Are you serious?
That’s what many readers of Appalachian State University’s student newspaper are asking after the publication issued an apology that belittles its readers.
And apparently the answer is yes, it is serious.
This apology is a shining example of what not
to do—particularly in the world of social media. Perhaps the PR students at Appalachian State, located in Boone, N.C., can offer the aspiring journalists a lesson in the art of the mea culpa
On Wednesday, The Appalachian Online
erroneously reported via Twitter that Los Arcoiris Mexican Restaurant was closing. Here’s how it went down:
The news outlet issued an editorial
“apology” for getting it wrong. But instead of a groveling mea culpa
, the paper chided its audience for caring about its news stories only when faced with the threat of losing cheap burritos:
“We're always happy to admit an oversight in our reporting process, and we'll use the incident as a learning opportunity. Social media reporting is brand-new. There are still plenty of mistakes and lessons in our future.
“All the same, however, we're disappointed. Throughout the morning Wednesday, our Twitter timeline exploded with feedback. We even received a string of phone calls to our office.
“All of a sudden, people cared—and it was all about a Mexican restaurant.
“Sorry burrito lovers, in a list of the most important issues covered this year, the potential closing of Los wouldn't even make the top 10.
“We have never seen students engage with our content the way they did today. And frankly, we think there are things that deserve your attention more.
“Instead of suddenly mobilizing when your quesadillas and margaritas are at stake, start engaging with issues that actually affect you—and the thousands of dollars you pay this university each year.”
The comments to the apology say it all. Here’s one:
“What in the world is this? You write a downright untrue statement and then you're surprised that people are upset that a place in their very small town that they love is closing without notice? Do you know what a newspaper is? Do you know what anything you're saying means at all? Good grief. What a joke.”
For the most part, that’s the tenor of all the responses thus far.
did not respond to a request for comment that PR Daily
sent on Thursday afternoon. But it did send an email to Jim Romenesko
explaining the paper's position.
Although the primary lesson from this incident is obvious—don’t insult your audience, especially when you
screwed up—there are four more worth mentioning:
1. College students love their cheap food.
2. In the Digital Age, audiences will decide what’s important to them.
3. Many journalists want to make that same assertion, but they never do. In the future, never do.
4. Get used to the criticism: Life doesn’t get any easier once you leave campus.
How about it, readers? What did the editorial get wrong, or right? Was the message OK but the tone all wrong? Your thoughts, please.