a rainy night in central Florida.
It’s likely that Martin’s death, which resulted in the arrest and indictment Wednesday of confessed shooter George Zimmerman, would never have crowded into the national consciousness had it not been for Martin’s family, its lawyers and an enterprising PR man.
For the most part, the Martin story found the media, rather than vice versa. Outraged by the lack of an arrest, the Martin camp lobbied news outlets to examine what had happened that night in Sanford. Eventually, the media did, and the story moved like a fast-burning fuse, leaping from traditional news sources to the blogosphere and social media.
A pivotal, if little-known, figure in the Martin story’s development was Ryan Julison, an Orlando public relations executive who began working with the Martin family at the behest of its attorneys, Benjamin Crump and Natalie Jackson.
With the story fading, Julison began trying to revive interest in it, emphasizing a storyline of an unarmed teenager, a neighborhood watchman with a gun and the lack of an arrest. He got few takers.
“There just wasn’t a lot of interest in this out of the gate,” he said in an interview Thursday. “Oftentimes, it seems like the media likes to follow instead of going first. They want to wait and see someone else do the story and then they get in line. But we were at zero. We had to keep going from scratch.”
Julison, who has worked on other high-profile stories, such as acting as spokesman for John Travolta after the death of his son, Jett, finally found two takers: the Reuters wire service and CBS News.
Reuters moved a 14-paragraph story on the case March 7. The next morning, “CBS This Morning” aired a piece by reporter Mark Strassman in which Trayvon’s father, Tracy, expressed his grief over his son’s death and outrage that Zimmerman was still free — two elements that would stoke the coverage for weeks.
“It was one of those stories that, when you hear the pitch, you just say, ‘Wow, this has to be told,’ ” said Chris Licht, executive producer of the morning program. From the reaction afterward, he said, “We knew we’d hit on something significant.”