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I'm a Public Information Specialist (who moonlights as a graphic design
instructor which is why I'm on this list)......misquoting can be a big
problem. The job of a reporter is to tell a story. Interesting stories sell
papers. Bad or uninteresting stories don't. Some reporters don't want to let
the facts get in the way of a good story. You have to admit, it would be a
great human interest story if it were true....a man with a prosthetic arm
overcomes his disability to influence the lives of thousands of kids by
building a field of dreams and inventing little league baseball....the story
A few years back a reporter from the Los Angeles Times called me because she
heard a rumor that my high school computer graphics students were being
recruited by motion picture special effects companies...and they were being
offered 6 figure salaries because there were so few qualified artists in the
field and the demand was so high. I had two conversations with her where I
plainly said "That's NOT true. The truth is I've had guest speakers talk
about their jobs, but no one is doing recruiting. A few students have
graduated and gotten jobs, but they aren't making 6 figures."......... so
what story do you think she wrote?....There was no story to be told in the
truth. She had her mind made up what she was going to write before she even
talked to me. It was more interesting than the truth....on the other hand,
our phone rang off the hook for a week straight from parents who desperately
wanted to transfer their kids into our school.
As far as other staffers trying to get you fired because of what a newspaper
printed ....hopefully the people who make those decisions aren't idiots who
think that everything they read must be true....I love that photo of
President Truman gleefully holding up the newspaper with the headline "Dewey
Defeats Truman!". Just because it is in the media doesn't make it the Truth.
If misquoting is a problem, here are the standard procedures:
- Immediately contact the section editor by phone and explain the real story.
Don't be rude or self-righteous or threaten to cancel your subscription.
Just tell them what facts of the story are wrong. If the paper has any
integrity, they will deal with reporters who have a problem getting their
- If this is a consistent problem for your organization, you should appoint
someone to serve as your official spokesperson or contract with a public
relations firm - The media liaison serves as a single point of contact within
the organization and will maintain a relationship with the media. It will
have more influence with the media if the same person calls them up to pitch
stories, fax news releases or deal with accuracy. The problem with some
organiations is that media information isn't coordinated from a central
office or person....five different people from five different departments are
faxing press releases or calling....it dilutes your effectiveness. The
single person specializing in media relations can provide accountability.
- If it is a bad problem, limit the type of contact you provide to the
offending party. As a museum it's not in your best interest to totally cut
off a media outlet. You still need exposure....and they want to cover the
interesting things you are doing. Provide a variety of quotes in your press
releases or a written statement from which they can draw. When a reporter
calls asking to talk to someone, say that no one is available for comment and
everything is stated in the press release. It's not like you are getting a
subpoena and you are required to talk to them. It's okay to say no....this
also provides written proof of what you are saying.
Hope this helps.
In a message dated 5/19/00 10:10:01 AM Pacific Daylight Time,
> What can you do about being continually misquoted in the press? The latest
> is a quote about my grandfather founding little league in Canada. The
> reporter asked me if I knew much about baseball before researching our
> latest exhibit. I told her I learned to play on a diamond build by my
> grandfather, when his kids were little and he organized a youth league on
> Prince Edward Island, Canada. Now my grandfather did a lot of wonderful
> things, organized several different youth leagues for different sports,
> invented different attachments for his prosthetic (sp) arm so he could play
> different sports safely, and build a pitching machine/batting cage for his
> kids before the major leagues were using them regularly, but he didn't
> little league. The last time this happened a docent from the fine arts
> museum who hates money being spent on the Children's Art Museum and me, cut
> out quotes from articles (just the individual sentences not the whole
> article) took them to my boss, and called me a liar. He told her that he
> would be amazed if the paper ever got a quote right. It is not just me this
> is happening to, they have misquoted my boss, our collections manager, the
> educator, and other organizations have the same problem. Any ideas on how
> can protect ourselves. The reporters are being sloppy not deliberately
> trying to mislead people, but the troublemakers use these misquotes to hurt
> staff and in some cases try and get them fired.
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