The murkiness of the blogosphere and the ease of posting “news” on the Internet seems to have brought “yellow journalism” back into play.
Yellow journalism” is a term that emerged at the beginning of the 20th Century, when newspapers owned by William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer battled fiercely for readership, even if it meant not being very careful about the accuracy of what they were printing. Wikipedia (which ironically is often accused today of playing fast and loose with the facts) actually has some pretty good definitions of what “yellow journalism” refers to: “Little or no legitimate well-researched news…[using] eye-catching headlines…exaggerations of news events, or sensationalism.”
Those descriptions match what I’ve been hearing a lot from club managers lately—usually after we’ve come across an article about their club as part of our daily search for online news, and then contacted them, if it doesn’t quite pass our smell test, to verify its accuracy or see if they want to provide any additional clarification or comment.
In many cases, we’re surprised to find that we’re the first to bring these articles to the managers’ attention—and they themselves are often quite surprised to see what’s been published about them. More than a few times, it’s set off a frantic scramble for damage control.
Unfortunately, the murkiness of the blogosphere and the ease of now posting “news” on the Internet seems to have brought “yellow journalism” back into play. Anyone with a computer and a connection can now be a “reporter,” and websites that need content aren’t being very choosy about who they pay (if they pay at all) to help them fill up cyberspace and ramp up click rates. As the name suggests, the local “Patch” news sites that have popped up around the country seem to be particularly susceptible to spotty postings where objectivity, thoroughness and reliable sources are concerned.
As a result, many club managers have been alarmed to discover that poor or one-sided research is often behind the reports we’ve brought to their attention. Almost inevitably, when we run across a headline about a club being in “violation” or “at fault,” that turns out to be a misleading or sensationalized twist of the facts.
As a management/operations publication, we don’t seek to post or print “dirty laundry” when we find reports about club-related troubles or difficulties. But if we think the report can have value as “teaching moments” to help other club managers learn how to handle similar situations, we may decide it’s worth including in our news briefings.
If you’re not already doing so, it would probably behoove you to make these few simple steps a part of your beginning-of-the-day routine (or have someone else on your staff do so):
• Google your club’s name and monitor your social media comments and retweets to see what might pop up.
• If you find you’re part of a news report you didn’t know about (or that you did, but thought you’d be portrayed differently), and there are problems with it, communicate immediately with members/staff that you’re taking steps to clarify the situation, and then prepare and distribute a statement that gets your side out there and on the record. Put it on your website, too. And do this before you pick up the phone to scream at the reporter or his/her editor, no matter how much your instincts might make you want to do that first.