Good News, Bad News Media coverage boosts visibility and public awareness. But what can you do if the reporter gets it wrong? Spreading the Word
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Spreading the Word  |   December 01, 2014
Good News, Bad News
Author Notes
  • Francine Pierson is an ASHA public relations manager. fpierson@asha.org
    Francine Pierson is an ASHA public relations manager. fpierson@asha.org×
Article Information
Professional Issues & Training / ASHA News & Member Stories / Spreading the Word
Spreading the Word   |   December 01, 2014
Good News, Bad News
The ASHA Leader, December 2014, Vol. 19, online only. doi:10.1044/leader.STW1.19122014.np
The ASHA Leader, December 2014, Vol. 19, online only. doi:10.1044/leader.STW1.19122014.np
The school year is about to begin, and a reporter asks to interview you for an article she is writing about speech and language disorders common in young children. You jump at the chance. An article would boost the visibility of your fairly new private practice—and perhaps send more clients your way—and help parents recognize if their children need to be evaluated.
The interview goes well, but you are disappointed with the article. The reporter used several of your quotes out of context, giving readers the impression that many children “outgrow” their speech difficulties.
Choosing to engage with the media involves some degree of risk. On the whole, news stories involving ASHA members are positive, serving as excellent promotional and public education vehicles. But if you’re not happy with the outcome of a story, what can you do?
Besides writing a letter to the editor or commenting online (see below), there’s not much you can do once the article is published. The ideal is always prevention. You can take several steps to help ensure accurate reporting:
Get the details. The more you know about a story in advance, the better. Ask the reporter why he or she is writing the article and who else is being interviewed. Ask for the questions in advance. If it is a broadcast interview, find out the format and expected length of the segment, whether it is live or taped, and others who will be appearing with you. Most reporters or producers will provide these details. Their answers can give you a good idea of the direction of the story, and raise any potential red flags.
Prepare your messaging. What are the most important points you want to communicate? Think of two or three key messages ahead of time and how you can communicate these succinctly and in plain language. If you speak in “sound bites,” a reporter is more likely to quote you and less likely to paraphrase what you said.
Be deliberate in what you say. Don’t make a statement you aren’t 100 percent comfortable with, and never speculate or guess (you can always say you’ll get back to the reporter if you don’t have an immediate answer). Remember that when you are speaking to a reporter, anything you say is on the record, even if you think the formal interview portion is over (or hasn’t started) and you are just casually chatting.
Ask to review any quote attributed to you prior to publication. Some reporters will be willing to send quotes, and others will not. Different publications (and reporters) have different policies, but it never hurts to ask.
If you’re not happy with a published piece, consider a few options.
Put it in perspective. Many of us tend to be our own worst critics. Take a step back and consider if the article and/or your quote is really as bad as you think it is, or if you would have just preferred different wording. Media stories rarely—if ever—turn out in the exact way you’d choose if you did it yourself. You may want to ask a colleague for an unbiased opinion.
Consider the long view. Sometimes the media get things wrong, but they also do things right. Ideally, you want to cultivate a long-term relationship in which you have several opportunities to be covered—and covered correctly. So the question becomes: If you decide to challenge coverage, you want to make your points effectively without jeopardizing your chances for future coverage.
Ask for a correction. If you have been misquoted or the piece contains factual errors, you can ask for a correction. Contact the editor and raise your concerns, with specific supporting references and evidence. Be aware, however, that publications rarely issue corrections unless the inaccuracy is irrefutable. If your objection doesn’t meet the strict criteria for corrections, you still may want to reach out to the reporter and/or editor. Many appreciate the feedback. Your conversation may not change the published piece, but it may affect future stories.
Write a letter to the editor. Published letters provide feedback to a publication and gain the attention of its readership. Submit your letter immediately after a story appears—timeliness increases the chance it will be published. Check the publication’s guidelines (word count, submission procedures, etc.) and make sure you follow them. Also, include your complete contact information and be available in the days after you submit, as news outlets typically contact writers to verify authorship and notify them of edits.
Post a comment. Commenting on the online version of a piece is generally the easiest and most direct way to respond. Be timely and factual—not emotional. This feedback route is effective, especially since many sites have largely eliminated inappropriate comments by requiring readers to register with the site or post through their Facebook profiles.
It is important to remember that for the most part, the good outweighs the bad when dealing with media. Media coverage is perhaps the best way to educate the public about communication disorders and the professions. As always, feel free to contact ASHA’s public relations staff with questions at pr@asha.org.
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FROM THIS ISSUE
December 2014
Volume 19, Issue 12