Let me put it right out there–I think a “Fact Check” section should be on just about every major organization’s news website. And a prominent feature of almost any crisis or incident specific website.
1) The media often get it wrong and their corrections (on the rare occasions when they are willing to do them) or often insipid and hidden.
2) Rumor management is job one for official communicators.
(Explanation–when news reports are increasingly generated on social media, the “official news sources–you” simply can’t be fast enough in most cases to provide the initial reports. That leaves you the job of knowing what is being said and making certain it is correct–rumor management)
3) The social media to mainstream media interconnectedness means that rumors, even wild ones, can be spread and grow with incredible speed.
(By the time you get around to the process of contacting the reporter, moving it up the chain, them reviewing and making a decision about retraction, the story has long gone and something more immediately has replaced it.)
4) Because you are the broadcaster.
(Today, more and more news is going directly from the source to the public and stakeholders–mainstream media is losing its position as the sole or primary “mediator” of information.)
If you want to see how this works, I suggest you look look at Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (full disclosure–they are a client and I was involved in setting up their Fact Check process). A local ABC affiliate ran a story that was incorrect. It involves the very sensitive topic of water rates. The public affairs staff at DWP led by Joe Ramallo quickly noted the incorrect report on the Fact Check section of their news website. I’m certain they also contacted the station. A correction was soon in coming and DWP profusely thanked the station for the correction.
1) Would KABC been as fast and as forthcoming as they were if DWP was not very publicly communicating their clear error of fact?
2) Next time, will the reporters and editors treat stories from secondary sources with a little more caution–in fact, any stories about DWP with a little more caution?
Public affairs is all about credibility. Fact Check only works if the correction is absolutely, 100% correct and without animus or attitude. It’s about what is true and who can be trusted. And that is why it is so effective, because believe it or not, even mainstream media know that credibility is important.