Disturbing Television Media Trend #7: Unconfirmed Reports

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By Gerard Braud

If the story of Chicken Little was told today, there is a strong likelihood that it would quickly be picked-up by, and reported by, the television news media.

It would go like this: Chicken Little would have an acorn fall on her head, she would scream, “The sky is falling.” Minutes later the news media would be reporting that we have unconfirmed reports that they sky is falling.

I can hear it now: “CNN has not yet confirmed that the sky is falling, but reports from the barn yard indicate Chicken Little said, ‘The Sky is falling’.”

I’ve been hearing the phrase, “has not confirmed,” much too often as I scan the dials of television news each morning. CNN’s sister network, HLN, uses this phrase much too often. Research by I.Q. Media found the phrase was used 187 times on HLN Morning Express with Robyn Meade, the program where I first noticed this disturbing trend. I’m a regular morning viewer of the show, but the phrase has turned up too frequently lately on stories about the Korean ferry accident, the Donald Sterling controversy, the Malaysian Airlines 370 story, and reports in the realm of entertainment and social media.

Black Hole Theory CNN MalaysiaWhen I hear the phrase, “We have not confirmed,” what I really hear is, “Our producers are too incompetent and lazy to know how to confirm something before they put it in the teleprompter.” As a former reporter and anchor, I’m embarrassed for the anchors who have to read the story, knowing that many are good journalists who must do what the boss says if they want to keep their job. In my career, I reached the point at which I could not ethically and in good conscious do the dumb things and say the dumb things my bosses wanted me to do.

By comparison, during the Water Gate investigation by the Washington Post, nothing was ever reported until it was confirmed by at least three sources. Let me shout that: THREE SOURCES.

For 20 years I’ve been observing the silly ritual of, “CNN reports that ABC reports that NBC reports the CBS reports that CNN reports the sky is falling.” For 20 years, media has gone from attributing facts and stories from their own sources, to facts reported by a competing network, to only rumors being shared by some source, which is not verified or known to be reliable.

It gets worse because the story containing the unverified and unconfirmed information is recycled in online sources that simply aggregate and repeat the reports. Search most news topics and you can find the identical story with the identical words on thousands of websites.

So how does this affect you if you are in PR and communications, working for a corporation, non-profit organization or government agency?

It is easier than ever before for someone to intentionally or inadvertently destroy the reputation of your employer or client, while simultaneously damaging revenues.

Winston Churchill has been paraphrased as saying a lie can be half way across town before the truth puts on its boots in the morning. In today’s modern digital age, a lie has circled the globe countless times by unreliable sources and then circulated more by so-called reliable media sources, before you even know the lie is out there.

This disturbing trend means you need a skilled staff or vendor who can monitor online content every minute of the day, so you can respond quickly.

And because the online trend will be reported by the mainstream media, more than ever before you must have well trained spokespeople who can respond quickly and a crisis communications plan created on a clear sunny day that fully addresses such crisis scenarios. Failing to prepare and attempting to wing it in the middle of the crisis will make the crisis much worse and further damage reputations and revenues.

To watch “7 Disturbing Media Trends and How You Can Combat Them” On Demand please click here.

Disturbing News Trend #4: Trending Now

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By Gerard Braud

“Trending today” or “trending now” are phrases I hate to hear on television news. If news is defined as information that allows us to make smarter, more informed decisions, then a trending video of a cat playing with string is not news.

Each day there is less news on news programs. News is increasingly replaced by entertainment and info-tainment.

I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but I’m starting to miss the days when the adage applied, “When it bleeds it leads.” This phrase meant the newscast lead, or started, usually with a violent event or natural disaster that resulted in injuries or the loss of life.

Trending, on the other hand, requires little or no news gathering skills. It only requires the regurgitation and re-posting of something from the Internet. In most cases, it is a viral video or a hot topic that the anonymWhats Trending Newsous, faceless, social media world feels compelled to pass judgment upon.

Both the Today Show and Good Morning America have cordoned off sections of their studio specifically to share what is trending on social media. Both are actively trying to engage their viewers with links and hashtags. What is sad about this trend is that people who are active on social media don’t need to turn to television news to know what is trending. At the same time, the networks are sending more viewers away from network broadcasts and into the social media realm. This move may mean increased web traffic and more income from online advertisements. However, in the long run this is pushing more people away from the viewership and revenue of the current and future traditional news broadcast.

Often, what is trending is mindless. Social media users are commenting about a photo of a fashion model who is too skinny or a celebrity who said something that offended a portion of the audience.

The impact this has on you, if you are in public relations or communications, is that your effort to get news coverage for the corporation, non-profit organization or government agency, for which you work, continues to get harder.

Today Show Orange RoomYour legitimate news may not get covered at all because producers have already filled their allotted time in the newscast with fluff.

The fluff is appealing to the media because it is a low cost way to fill a newscast. This low cost fluff is already known to be popular with the public. In a day when advertising revenues are falling and the size of the news staff is getting smaller, trending fluff is a solution to the media’s short-term problems.

What the media fails to recognize is that the trend of trending is really exposing an increasing number of people to places on the internet where information or entertainment can be gathered for free. This leaves the audience with less need for the original media outlet and the advertisers on the media outlet’s website and news broadcast.

From a pro-active public relations standpoint, you will be under increasing pressure to make your public relations events trend. This adds one extra layer to an already complicated process of pitching a story to the media. It also adds one more point upon which you will be judged. Hence, when you fail to get media coverage, you’ll be scrutinized over your pitching efforts and your social media efforts.

Today show orange roomThe reality of what gets news coverage is really based on the point of view of a producer, who has a limited amount of time in a newscast and fills it with the things they think the audience will talk about the most. Producers can be fickle. I fought with them daily in the newsroom when I was a reporter. Often, they were Jeckle and Hyde; I never knew which I was getting on any given day.

But the bottom line is trending things get selected by those producers for inclusion in the newscast, taking precedent over things a true journalist would consider to be real news.

Trending is a trend I could do without. Sadly, it will be with us for a very long time.

To watch “7 Disturbing News Media Trends and How You Can Combat Them” On Demand click here

Media Speculation Complicates Crisis Communications & Public Relations: Disturbing Media Trend #1

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By Gerard Braud

If your job is to communicate with the media in the form of crisis communications or pro-active public relations for a good-news event, your life and job will become more complicated because of disturbing news media trend #1.

Excessive speculation ranks as disturbing media trend #1. CNN has taken the sin of speculation to an all time high with their 24/7 speculation regarding the disappearance of Malaysia Flight 370.

The flight disappeared from radar on March 8, 2014 and has never been found as of the day of this writing. That didn’t stop CNN from calling upon every third party expert in the world to get their opinion on why the plane may have disappeared, where the plane may have disappeared, and why absolutely no trace of the aircraft has ever been found.

The speculation included junk floating in the water near China, junk floating in the water near Vietnam, and debris west of Australia.  There was also speculation that the aircraft was either commandeered by the pilot or hijacked and flown to a remote airstrip where the passengers might be alive and held hostage.

FOX news covers MalaysiaAs a former journalist, I’ll share with you that in newsroom lingo, when a spectacular news event happens, it is not uncommon for the news director to proclaim to all in the newsroom, “We want to ‘own’ this story people!”

CNN clearly set out to devote more time to this story than any of their competitors. But there is a big gamble when going all-in on such a story. If there is no reasonable conclusion within a reasonable amount of time, the news media outlet is trapped. CNN had to decide if they would taper off their coverage or continue to go all in with the 24/7 speculation game. Unfortunately for anyone who watches CNN, the network decided to for-go coverage on most anything else in the world, in favor of non-stop speculation.

As a journalist and as someone who has reported for CNN, this relentless speculation fell below any standards of journalism I was ever taught. It was so absurd that I reached the point of feeling embarrassed for the anchors and the network.

Often another news event will happen that gives the media an opportunity to gracefully exit their excessive coverage. For example, on March 29, 2014, when Los Angeles experienced a 4.1 earthquake, which killed no one and injured no one.

(As a side note, I FaceTimed with my daughter in New Zealand and watched her screen bounce with great frequency as she experienced an earthquake. We immediately went online to see where the quake was centered and watched continuous aftershocks, all of which exceeded the single 4.1 earthquake in LA.)

Rather than giving the story a simple mention commensurate with a minor quake, CNN launched into yet another round of speculation news coverage. This time the story centered on whether LA was going to experience a big quake, capable of causing mass destruction, injury and death.

Really CNN? You didn’t need a 4.1 quake to speculate on that. Heck, everyday you could speculate about a quake rocking California.

BREAKING NEWS CNNMeanwhile, days later, on April 2, 2014, a big quake really did hit, this time in Chile. This massive quake measured 8.2, it killed five, injured others and caused massive destruction of buildings and a tidal wave. Yet the Chilean quake barely stayed in the news cycle.

Furthermore, while CNN went all in on the Malaysian Airlines 370 story, sending their top anchors to report from Malaysia and Australia, they sent no anchors to cover the massive destruction and chaos in Chile.

The frightening aspect of CNN’s relentless speculation is that often what happens at the network level trickles down to the local TV stations. Television news consultants seldom have an original idea. Rather, they watch what some other television news outlet does and they simply copy it.

This trend toward speculation can have a serious impact on corporations, non-profit organizations, and government agencies that experience a crisis. It also has significant impact on the people in public relations who must communicate reactively in a crisis and those who must communicate pro-actively when trying to get media coverage for good news events they wish to promote.

On the reactive side of crisis communications and public relations, should your company, non-profit or government agency fall prey to a crisis, it may be harder than ever to manage and communicate about your crisis.

