In their common crisis of credibility, a top priority for U.S. news outlets should be busting myths, include those perpetuated by the President of the United States.
One common misperception, which seems to have grown in stature in recent years, is that somehow, separately owned and operated news organizations are coordinated as “The Media,” together working to destroy a President and drive a shared agenda. Unfortunately, a plan for this week, with admirable intentions, just reinforces that way of thinking for a portion of the public.
Dozens of newspapers have agreed, on Thursday of this week, to write editorials condemning the President’s frequent attacks on journalists. Each participating local organization will write its own piece. The message is important. A vocal slice of the public buys the act from the man who has always basked in any media attention, but sows seeds of disdain for virtually all outlets that don’t fawn over him. But the appearance of collusion between outlets could backfire, from a PR perspective, when local newspapers in particular need all of the PR help they can get.
Another PR challenge for newspapers is that, especially in the online age where all content looks pretty much the same, readers don’t understand the difference between a news article, a column, an editorial and an op-ed. We hear clients, educated consumers of news, mix up the terms daily. Chances are high that the purpose and process of a newspaper editorial on this topic could be misconstrued and rendered ineffective.
As we have pointed out before, the bastardization of the term “Fake News” and “Enemy of the People” shtick are phony and dangerous, yet politically effective. It all must be exposed and countered, for the good of our society. While dozens of newspapers, especially in the digital age, have an opportunity to reach millions of readers, the end here may not justify the means. From a PR perspective, it looks like something it’s not and perception issues are what we work to avoid.