PR wounds from false ABC news story heal quickly

NEW YORK: ABC News swallowed a bitter PR pill on August 11 when 20/20 correspondent John Stossel gave an on-air mea culpa for an erroneous story on organic foods. But PR pros surveyed last week agreed that while the organic food industry is facing a serious reputation problem, ABC News will have little difficulty putting the crisis behind it.

NEW YORK: ABC News swallowed a bitter PR pill on August 11 when 20/20 correspondent John Stossel gave an on-air mea culpa for an erroneous story on organic foods. But PR pros surveyed last week agreed that while the organic food industry is facing a serious reputation problem, ABC News will have little difficulty putting the crisis behind it.

NEW YORK: ABC News swallowed a bitter PR pill on August 11 when

20/20 correspondent John Stossel gave an on-air mea culpa for an

erroneous story on organic foods. But PR pros surveyed last week agreed

that while the organic food industry is facing a serious reputation

problem, ABC News will have little difficulty putting the crisis behind

it.



’ABC is a strong brand,’ said Margulies president David Margulies, whose

firm advised Oprah Winfrey when she was sued by the beef industry. ’They

needed to explain the error and say what they are going to do to rectify

procedures. It will not be a story for much longer.’



In his apology, Stossel admitted that ABC falsified tests about the

level of pesticide residue on organic and conventionally grown foods. He

also conceded that the story’s claims that organic foods contained

harmful e-coli bacteria were unfounded. Stossel has been reprimanded and

his producer, David Fitzpatrick, has been suspended.



Organic food advocates blamed the errant report on a lack of

behind-the-scenes initiative. ’They were told last November that the

information they were presenting was false,’ said Mike Casey, VP of

public affairs for the Environmental Working Group (EWG). ’We took the

story to the press after months of trying to get a proper response from

ABC.’



Agreed Crain Creek Communications principal Stephen Crain, ’This would

have died a relatively quiet death if they hadn’t re-aired the story.’

The report originally aired on February 4 and was shown again on July

7.



Although the 20/20 report received major media coverage, most follow-up

stories focused primarily on the question of journalistic integrity.



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