Posts Tagged ‘Natasha Richardson’

Bad for Breaking Bad News?

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009 by Rob Brown

Patrick Swayze

A few months ago I wrote about discovering via twitter that the French actor Guillaume Depardieu had died.  Six months ago it seemed an oddity that ordinary individuals would break news ahead of the major media sources.  It appears now that this is an established phenomenon.  The sad news of Natasha Richardson’s fatal skiing accident was spread via twitter, blogs and social networks long before the strictures of the established media allowed them to confirm the details.

At around 4pm UTC today (19th May) twitter started trending with the news that actor Patrick Swayze had died of pancreatic cancer.  But within half an hour or so the story had flipped to a denial.  The actor it appears is alive if unwell and continuing his battle against cancer.

Whilst trending topics on the web add a new dimension to breaking news inaccurate rumours can take hold.  The established media brands adhere to a largely common set of journalistic conventions that moderate the motivation to break news fast with the imperative of accuracy.  That’s why they are trusted.    

About Rob Brown

Rob Brown has worked in PR for over 20 years and for over fifteen years held senior PR positions within three major global advertising networks; Euro RSCG, McCann and TBWA. He launched his own business ‘Rule 5’ in MediaCityUK, Manchester in November 2012. Rob is the author of ‘Public Relations and the Social Web’ (2009), blogs for The Huffington Post and is joint editor of 'Share This Too' (2013).

Nothing’s sacred in the online jungle

Wednesday, March 18th, 2009 by Jon Clements

What has happened, in recent hours, to the sanctity of death and accuracy in its reporting?

First, OK! Magazine publishes a “tribute” edition to the critically ill, reality TV star, Jade Goody, who is – at time of writing – not dead.


Though the move has apparently not received public condemnation, a quick peek at the blogosphere doesn’t reveal an avalanche of support. As David O’Keefe points out, Goody “didn’t meet OK!’s deadline” while labels it – simply – “disgracefully tasteless”.

And then, following the skiing accident involving actress, Natasha Richardson, Time Out New York magazine reported her as dead, only to retract it later when it became clear she wasn’t. Yet the magazine, in its breathtaking arrogance, said it “stood by its sources”. Let me get this straight – it reported someone dead who wasn’t, basing this on the word of a “family friend” who rang back later with a different story. Never mind staking groundless claims to journalistic ethics; a full page, unreserved apology would be the very least it could offer. As a former reporter on a local newspaper, getting the official facts on a fatality from the police or hospital spokesperson was journalism 101.

If that’s not bad enough, take a look at the Daily Stab’s attempt to correct its own misinformation on the Richardson story:


It doesn’t come much worse than this and neatly encapsulates the risk of democratised, online reporting.

Whether it’s the sloppy, inaccurate reporting of a tragedy or incorrect opinions expressed about a company or other organisation, online it spreads like a conversational bushfire. And those with a reputation to protect have to understand that handling a crisis online takes more than speaking to a relative handful of editors as in a media furore of yesteryear. You need to know where the conversations are taking place, be where they are and know how to converse.

If the media treats death as they’ve done with Jade and Natasha Richardson, what might they do with something far less important?

About Jon Clements

Jon Clements is a Chartered PR consultant specialising in B2B PR, corporate and marketing communications and is the founder of Metamorphic PR. Connect at: JonClements ''