Credibility and Why the Truth Matters

By Andy Beaubien, BPR

We find ourselves in the midst of a gigantic credibility deficit.  In the US, this lack of trust extends from the White House to Congress to the mainstream media.  People simply do not know who or what to believe anymore.  This is having a profound effect on our ability to function as a democratic society.  All of the traditional sources of information share in this problem and there does not appear to be a solution in sight.

 

There are valuable lessons to be learned from this debacle and they clearly apply to us in the media.  Credibility is at the heart of what we do and without it we are truly crippled.  This issue goes far beyond our news and information programs. It affects every part of our relationship with listeners and viewers who interact with our stations on a regular basis.

 

Imagine for example a situation in which your morning show listeners were to not trust what your breakfast presenters had to say.  What degree of audience loyalty could be expected in this circumstance?  It is very difficult to bond with people who do not trust you nor believe the things that you say.

 

How about the situation in which listeners have come to doubt whether the promotional contest that you are running actually intends to award prizes as promised?  Obviously this could have a tremendous impact on listener participation or even interest level in the promotion.

 

In another scenario, let us imagine that listeners had cause to doubt that your outlet was not really playing 30 minutes of commercial-free music every hour as you repeatedly promised.   The same might apply to the perceived failure to honour your no-repeat workday.  In each case, it does not matter if the listener perception is accurate or not.  If they suspect that you have lied to them in the past, they will have little reason to expect that you are being honest with them in the present.

 

Of course, the issue of credibility extends to news, traffic, weather and other spoken-word programs.  A poorly written news story that unintentionally leads the listener to a false conclusion is just as detrimental as a story that was deliberately intended to deceive.  We often hear people express their frustration at hearing a report about a traffic jam at a certain location only to arrive there and find that there is no traffic problem at all.

 

Credibility is at the heart of what we do and as communicators we have an important responsibility to make every effort to insure that the messages we broadcast are believable and reliable.  Once lost, the road to recovery of one’s credibility is long and hard.  In some cases, your listeners may abandon you before you have had time to win back their trust.  In virtually any market, the highest rated stations are usually the ones that listeners trust the most.

 

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