When One-Sided Claims Masquerade As News

During my most recent “PR Secrets From a Media Insider” workshop a few days ago, a local businessman asked what time of day deadlines typically happen for the media.

Ten or 15 years ago, I could have easily laid out some specific windows of time, I replied. But these days, I added, the answer is literally “all the time.”

That is one of the most profound effects of the Internet and the media’s collective rush to be first with news, even if it’s incomplete, unbalanced and, in some cases, the hasty airing of publicly filed records without any discernible thought as to whether it is actually newsworthy.

Some so-called news group’s apparent rationale: “We’ll contact XYZ Company or ABC Source when we get around to publishing a story in our print edition–that’s the `real’ version anyhow.”

Having been in newsrooms for most of my career, this insensitive illogic is galling. It fails to consider the impact that Internet content has on an individual or organizational reputation. The Internet is forever and everywhere. Print is limited, both in collective memory and geographic scope.

Compounding that sin, some draw extra attention to these “stories” with yellow, sensationalistic headlines that take highly questionable assertions and portray them as fact.

And then there’s the recent element of using social media to draw online eyeballs to breaking stories. This is terrific…except when it puts the spotlight on pieces that are woefully under-reported and unfair in their treatment of one side of an issue or another.

The moment that journalistically slipshod content appears online, the damage has already been done. As previously mentioned, the Internet is forever and everywhere.

In the long run, I am confident, such reckless behavior will hasten the demise of shoddy journalists and half-baked news outlets that are little more than cut-and-paste hacks. Those in the community to whom such outlets render this brand of disservice will simply shift their trust–and advertising and circulation dollars–to those that treat information, especially those relating to volatile, one-sided claims, with care.

But what to do in the meantime? When those situations crop up, it is essential for advocates, such as PR professionals, to move quickly and forcefully in demanding ethical accountability and professionalism from the offending media outlet.

It surely doesn’t reverse the damage, but at least it slows the bleeding.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

* Copy this password:

* Type or paste password here: