CNN, Fox get news wrong: What apology?

by PR Coach on July 1, 2012

CNN reports wrong Court decision on Obamacare

The news story should have been about the Supreme Court ruling on Obamacare. Instead, it became a story about media screw ups and trying to get the story first instead of getting the story right.

Boy, did they ever blow it and there’s a cautionary tale for PR and crisis managers.

In an effort to be first in reporting the momentous healthcare decision, CNN, FOX and other media got the news utterly wrong. CNN quickly tried to recover but as you listen to the news clips and see the Twitter feeds, they tell the tale of sloppy journalism better than any outside commentators and critics.

Poynter.org does the best job of covering the fiasco. Three stories noted below look at the issue in the media and inside CNN. Obamacare is a complex story and needed a least a few minutes to analyze the decision and report on it properly. The Twitter exchange on Poynter reveals reporter and public frustration.

In these TV clips, Wolf Blitzer errs, then fumbles, stumbles and tries to recover. Fox screws up too. Most media are reluctant to admit a mistake will be newspapers will grudgingly issue a correction if pressed hard enough. They often seem to take the attitude that “We weren’t wrong. We just weren’t right.” Shades of Wall Street!

Much later in the day, CNN admits its mistake in a “correction” on its website and on Twitter:

CNN Website Correction:


 CNN Tweets Correction:
PR & Crisis Management Lessons

Ironically, nowhere can I find on air apologies from either of the two cable news networks. Wouldn’t it have been refreshing and honest for Wolf Blitzer to come back later, on air, and issue a heartfelt apology? Same with Fox but don’t hold your breath on that one.

If I was advising a client in a similar situation, I would have offered the following advice:

  • admit you made a mistake
  • apologize
  • reassure the public that you will do your best to make sure that it doesn’t happen again.

These type of media mistakes and journalistic errors in judgment have become all too common. They reflect poorly on both news integrity and media credibility. It’s only fair that we should judge the media just as harshly as they judge business and political leaders for their lapses in judgment.

Remember, there’s a huge difference between a correction and an apology!

It’s a little media relations advice that these two cable news networks could take to heart.

What do you think? Are you losing faith in the media? Your comments are welcome.

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Author: Jeff Domansky

Visuals: Poynter.org, CNN

More PR reading:

“AP Orders Staff To Stop Taunting News Outlets For Getting Health Care Ruling Wrong” [Jim Romanesko]
“CNN Can’t Even Do Breaking News Right Anymore ” [Salon]
CNN Correction: Supreme Court Ruling [CNN]
“CNN, Fox Fumble the Call, Capping Months of Media Misperception” [LA Times]
CNN, Fox News err in covering Supreme Court health care ruling [Poynter]
CNN gets it wrong; we’re all the worse for it [Gregarious]
CNN memo says network is analyzing Supreme Court coverage mistakes [Poynter]
CNN’s mistake on Obama health care ruling historic [Newsday]
“POTUS First Learned Erroneous News on Court Decision from Cable TV” [ABC News]
Who was first with healthcare ruling depends on where you were looking [Poynter]