Friday, July 28, 2006

Guilty Until Not-Quite Innocent 

The winner of the Tour de France has asked the media for the impossible. He is asking to be judged innocent until proven guilty of doping during the race. Alas, it doesn't work that way now, if it ever did. Reputation is destroyed when incidents like this happen, and it is never quite recovered.

Richard Jewell, the unfairly accused security guard at the Atlanta Olympic games, says there are still people who believe he planted the explosives in Centennial Olympic park, so he could discover them and make himself look like a hero.

When authorities single a person out, it is equivalent to a sentence of guilty in minds of the public. When prosecutors and others leak to the media for their own purposes, they place a huge reputational burden on the accused. Recognizing this, authorities ought to treat investigations with confidentiality, but they don't. They're human.

Companies with deep resources can hire PR practitioners to fight on their behalf and help recover their credibility over time. What do individuals do who don't have the money?


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