Everyone makes mistakes occasionally. Everyone. What is often more significant is how you react once your mistakes have been revealed. On Monday, a Fox News reporter had claimed to have seen a Baltimore police officer shoot a black man on the street. This turned out to be wrong.
Within half an hour, anchor Shep Smith went on the air and said “We screwed up.”
Here is more of what Smith had to say:
“And a bunch of people who are trained at this sort of thing, saw it, and it wasn’t real. And now something has been created there that is wrong, and unnecessary. We were wrong. Our people on scene were wrong. Theirs was an error that was honest and straightforward and our duty as journalists is not to make mistakes and when we make mistakes we are duty-bound to correct them immediately and as clearly as possible.”
By saying this quickly and non-defensively, Smith made the best of a bad situation. The apology wasn’t buried as a footnote on a webpage 12 hours later in small print. The apology was unambiguous. And that is why it was effective.
Of course there is a school of thought that says Fox should be apologizing daily for errors in reporting that fit the contours of a right-wing slant, but that is the topic for a another discussion. Specific to this one issue of a potential police shooting of another black man on the street, Fox handled itself perfectly.
TJ Walker is the producer of the world’s largest online media and presentation training school. You can find more info at https://www.mediatrainingworldwide.com/online-training.html