Over the last five decades I have witnessed an increasing wariness, often a flat out mistrust for the news media. There are dozens of polls that explain the mistrust is a result of reporters and editors making mistakes. Many others lay the blame on reporters pushing unbalanced, or one-side stories; while still others cite in accurate reporting.
Let’s operate from the premise all of those feelings are correct. So, what do you do about it?
The first thing you should do when you feel you or your organization have been presented unfairly or inaccurately in a news story is remember people make mistakes. The second thing you should do is re-read it or listen to it again. Make sure the inaccuracy is what you believed it to be initially. Then craft an email to the reporter, usually his or her email address is above or below the story. In your email calmly explain what is wrong with the story from your perspective.
Remember, news stories are based on fact, not a reporter’s opinion about something. That is reserved for columns; so make sure you are discussing a news story-not a column or editorial.
Detail exactly what remedy you want. This usually entails asking for a correction. A paper is not likely to re-print the entire story with the requested correction, nor will a broadcast outlet air a corrected version of the story. Please don’t threaten to sue, unless you have spoken with an attorney already. Reporters and editors are human so threats are not likely to endear you to them.
If there is no response to your email after two days it is time to phone the reporter, explain you are following up your email. As long as the reporter says he or she has seen your email, it is the perfect time to ask when the correction will appear. If you are told there won’t be one find out why, and then ask to speak to that person’s editor. The editor may or may not be aware of the error but can decide whether there will be one. If the answer is no there won’t be a correction, find out why. You might not always get a correction or retraction, and the reasoning could be this/ between why and why not.
Even if the exchange doesn’t turn out in your favor keep your cool. You never know when you might need/want news coverage again and you don’t want to give that outlet a reason to not cover up. Remember the old adage too – “never argue with anyone who buys ink by the barrel”
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