8 things to consider when TV news wants to skewer your client

Many television news programs will take a side, and if it’s not that of your client, get ready for a shellacking. Here’s how to play defense against broadcast journalists.

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That’s still true today when it comes to newspapers and news websites, although I get to see it from an issues-management perspective.

When we have a client who gets profiled in the local newspaper, it usually isn’t long before we get a call from the local television stations. That’s good news for clients in the spotlight for good deeds, but discouraging for ones dealing with unfavorable news.

Television news stories are mostly formulaic, focusing on the human-interest angles, a close second to pet stories. Difficult-to-explain facts, long-form documents, or the intricacies of a particular story rarely get air time. Forget it if there are any legal issues involved.

If newspapers write for readers at a fifth-grade level, television reports cater to the kindergarten set. A three-minute story is not going to spend two minutes explaining both sides of the issue. That’s just the nature of the beast; a 30-minute newscast (including commercial time) has to shoehorn all the day’s news, so in-depth reporting is not a priority.

It’s discouraging from a crisis-communication perspective, but there are some ways to at least get television reporters to attempt to include some comprehensive reporting, or to minimize the negative tones.

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