The mistake made by Brian Ross and ABC News in their recent reporting on the Michael Flynn case is, in a journalistic sense, unforgivable. It was avoidable, rushed, and casts a long shadow on the entire ABC News effort that will take time and effort to escape.
Mistakes are, of course, a human frailty. We all make them. The scope of this error is a teaching moment for more than just aspiring journalists.
It points to how in the age of instantaneous global media there needs to be a response plan.
This is the importance of having a ready to roll out media strategy.
As a Media Strategist for organizations, embassies, officials and individuals, I am charged with ensuring all the right connections are made with the right members of the broadcast, print, radio and Internet media. My job is to get your story, your message, in the right hands instead of just scattering press releases and wasting time by not speaking the media language.
I am also a veteran journalist with more than 30 years experience at every level and in every medium. In that stead, I feel for those professionals at ABC News and other outlets who now will be forced to defend their profession even more stringently and work even harder to get the story right every single time.
Every. Single. Time. There can be no slips when one is reporting the news.
ABC News President James Goldston nailed it in his angry response to the erroneous reporting, pointing to the need to get it right instead of being first.
It’s the very first thing I was taught by Chuck Dent, my first News Director at WIOD 610 Radio in Miami, Florida what seems like eons ago. He drilled it into my head every day. Never let me forget it. Pushed me to be better every single time by taking extra steps, then a few more, to get the story right.
We live in a media era where there is daily bombardment from what are actual fake news outlets, what I call the “Clickbait Media”. The Internet has become home to so many of these outlets I am kept busy steering my clients away from them for a number of reasons.
First and foremost, their reputation isn’t the best. The bulk of their reporting is chock full of exaggerations, unchecked sources and even provable lies. Why would you want your reputation, your story, your message, sullied by association when it’s easily preventable?
ABC News is not one of them. I deal with their stations, reporters, desk officers and news professionals every day. I will have no hesitation to bring a client message to their outlets.
This is a rare mistake that has been quickly addressed. I have zero doubt no one feels worse about it than Brian Ross, a veteran broadcast journalist. He’s been at the center of a few controversies over his career. This one may be difficult to overcome.
Which brings us to that response plan if you are the individual, the organization, the event at the center of such a report.
The Quick Response Plan is ready to go at any time. It must include an official response from the right person, not just any spokesperson. It must be level headed, well thought out, and delivered to those members of the media we work with, and know will provide opportunity for what is truly fair and balanced reporting. That’s what sets my clients apart from the rest. We not only know whom to talk to, which reporter and assignment desk to get the message, but we have a personal relationship with the people we trust.
My media strategy is based on those personal relationships and building that trust. It ensures the reputation of those we work with is above reproach.
Media, whether local, regional, national or international, sets the tone for how you are viewed. Be prepared.
Have a strategy ready at all times.