by Dan Ward
PR professionals are often accused by the media of “spinning” stories rather than communicating truthfully. So it’s gratifying to point out when a media organization goes into spin control.
On Wednesday, the Orlando Magic held a press conference to announce the departure of CEO Bob Vander Weide. During the presser, WFTV Reporter Daralene Jones read a supposed transcript from a conversation Vander Weide had early that morning with Magic star Dwight Howard, questioning whether Vander Weide “drunk dialed” Howard. Jones quoted from the transcript, asking if Vander Weide actually said “Orlando is a horrible place.” (Note: transcript includes foul language.)
Only one problem – the transcript was written by Barry Petchesky at Deadspin.com, a sports news site known for sarcasm, humor and occasional satire. The transcript reported on Deadspin is filled with so many “I love you’s” and supposed sounds of sobbing, sobbing and more sobbing, that it should be clear to nearly anyone that it was meant as satire. At the very least, the reporter should have checked the report before asking Vander Weide about the transcript in a “news” conference.
Here comes the spin. When asked about the report by the Orlando Sentinel, WFTV News Director Bob Jordan supported Jones, saying “fact is sometimes woven into satires. It’s one of the techniques journalists sometimes use … she just asked him to comment on something in cyberspace.”
Sorry, Bob. That’s like saying it’s appropriate to do a follow-up on a “Daily Show with Jon Stewart” report because the show’s false reports are usually based on news stories.
What you should have done is what PR professionals advise their clients to do when mistakes are made. If you’ve messed up, say so, then communicate the steps you are taking to make sure you don’t mess up again. In a case like this, you could have easily done so in a humorous way. Instead, you chose “spin.”