Everybody makes mistakes, including yours truly. But some mistakes merit instant acknowledgment.
The other day the Fox 5 affiliate in San Diego, California ran a story about a rape suspect whose charges had been dismissed. But while the anchor was talking about this story, the photo used of the so-called rape suspect was none other than Pres. Barack Obama.
As mentioned, everybody makes mistakes, but you have to have enough self-awareness to know how people will perceive them. Fox 5 in San Diego is owned/controlled by News Corp., which is owned by Rupert Murdoch, the guy who owns Fox News Channel. Therefore, a lot of people are going to assume there was some sort of nefarious political overtones to this slight.
The smart thing for the station to have done would have been to instantly acknowledge the mistake, within the very next news segment. If you admit a mistake right away, disclose what happened, and apologize, there’s not much left for anyone else to say. But when you ignore your mistakes, and other people are left to point them out, that’s when the trouble begins.
This cuts both ways. Imagine if MSNBC had run a story about neo-Nazis in central Europe getting off from charges of beating up ethnic groups, and MSNBC had run photos of Congressman Paul Ryan, or Ronald Reagan. Obviously, there would’ve been an outcry, that this was a cheap political smear.
I’m sure the mistake in San Diego was just an accidental blunder. But if you’re going to be a high profile news organization, or political figure who lives and dies in the media, you have to be quick to apologize for mistakes that fit into people’s preconceived biases of who you are and what you stand for.
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