As media standards slide, PR pros must prepare for the fallout

Many traditional news outlets are starting to play fast and loose with the facts. Here’s a basic checklist for handling false claims from the media.

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Members of the media will likely deny it, but with blogs and social media becoming more and more the go-to source for news, the media—particularly the traditional media—may be letting some checks and balances slide.

Having spent the last 20 years in newsrooms, I’m realizing that getting the news out first is taking precedent over getting it absolutely right.

The editor of The Denver Post this weekend wrote a column admitting that his staff felt pressured to run a front-page story about Denver’s mayor-elect allegedly being linked to a prostitution ring after a local blog posted the allegations.

The Post was not able to make any public connections confirming the story, even after reviewing reams of phone records. Its only public proof was an allegation by a pimp convicted of tax evasion. The paper ran a supplemental front-page story several days later saying the claims were unfounded.

This is a good example of how the media landscape is changing and why crisis communicators are all too aware how one negative article, blog, or tweet can snowball and poison a reputation that has taken years to build.

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