Wednesday, September 18, 2013
The media have a PR problem of their own -- getting breaking stories wrong. The latest case was the misreporting of the Washington shooting incident where reporters couldn't settle on either the number of shooters (only one), the weapon used (shotgun and pistol) and the number wounded or killed (13, including the shooter). This joins a line of incidents in which in their frantic pace to get information out, reporters and editors have forgotten their training and flooded air waves and the internet with speculation. There is a deep distaste for saying, "I don't know," so they pick up tidbits wherever they find them and run with them. TV reporters are particularly to blame for abdication of journalistic responsibility. Print reporters share the blame because they are tweeting and blogging and picking up "facts" from tweets and blogs that are unverified. This sloppiness has created a public relations challenge for the media who have been under pressure since the rise of the internet. The public wants the information quickly but accurately. Both elements are essential. Reporters and editors know this, but they keep slipping when news breaks. They have created a crisis for themselves with their shrinking publics.