Media and Reputation

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There are many examples out there in which the media takes a story, frames it one way or the other and presents it to the public. Some of the most popular and recent ones might be Megan Stammers and Jeremy Foster, the teacher and the under aged student that ran together for a holiday in France; another might be Jimmy Savile’s allegations that he had been abusing children during his life, and many more.

Jimmy Savile was a UK national pride whom is now accused of heavy sexual perversion. Worse than that? He can’t even defend himself anymore and everybody forgot to mention all the amazing stuff he has done in his life. This is how a reputation gets distroyed forever and the media is the presenter of the story. There are many sides to an issue. Sometimes the media’s framing over a story completely destroyed innocent people’s or organisations’ reputations, some other times the media was the one that helped solving a case. Problem is: when is it ethical and when is it not?

Perhaps, in a black and white world, the answer will be that it is not ethical to present a story to the public that has not been officially proven. But the best way to go around it would probably be to present an issue AS IT IS to the public, without any human bias, to present fairly and balanced all sides of the story and to wait for the official conclusion. But even like this there is a high chance that somebody’s reputation can be heavily stained, journalists are people and readers have the freedom of having their own opinion at the end of the day.

The use of media in such cases is sometimes useful, like finding some ones whereabouts, helping catch a fugitive of the law and so on. Completely forbidding the appearance of cases like this in the media, not only that does not apply with the liberty of speech but also it cuts from the power of it in situations in which it can be actually useful.

Therefore the best conclusion here would be to present a story as it is, without framing it or showing only one side of the issue. If there are allegations that have not been proven yet, they should be called so and the facts presented in the media should be presented without human bias and without any personal conclusions or opinions attached to it.

When it comes to PR though, reputation management would not be as exciting if the media would not stain reputations at the smallest gossip. On the other hand the media is not only a channel through which reputations can be destroyed but it goes both ways – it is also the one that can restore it. And in the end…we now have social media…any laws against the freedom of speech on ANY issue would be USELESS!


by Diana

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5 thoughts on “Media and Reputation

  1. Peter says:

    Crikey what are they feeding you guys?

    As a time-served journalist I have to defend the professionalism of the job – if you peddle crap then you won’t get readers, so there is an overarching drive to balance what you present.

    unless… you’re working for an organisation with either a commercial or political intrinsic bias. We know that Nick Robinson is the BBC’s token tory, but equally you get professionals like Humphreys and Paxman who’ll take anyone to pieces f they dissemble.

    If you come into the world of PR with the view that all media is biased, then I suspect you’re in the wrong job.

  2. Ethical Blabbing says:

    Hello Peter! Happy to have your insight on journalism on our blog. What you mean by bias? Is there anything such as pure objectivity in the media (or anywhere)? Doesn’t the media seek to present its stories in such a way it appeals to its audience?

    Diana

  3. Peter says:

    Diana that’s an interesting perspective.

    For years one of my greatest frustrations with US clients was that they could not understand why the European press didn’t print every release they issued without amend.

    As it turns out – according to journalist friends on both East and West Coast, the reason the US press is so much more compliant is that they are scared witless of being sued. Here in the EU, amazingly, we have a much less accepting approach to press comment and releases and any decent journalist’s first action is to query the information in front of him.

    When Watergate broke, the US press lauded Woodward & Bernstein as folk heroes because they dared to question which led them to expose the corruption in the Nixon administration. Over here that would not be seen as anything other than doing the job they’re paid for.

    More than a few times I’ve been told by friends on both East and West Coasts that he biggest difference between US and UK is that in the UK we have journalists, in the US they;re called ‘reporters.’

  4. Patrick says:

    Interesting article…You say that media should publish stories as they are: no framing, no exaggerations no bias.. What’s important to remember is that in many cases, journalists rely on press releases written by PR professionals, whose job is to frame stories in order to place the company they work for in a favourable light… so that;s the challenge.. how do you strike the balance between the journalistic and PR perspective? what’s wrong and right for each industry?…

  5. Hello Patrick,

    True, and PR is all about of managing the message. I agree with you there. My main problem was connected with issues that involve reputation, personal reputation or corporate reputation especially when accused of something. When you speak of press releases you obviously get one side of the story (how good is a product, how innocent is a company etc.). Even as a future PR practitioner, I still believe that the media is not too bothered nowadays to investigate the other sides of a story, or get other points of view, and many times journalists just go ahead and do assumptions that are based on different factors such as their cultures, their beliefs, their sources etc. THAT is what I think is inappropriate and even for press releases, they should be displayed to the public as a statement not as a fact, e.g. ‘this product is the best on the market’ should be presented to the media as: this company states that their product is the best on the market and investigate the consumer opinion as well…Just as a principle, reputation is played on assumptions by the media under the public eye and that can cause major difficulties to a person or a company.

    Diana

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