Will the Real Story Please Stand Up?

Usually, PR professionals and journalists like to keep to one story. But sometimes, as was the case this past week in Pakistan, there simply is no way to get all the facts 100% correct the first time around. As New York Times reporter Elizabeth Bumiller points out in her May 5 article, the account of the raid on Osama bin Laden’s home was hastily told, and as a result, changed from day to day.

As a result of Twitter, Facebook, and other real-time technologies, there is enormous pressure today to produce a constant stream of news. Those of us who were awake Sunday night, watching TV or connected online, learned something big was going to come down, so we stay connected. And we’ve remained connected to one of the biggest stories of the past decade. This means we want to be constantly fed with new news. So journalists — and the White House — felt compelled to give us something…anything, to keep us satiated.

In hindsight, was it a mistake? Is it difficult to re-tell a story when so many key pieces have changed? In general, I would say yes. Best to get your facts lined up correctly the first time around. Does the White House deserve a pass on this one? Absolutely, but the public will tolerate only so many different versions. Let’s hope a definitive story emerges soon.

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