It was Mark Twain who stated that the difference between fiction and reality is that fiction has to be credible.
Despite the opinion of some, the media is an essential and real function of how we receive information.
Whether you have a belief that one network leans to the left or to the right of the political spectrum, there is often plenty of truth delivered by reporters and correspondents.
President Donald Trump has made it part of his platform to call out several networks as “fake news” and will often criticize hosts of some of the cable news networks through Twitter.
At the end of June and into early July, President Trump took to the social network to call out MSNBC hosts Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough. The president called Scarborough “psycho” and Brzezinski “crazy” among other things. Then, on July 3, President Trump turned his ire towards CNN. Via Mr. Trump’s Twitter account, a meme was shared showing him “wrestling” and taking down CNN.
Some in the media have fought back on social. CNN issued a statement after President Trump’s tweet, which said, in part, “We will keep doing our jobs. He should start doing his.”
Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough also responded on MSNBC after the president criticized them in June.
While these examples are on a larger scale, the media has been under a microscope for decades.
Letters to the Editor sections often are critical of reporters’ coverage of a story or how the paper handled an issue. Sports sections in some cities have “Fan Feedback.” The advent of blogs and social media have taken criticism to another level.
So, should the media just sit back and take insults and criticism? Simply put: No.
However, it has to be handled professionally and tactfully, despite the source, even if it does come from the President of the United States. Here are three ways the media can do this.
In the example of President Trump vs. CNN, the cable channel should not have responded to the meme.
Their statement on Twitter telling Mr. Trump to “start doing his” job was not necessary. Yes, the president was wrong. But, CNN continues to leave themselves open to further vitriol.
Brzezinski and Scarborough should have also taken the high road. It’s in our nature to be a bit defensive when criticized.
The best defense against insults? Stand true to your ethics and honesty.
The famous words of former President Theodore Roosevelt ring true to this day.
If you are confident in the work you have done, it will speak for you.
Of course, the big stick reference does not imply violence here. It can, however, be akin to your integrity. When individuals come forward to belittle the reporting you have done, it is essential to not belittle in return. Let the big stick be the trust you have built over time.
In this social world, we feel the need to comment on everything. Journalists do it; you have most likely done it. That urge to comment on a tweet, Facebook post or Instagram upload can cause issues. Many of which cause irreparable harm to not only brands, but members of the media.
As I learned from Mitch Davis, the longtime Fox News Radio vice president, it is better to be last and right, than first and wrong. This is a statement that should be cut and pasted on every laptop, desktop, tablet and smartphone.
It is very easy to get roped into the social media mob. As journalists, producers, anchors and even public relations professionals, we need to pause. Read what is said and, then, think about whether that social reply will be one that finds you in a human resources office, or out of a job.
Jason Mollica is the president of JRMComm, a public relations and social media marketing consultancy. He combines knowledge of the broadcast news industry, traditional public relations expertise and today’s new and innovative social media tools.
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