Last Updated Sep 15, 2008 8:04 PM EDT
This is a good ethics-in-real life case study in public communications. Was it right for the PR person to state the obvious truth before she was cleared to do so by her bosses? What if she believed she was told it was OK to announce the preliminary cause of the crash, only to find out the next day that she wasn't fully supported in doing so?
On one hand, you have to applaud the spokesperson, Denise Tyrell, for coming out with the honest truth in a timely fashion. The public, and the families, have a right to know as soon as possible, even if it wouldn't have changed the outcome of the tragedy. On the other hand, Tyrell worked for Metrolink, and owed a duty to her bosses to follow their lead. [It's unclear whether Tyrell was told to make the announcement she made or did it on her own.]
In the real world, PR has a big ongoing problem with situations like this. Most PR people are by nature communicators and storytellers, so our instincts are to find out information and tell people. But this is not always what our higher-ups want us to do -- even when it is apparent that being forthright is the right thing to do, both for the institution and the wider audience. It puts us in a sticky, no-win professional situation: lie/obscure because it's your job, or be more open and candid and risk losing your job.
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