NPR Owns Up to a Major Error

by Dan Ward

We have all seen how the rush to publish can sometimes lead to errors in news reporting.  Kudos to NPR Ombudsman Alicia Shepard for providing a detailed, step-by-step explanation for one such mistake made by her organization this weekend.

Soon after breaking the story of the rampage shooting in Tucson, NPR unfortunately followed up on its “scoop” by mistakenly reporting that Rep. Gabrielle Giffords had died.

While defending her organization for being transparent and apologizing for its mistakes, Shepard spares few punches in explaining how those mistakes were made, and how they could have easily been avoided.

Her closing comment, “many people will remember the mistake and not the correction,” is one that virtually all PR people have voiced themselves at one time or another, after fighting for a tiny correction on A2 after some news outlet published incorrect information.

Competition to be first is resulting in more and more mistakes.  And the instant-sharing capabilities of Twitter mean those mistakes are seen by more eyes.  That’s why we advise clients in our Message Matrix® training sessions that monitoring what is being said about you and your organization is now a round-the-clock responsibility.

Waiting for a correction is a thing of the past.  When a news story mistakenly starts a wildfire, it’s YOUR job to put it out


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