Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Homer and the Higher Powers 

This editorial correction from the San Francisco Chronicle is more than funny. It shows the lengths to which good editors go to get things right and the same lengths that PR practitioners should travel. The correction makes the point that math illiteracy is no longer acceptable among journalists, or anyone else for that matter. Use of numbers, especially statistics, is notably bad in PR. It is too common to see junk studies marketed as accurate portrayals and for suspect numbers to slip through in press releases.

The editor makes the point that average citizens will check math and correct you. That's only partly true. Bad numbers do get into print, and no one says anything. PR practitioners dedicated to accuracy and transparency should never accept this when it occurs. We have a duty to correct errors, even when it is embarrassing. I have issued correction releases in the past, and I will again -- shortly. I don't like doing it. Both the client and the agency look like fools, but so be it. If we believe we are links between publics and organizations and dedicated to portraying each accurately to the other, then we practice principle -- and make damn sure it doesn't happen again.


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