Geoffrey Stackhouse, Managing Director, Clarity Solutions
The Australian Financial Review’s "World is Fukt” fiasco is an absolute ripsnorter, and a great insight into how media treat media in a crisis.
Copies of the rare Western Australia edition are now fetching up to $100 online, and here’s how Mumbrella broke the news on Friday.
The Twittersphere was predictably ablaze and the exquisite Schadenfreude caught the attention of the world’s media (although curiously the AFR itself had nary a snippet on its own website).
With heads undoubtedly rolling all over Fairfax, for me the big questions are: how well did Editor Michael Stutchbury handle things, and what can we learn from him?
Personally I’ll give him 5/10. Bottom line is he got really lucky - it only happened in WA and it was over a double long weekend – but he must try harder next time.
He gets good marks for his simple but earnest apology:
“The first thing I want to do is to apologise to Western Australian readers of The Australian Financial Review for the obviously unacceptable state of the front page of their paper this morning”.
But his emailed comment exposed some truly shocking English and an ironically tragic lack of subbing, which really could have taken the story further.
When journalistic integrity is on the line, claiming something is an “extreme one-off” shows questionable judgement. But defending the subs by saying “the error did not come out any subbing hub” is the icing on the cake.
The second mistake was generally overlooked in the furore caused by their outrageous headline - and it’s a doozy. An unknown number of papers were printed without a barcode, which meant in some instances they were given away for free.
It was a bad day for the AFR, and while it’s always easy to kick a media outlet which has ‘fukt’ up, it’s a salient reminder that a crisis can come in all shapes and sizes, strike at any time, and is usually down to simple human error.
So my top three insights?
The right apology goes a very long way. Apologise early and often, and make sure you show you get it.
Respond quickly to media, but take the time to fact check and proof read. Misinformation will only make things worse.
Show what you’ve learned from the incident. What will be different and how can I know I can trust you again?
And if at all possible, make sure it happens over a long weekend.