Add this to the topic of rumor management–dealing with fake news, that is rumors that swirl around possible breaking news. Here’s an article that gives a compelling recent example. It’s now pretty much common understanding that the media, desperate for declining audiences on which their revenue is based, relies on immediacy to attract eyes on the screens (TV or internet). That’s why Cable and local TV channels now have an almost continuous heading of “Breaking News” overlaying their talking heads because they want to convince you it is happening right now, if you blink you will miss something critical and most important you won’t find something more immediate anyplace else. After all, what is more immediate than right now? That’s what I’ve been wondering for a while. How will they improve on right now? Well, the future. Seems pretty obvious now. The aforementioned article may just presage the style of news to come. “We’re working on a story right now that will blow your socks off, we can’t tell you what it is about, but here’s a little hint (salacious detail inserted here) and we can’t even confirm that we are doing a story, but…”
The concern for reputation managers and crisis managers is obvious. I’ve been saying for a while now that the job of crisis management has been changing from being the first source of the information (virtually impossible in all but invisible crises because citizen journalists and those with some info or opinion will almost always beat you with the story) to rumor management. Because when they beat you with the story and the info that you have and want to share, you have to make sure what they are saying is true and accurate. Rumor management means absolutely being on top of what is being said on the internet and responding very quickly and often very aggressively.
Perhaps now is a good time to once again bring up the issue of trust. This article further comments on the Edelman Trust Barometer which I’ve commented on here before but highlights some of the reasons why trust is such an issue. Here’s a quote:
The barometer also noted the credibility of TV dropped 23 points and radio news and newspapers were down 20 points between 2008 and 2010.
One needs only to look at cable news to see why — breaking news on CNN has a tendency to be gossip repeated on Twitter. The rumor mill has taken over journalism. Part of the reason for the increase in popularity of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert has been their willingness to say, “Can you believe the shit the mainstream media is shoveling?”