Wednesday, September 26, 2007

NY Times says MoveOn ad was a "mistake"

This blog entry is going to start an ongoing series of entries that will appear as often as needed when the news media makes the news. It's an unwritten rule somewhere that the news business should only report the news, and that the news business should not BE the news. But sometimes, the news media screws up, and their errors make the news. Reporting the news is an ongoing experiment, and it is a fine balance of reporting the facts without affecting the facts. So when the news makes the news, then it must be reported as soon as possible so as to fix any problems caused by the media.

The reason for that is because it is said that the only commodity that the news business sells is the truth. When a mistake is discovered, then it must be revealed and dealt with rather than let it sit and get worse. The best recent example of not fixing a mistake and letting a problem get worse is Dan Rather's "Memogate." When a given media outlet like CBS during "Memogate" delays too long in correcting their mistakes, then they only make themselves look worse. Professional news outlets must deal with the problem as quickly and thoroughly as possible. Now let's go on to a good example of dealing with a problem.

Earlier in the week, the New York Times said that it made a mistake giving the online group, (known to be a liberal activist organization), a price break from its usual rate for posting a full-page ad on a specific date. MoveOn has already paid the $77,000+ difference.

There's a familiar phrase that comes to mind: "It's easier to ask for forgiveness than ask for permission." Why do I mention this phrase? Because I think that that's what happened here. Apparently, the ad department of the NY Times thought that they could get away with giving a discount rate to a group that largely aligns with their political leanings. However, in this day and age, that can't be done, especially with so many conservative groups just waiting for any excuse to slap the "liberal bias" label onto a media outlet that seems to fall into that trap.

Fortunately, the NYT dealt with the problem right away and MoveOn paid the difference that was due. That's the best thing to do. Take care of the problem, make your apologies, make amends, and then move on. It's that easy. The stupid thing to do is what CBS did: deny and obfuscate and make things worse. To deny a mistake that is obvious is to come across as arrogant and clueless. Hopefully the NYT saw what happened to CBS and learned from their mistake.

The news business, like any organization run by humans, makes mistakes. The readers and viewers of the media must accept that, and be willing to forgive when a news outlet makes a mistake and makes amends for their errors. However, the news outlet must also be willing to admit mistakes. That has to come first.

And now, along with certain watchdog groups out there keeping the media on their toes, I'm also on the lookout! ;-)

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