Tuesday, November 01, 2005

A First Step 

Arthur Sulzberger Jr. has taken a first step to getting The New York Times back on track with his speech before the Online News Association, but regaining reputation is a long haul exercise and not the product of a speech or two. Anyone who has a bad habit knows that it is hard to break one and to do something new. In the Times' case, bad habits of journalism crept into the newspaper over decades and rooting them out won't happen tomorrow or next year.

While it's good public relations to acknowledge that news organizations must "stay committed to reporting news that is 'credible, valuable, and trustworthy,'" it's more difficult to stop playing anonymous-sources and "spin" games that got the paper into trouble.

What happened to the Times is an object lesson to PR practitioners. There are ugly consequences from twisting truth. Sooner or later it wrecks organizations and those that depend on them. Yet, time and again, CEOs will ask us to put a better a face on this little incident, then that one and yet another one. We find ourselves over time wondering if we can tell the truth. "Spinning" is easy, and often, we don't see the wreckage we create -- until too late.


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