ITB 2024 Special Reporting
The Newspaper Got it Wrong Again!
By Judy Hoffman
Saturday, 30th April 2005
What Do We Do Now?, It can happen despite your best efforts. You worked hard to be open and honest with the media when they queried you. You followed the advice provided by media training experts in books, articles or workshops. You did the best job that could be expected under difficult circumstances. You provided accurate information, made senior officials available for comment, and tried to help the reporters do their jobs in the hope that the coverage would be fair and balanced. But you get burned anyhow! You groan with dismay. "That is NOT what I said!" "They took me completely out of context." "They overlooked the most important aspect of the story." "They REALLY got their facts wrong." You are angry and embarrassed. How do you set the record straight? Here are a series of steps you should follow.

First, STOP and take a deep breath. Don't lash out in anger. Remember the old saying about not picking a fight with someone who buys his ink by the barrel. Your first action should be to assess the seriousness of the errors. You may know (or THINK you remember accurately) what you said, but consider whether any real damage has been done. Are you and the small group of others intimately involved with the situation the only ones who will recognize the difference? Was any real harm done to your organization's reputation or to the people involved? If not, just forget it. You do not want the media to label you as a nitpicker who is never satisfied.

If real harm has been done, consider one of these options. These are taken in ascending order; i.e., start with the first one and move your way up to the highest level of protest IF WARRANTED.

Ask the Reporter for a Correction: If the error is one that you would not want to see repeated in future articles, you may want to do this. Newspapers archive their publications, so the next time your institution comes up for scrutiny, hopefully the reporter will pull up previous stories. If you ask for a formal printed correction, you run the risk of having more people see a negative story than read it the previous day. Another alternative is to ask for a "Note to the Record." This means that nothing will be printed in the next day's paper, but a correction is internally recorded. You can ask for either type of correction in a nice way that won't leave bad feelings. "A good job of reporting this complex situation, John, but I did want to point out one error of fact." Be ready to substantiate the facts to prove the error.

Ask to Speak to the Editor: If you do not get a reasonable response from the reporter, you may want to take the matter up the chain of command. Point out specific violations of the journalistic Code of Ethics. You will either get an indication that the editor will address the issues with the reporter, or that the reporter was just following through with directives from higher up. If this appeal to the Editor falls on deaf ears, you can:

Write a Letter to the Editor: Be aware that taking the issue to this venue almost begs for an answering Letter to the Editor. Many people turn right to these pages in order to see the latest controversy , and there your institution's name will be in the middle of conflict, reliving an incident. Still, there are times when this is called for.

Publish an "Opinion Editorial:" These articles, normally longer than a Letter to the Editor, are usually employed when there has been an on-going series of negative articles or an organized misinformation campaign. You lay out a cogent case for your side of the story. An "Op Ed" may instigate Letters to the Editor or even other opinion pieces, but there are situations where you need to publish factual information and aspects of the story that have gone untold.

Take Out an Ad: Many organizations have done this when a situation has been raised to a high level of visibility and there has been no other effective way to get your message out to important audiences. You have probably seen them: "An Open Letter to Area Residents" or "An Apology from …" or "Myths and Facts About…" A half- or full-page ad in not cheap, but it may be well worth the cost if the situation has the potential to have a serious negative effect on your organization.

Of course you hope you never need to take any of these actions. Being media trained in how to frame and present your messages should help you avoid the pitfalls that can occur in media interviews. Concentrating on your main messages, wording them clearly, and developing appealing "sound bites" are the best ways to increase your chances of being as satisfied as possible with the story that results from your interview.

Judy Hoffman is an author, speaker, and consultant who specializes in the areas of dealing with the media during a crisis and handling angry people. 

She can be reached at jchent@frontiernet.net and you can find out more about her at www.judyhoffman.com
 Latest News  (Click title to read article)

 Latest Articles  (Click title to read)

 Most Read Articles  (Click title to read)

~ Important Notice ~
Articles appearing on 4Hoteliers contain copyright material. They are meant for your personal use and may not be reproduced or redistributed. While 4Hoteliers makes every effort to ensure accuracy, we can not be held responsible for the content nor the views expressed, which may not necessarily be those of either the original author or 4Hoteliers or its agents.
© Copyright 4Hoteliers 2001-2024 ~ unless stated otherwise, all rights reserved.
You can read more about 4Hoteliers and our company here
Use of this web site is subject to our
terms & conditions of service and privacy policy