I found myself on the front page of a daily newspaper this week – and the article was almost (apart from my photo) complete fiction. Even the spelling of RedBalloon’s name was incorrect.
I thought to myself, ‘How can this happen?’ The reality is that if an editor gives the brief to a journalist, they have to find something to write.
Last Friday I was on a flight from Australia to Vietnam, the journalist tried to contact me to verify the facts, and of course that was not physically possible. I did not land in Asia until after close of business Friday evening.
Monday 6am, Vietnam time, the phone started – and it did not stop. My day was consumed by getting these untruths clarified and ultimately a correction appeared on page 2 of the same publication the next day.
I’m not sure of the urgency of why the journalist had to file a story so quickly, why she could not wait to verify her information… and my only conclusion is ‘she had to file’, and the ‘tempting’ nature of the story was too great.
Half-truths and misinformation can be dangerous and ultimately damaging for all concerned. However, when I received the below email regarding spin, it put the whole matter on a much lighter note.
All people make mistakes…and from that, lessons come. I hope this journalist learned her lesson to check the facts.
The stories of Remus Rudd
One can look at the same ‘facts’ and have two completely different stories, as the story of Remus Rudd shows.
Judy Rudd, an amateur genealogy researcher in south-east Queensland, was doing some personal work on her own family tree. She discovered that Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s great-great uncle, Remus Rudd, was hanged for horse stealing and train robbery in Melbourne in 1889. Both Judy and Kevin Rudd share this common ancestor.
The only known photograph of Remus shows him standing on the gallows at the Melbourne jail.
On the back of the picture Judy obtained during her research is this inscription:
‘Remus Rudd, horse thief, sent to Melbourne Jail 1885, escaped 1887, robbed the Melbourne-Geelong train six times. Caught by Victoria Police Force, convicted and hanged in 1889.’
So Judy recently emailed Prime Minister Rudd for information about their great-great uncle, Remus Rudd.
Believe it or not, Kevin Rudd’s staff sent back the following biographical sketch for her genealogy research:
“Remus Rudd was famous in Victoria during the mid to late 1800s. His business empire grew to include acquisition of valuable equestrian assets and intimate dealings with the Melbourne-Geelong Railroad.
Beginning in 1883, he devoted several years of his life to government service, finally taking leave to resume his dealings with the railroad.
In 1887, he was a key player in a vital investigation run by the Victoria Police Force. In 1889, Remus passed away during an important civic function held in his honour when the platform upon which he was standing collapsed.”
And that, dear readers, is why the facts never get in the way of a good beat up!
Naomi Simson has received many accolades and awards for the business she founded, RedBalloon.com.au, including the 2011 Ernst & Young National Entrepreneur of the Year – Industry.