Guardians Of Democracy
The search for truth, as it can most accurately be told, is the essential role of the news media. Within this, credible spokespeople are more important than ever. They are a central part of the bulwark the news media plays in our collective fight for individual rights and freedoms and against dictatorship. When spokespeople do their job well they build trust in the organizations they serve. When they don’t, they contribute to the efforts of those who wish to falsify, distort and pervert truth for their own sometimes malign ends.
Sadly though, the changing media landscape has put immense pressure on traditional media business models. Limited resources lead to fewer reporters doing more stories. Inevitably inaccuracy increases, biases are less checked and balance can fly out the window. A poorly reported story is published or aired. Accusations fly. The media is attacked, sometimes by those with their own agendas. Even petty acts of spokesperson inaccuracy, lack of focus, poor preparation, hostility towards the news media and a lack of a clear interview agenda management contribute to the building distrust builds. Some people turn away. Some turn to a strongman to shore up their fears. In the US this may help explain Donald Trump’s success.
In Canada, we’re probably not quite there yet. Distrust is the news media is an issue but less so. According to 2016 research conducted by Edward Greenspon, CEO of Canada’s Public Policy Forum “eight in 10 (Canadians) say they follow the news. Often they do so on Facebook, but when something they consider really important is happening, they turn to established media. Regardless of age, they trust newspaper and television organizations far more than social media. In fact, Canadians hold journalists in high esteem, viewing them as indispensable guardians of democracy, protectors of rights and watchdogs over corruption. “ (Globe and Mail, Jan25, 2017)
Given this, there are two hard realities credible spokespeople must come to terms with. First, the media institutions most reporters work for are now driven by an increasingly intense competition for scarce advertiser dollars forcing these institutions to skimp on the resources required for good reporting. Second, the almost instantaneous speed that information, true and false, now moves through social media means that time for fact checking diminishes and accuracy suffers. From the perspective of a Credible Spokesperson, that’s a very potent recipe for interviews going sideways. And yet, whether it’s politics, science, health, economics, business or the arts, the news media continues to be the glass through which many see the world.