Tuesday, July 08, 2008

corrections: another campaign change

Chalk up another communications change that's emerged from the Internet and been swept up by the political campaigns: Correcting the record. You know from our previous posts that fewer than 2 percent of newspaper errors get corrected by the papers themselves these days. But on yesterday's Diane Rehm Show on NPR, two observers of the political scene discussed the pluses and minuses of the Internet, where misinformation may blossom. Michael Cornfield, Professor at the Graduate School of Political Management at George Washington University, noted:
I actually think this is an optimistic development...In the old days, when something came out of journalism, that was its final form, and if it was wrong there were horrible reverberations and horrible consequences, so there was a primacy on...making sure you got it right when it hit public view. In the age of the Internet, the editing happens after publication not before, by which I mean bad information comes out. But now, we have a chance to go to the websites, to have journalists go to the websites and society corrects bad information.
Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Internet and American Life Project took the thought further, explaining:
...Barack Obama has turned political conventional wisdom on its head by essentially endorsing what Mike is talking about. He has created a portion of his website that allows people to document...what they believe are smears against him and the campaign will help provide information that can defeat those smears....in the pre-Internet days, the conventional wisdom was don't ever respond to rumors, don't ever respond to misinformation, because you give it more airtime, you give it more credence, you allow your critics even more attention to something that they don't want. Barack Obama has changed that.
This New York Times article details more about that strategy, noting that Obama's supporters:
...have already taken up five rumors, including that Mr. Obama was not born in the United States (a birth certificate was displayed) and that he does not put his hand over his heart during the Pledge of Allegiance (the site links to a YouTube video of him doing so).
Many companies and organizations have used their own blogs or social media networks to stand as the record--or response mechanism--rather than waiting for mainstream media to make corrections. How are you using these new tools to correct your record?

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