Is it always a mistake to repeat inaccurate information?

It’s long been considered an ironclad PR rule to avoid repeating a falsehood, but occasionally, failing to repeat what was incorrect can lead to confusion.

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Three years ago, I published a post called “Seven things to do when reporters get it wrong,” in which I offered the following advice:

In print journalism, you almost always have forums available to you for a response, such as a letter to the editor or op-ed. If it’s an option, use it. Don’t repeat the original errors in reporting, since it just gives those errors more airtime—just articulate your point of view.

When I was coming up as a media relations professional, that rule was rarely questioned. Repeating the original error only served to reinforce an inaccurate narrative and, thus, should be avoided at all costs.

Now, I’m questioning that advice.

I’m not suggesting that such guidance is wrong in all cases, but rather that we should question whether that advice is absolute. From personal experience, I can tell you how challenging it can be to write a letter that tries to correct an inaccuracy without mentioning it. It can be done, but it too often leads to tortured writing, and clarity can get lost in the process.

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