[March 24, 2014] Recently on this blog [link here], I wrote about the decline of the news media in America. The example I gave was the Wall Street Journal failing to report the facts on an “above the fold” photograph. Failure to report the most crucial facts is a serious leadership breakdown.
It is true that we could publish a daily accounting of factual errors in reporting, but that is in itself unimportant at the leader level. What is important is when serious errors on important topics are brought to the attention of the news media senior leadership and they not only fail to act to correct the error, but take pains to justify their errors and then attack those who point out their mistakes.
This was the case in a Washington Post article on March 20 entitled “The biggest lease holder in Canada’s oil sands isn’t Exxon Mobil or Chevron. It’s the Koch brothers.” A blog titled PowerLine did the research and took to task the Washington Post. Sadly, the Post reporters attacked the PowerLine authors yet did not address the errors and still “stand by their story.” The bias is so deep that it can be legitimately called “corruption.”
As an interested bystander to the news, like many of us, I do pay attention to what is published. For some time there has been a noticeable and precipitous decline in the accuracy of reporting, selective and out-of-context reporting, political bias, and a concerted effort to “stand by our story” despite documented errors. This explains to the American public’s slide in confidence in the media.
It also means a decline in confidence in senior leaders. The bleed over effect of the fall in media credibility impacts all leaders. More frequently now we see articles on “failed global leadership” and “failed leaders.” Type “failed leaders” into Google and over 100 million hits are returned.
Leaders must understand that their personal and organizational credibility is at risk. Print news media readership has been falling for years, partly explained by public loss of trust and confidence in what is printed.
Let us hope that the trend will reverse itself soon and news media senior leaders voluntarily decide to save their reputations and move closer to the proven attributes of leadership.
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