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December 2009

Can we restore integrity to breaking news? Can we afford not to?

Spilled milk The Problem

I have a problem.  I don't know who to trust.  The wisdom of the crowds faces serious challenges when faced with the echo chamber of the fishbowl.  And with far too many sources trying to "break" breaking news, we are faced with an epidemic of misinformation.

This weekend's failure at IDG is simply inexcusable.  I have worked with IDG professionally and have had great experiences with the organization, but their repeated reports on an unsubstantiated and ultimately false rumor were unprofessional and ultimately damaging to their brand.  

As a thought leader IDG has a responsibility to their readers, to the companies they report on, and to themselves.  If, in a moment of extreme haste and lapsed judgment they reported on a rumor that proved false, it is IDG's responsibility and in IDG's best interest to correct the misinformation to the best possible extent.

The Solution - Correct Louder

Media outlets feel the need to break stories.  It's part of their culture, it's part of the fragmented reality we face.  However, in order to lessen the damage of a false report due to and over-caffeinated approach to reporting, these outlets have a responsibility to publish and socialize adequate corrections.

What constitutes a good correction?  I would like to propose the following guidelines:

  1. All titles and headlines are corrected to represent both the original title/headline and the true information.
  2. All offending media should contain the true information appended prior to the media, and after the media on the original digital media pages.
  3. All blogs and tweets linking to the media containing misinformation should be contacted within reason to correct misinformation.  This should happen within the channel in which this media was published as well as via private channels as appropriate.  
  4. A retraction should be published and pushed in the same manner that the original offending media was published.  As new information becomes available, new articles should be published and publicized in the same manner as updates on the misinformation were published and publicized.
Why this is reasonable

News media faces a serious trust challenge.  Breaking news is broken and continuing to erode viewer trust.  If a media outlet like IDG were to adopt a set of standards like these, and publicize this perspective, I believe it could go a long way towards restoring trust in their expert perspective.

Seeing is believing.  We all know breaking news is suspect.  But the only way to restore our faith and loyalty to an outlet is to restore their integrity.  I have never seen a media outlet take corrections seriously.  Trust is the foundation of loyalty, and loyalty is the only cure for fragmentation. 

It's time to get serious about trust, or go home.

being present doesn't mean showing up, it means being there

I don't care if you are a parent, a spouse, a family member, a colleague, a marketer or a social brand.  Showing up is not enough.  Being a dad that pushes his kids on the swing while listening to a podcast is not being there, and it will not be fulfilling as a dad.  Being in a meeting with your head knee-deep in your blackberry doesn't qualify as contributing, you know it and everyone in the room knows it.  Being in social as a brand and only talking about your needs versus those of the customer won't create relationships unless people have a need or desire to learn more about your brand.

There is an old rule of thumb in relationships: you feel connected to the extent that you give to the other person.

If you are only half present, you are only half there, and at best you will only get half results.  So please, make the time to do it right.  Multi-tasking will never make you feel complete.  And trust me, the other people you are only half paying attention to know the difference.