Maria Luisa Rossi-Hawkins, a U.S. correspondent for the Italian news agency Mediaset, arrived in Santa Fe late Tuesday — ready to cover a story that rivets readers and viewers from Rome to Roswell.
“I’m here with my crew and we usually don’t walk around or go around the country if it’s something that is not of high national profile,” said New York-based Rossi-Hawkins, who usually covers politics and key American stories for her Italian audience.
This story, of course, is not about a summit meeting or the pandemic.
But it is big. Bigger than big.
In the six days since cinematographer Halyna Hutchins was shot and killed by a gun fired by actor Alec Baldwin on the set of the movie Rust, Santa Fe finds itself the backdrop to worldwide media glare unlike any it’s ever seen.
Reporters from German TV, the BBC, Fox News and outlets on both coasts and beyond are trolling the city in search of a break on the story.
They’ll likely get some new tidbits Wednesday, when officials from the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office and District Attorney’s Office hold a news conference to talk about the case — the first time details beyond those found in initial search warrants have been discussed.
Granted, Santa Fe is no stranger to exotic visitors and the attention that comes with them. But the tragedy on the Rust set — and Baldwin’s role in it — are unprecedented.
Juan Ríos, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office, said there has “never been a case” in the agency’s history that has generated so much media interest. Since last Thursday’s shooting, he has received inquires from a variety of media outlets — newspapers, television, online — throughout the world, all hungering for the most recent details in the investigation.
“Part of what has changed the playbook is social media. Whether it’s TMZ or a large prominent publication, they’re looking for information that’s unique that they can post immediately, that gives them the edge or the lead,” Ríos said in an interview Tuesday.
“They’re looking for instant gratification from information and the appetite is insatiable,” he added.
The rush of reporters, Rios said, has not hindered the investigation, but he noted many stories emerging online and in print and TV are based on rumors, not fact.
Ríos said no criminal charges will be announced at the news conference, as it is too early in the investigation. There have been no arrests.
District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies also acknowledged the level of interest in the shooting is unprecedented, but she said it hasn’t affected the way people in both agencies are doing their jobs.
“We’re a united front, we’re a team and we’re assisting them [the sheriff’s office] in any way we can,” she said Tuesday, adding her office is treating the incident as it would any other case.
The case is a staple on cable news and entertainment shows. On Monday night, CNN reported on the story, citing sources by the Wrap, a digital entertainment-news outlet.
The New York Post earlier this week printed printed a photo of Baldwin and Hutchins’ husband, reportedly taken in Santa Fe by Backgrid, a celebrity news agency.
But for Mediaset’s Rossi-Hawkins, the story is about more than just Baldwin, the versatile, award-winning actor.
“Baldwin is a huge star, and he attracts attention,” she said. “But secondly, the story is about a gun being shot and that terrible, terrible accident around which there are many unanswered questions. The third point is that weapons in Italy are not as widespread as they are here in the United States.”
This last point, she said, is what makes the story particularly relevant and interesting in foreign countries. She noted movies have been filmed in Rome involving firearms, but nothing of this nature has ever happened.
She said she’ll be at Wednesday’s news conference — along with more reporters and photographers than Santa Fe’s likely ever seen in a single spot.
Carmack-Altwies and Ríos said they are girding for a media frenzy at the sheriff’s office.
And judging from the past few days, it may not end anytime soon.
“I think this is going to be interesting because it touches several aspects of not just entertainment, but it covers several aspects of American society and culture,” Rossi-Hawkins said.