This disturbing trend of speculation means you will spend more time than ever before responding to and reacting to rumors. Not only must you constantly slap the media on the wrist, but, in the case of Malaysia Airlines 370, if you are the company featured in the news reports, you must intensify your communications to your customer and family member audiences. The media and their speculation inflame your stakeholder audiences, causing greater mental anguish and emotional hostility.

Conversely, if you are a public relations person trying to get positive coverage for a news event during a period of time when the media is in excessive speculation mode about another entities’, your chances of getting good news coverage dissipates. In fact, your chances are almost zero that you could get any sort of news coverage.

The bottom line is for those of you who are professional communicators, the world of communications has gotten a great deal darker and harder because of the disturbing trend of excessive speculation.

To watch “7 Disturbing News Media Trends and How You Can Combat Them” On Demand Click here


















7 Disturbing News Media Trends & How You Can Combat Them

CNN Breaking NewsBy Gerard Braud

The television news media continue to go from bad to worse. New disturbing trends have a huge impact on public relations, your media interactions, and the reputation and revenues of your employer. How do you combat these disturbing trends? Join media relations expert and former journalist Gerard Braud (Jared Bro) on Wednesday, June 4th for an enlightening conversation.

You’ll learn how to:

  • Identify the 7 most disturbing trends
  • Determine your best plan of action to combat them
  • Unlock a strategy that lets you take advantage of these trends
  • Spot the warning signs that could result in you being victimized

When: Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Where: Google + Hangout On-Air (Register to get the recording)

Time: 2 PM EDT

How a Guy in Mandeville, Louisiana Became the Source of Breaking News

By, Gerard Braud

(Editor’s note: In 2013, CNN selected me as one of their top iReporters, out of more than 11,000 iReporters. This is part of a series of articles about how you can be a good iReporter and how to make CNN iReports a vital part of your crisis communication and media relations strategy.)

IMG_0470* copyAs you read this, please be so kind as to also click this link to vote for me as CNN’s iReporter of the Year…  I’m one of 36 finalists and your 30 seconds of support is greatly appreciated.

Over the next few days you will learn the background story of how I was selected by CNN.  If you come back to this blog daily, you will learn secrets about how and why you should also be crazy about iReports and using smart phones and tablets to broadcast to the world.

CNN is recognizing me for a series of reports I filed about Hurricane Isaac 2012.

With 7 feet of floodwater surrounding my home and no electricity for 5 days during Hurricane Isaac, I was able to broadcast live to CNN using only my iPhone, G3 and Skype. Amid the rain, heat, waves, snakes, alligators, debris and dead animal carcasses, I kept broadcasting.

Because of the reports I filed from August 26-September 2, 2012, CNN producers chose my reports out of all the reports filed by 11,000 iReporters in 2012, to be recognized for continuing coverage of breaking news. The reports were seen both on the CNN iReport website and they were broadcasted by CNN and HLN to viewers around the world.

These reports took viewers into places that even CNN news crews couldn’t reach with their million dollar satellite trucks and $60,000 HD cameras.

Wow. #crazyflattered #makesmymomproud #thisisfriggincool. It is so cool to be nominated by CNN.Isaac Ireport Gerard Braud

Hopefully the experiences you will read about here will help you understand why you should be a part of iReports. You will also learn step-by-step how to do what I do.

I have been a CNN iReport evangelist since the program began. During 4 major weather events my iReports have been broadcast on CNN and on multiple occasions have lead to live broadcasts.

The first time was when I witnessed a funnel cloud during Hurricane Gilbert. I simply uploaded a short iReport with no narration to CNN. CNN showed it, then my phone rang. A friend in California called to warn me there were tornadoes near me and he had just seen it on CNN.  Ha. Funny how that worked.

CNN Ireport gerard braud snowOn December 11, 2010 we had an unusual 5-inch snow fall in the town I live in, near New Orleans. I had not sent out Christmas cards yet, so with my point and shoot camera I made a short news video about the snow, then wished everyone Merry Christmas. I uploaded the video to iReports. Their producers vetted the report and confirmed it was real. They edited off my Christmas greeting, then used the rest of the video all day long to run before every weather report. That was really cool.

CNN asked me to do a live report via Skype, but that got canceled because of breaking news. That was the day the body of Caylee Anthony was found in the woods, leading to the murder trial of the child’s mother, Casey Anthony.

In August of 2011, Tropical Storm Lee came through New Orleans and my little town of Mandeville, LA. A week before, I had moved into a new house on the shore of Lake Pontchartrain. The storm surge filled my yard with 5 feet of water. Using my iPad and WiFi, I shot a 90 second news report, then uploaded it to iReports. Within minutes, producers were asking me to do live reports. With an iPad as my broadcast camera and WiFi as my broadcast channel, I was on the air for 2 days.

These 3 events set the stage for Hurricane Isaac in August 2012 and the series of reports for which I was nominated. You will learn more details in our next article.