Over the last few days staff in one of our research projects at WCER learned that a freelance reporter writing for a major U.S. newspaper had cited the project as being ineffective in preventing drug abuse among youth. The reporter had evidently spoken to one source and left it at that. But damage was done, as another publication picked up the story. Soon, phones were ringing and clients (and potential clients) demanded to know what was up. Our folks were flabbergasted, because a number of third-party evaluations in a number of states, and at the federal level, had found the program effective. Not only that, copies of the evaluations are posted on the project's web site. Either the reporter didn't bother to check, or she chose to overlook the reports. Staff quickly called the reporter to ask about her sources. I worked with staff to draft a letter of response to the editor of the newspaper, citing all the evidence that contradicted the reporter's statement. I suggested that a copy of the letter be posted on the project's web site for all to see. True, some folks would never have heard about the newspaper story had they not read the response letter on the project's web site. But it's important for our project to get their side of the story out there, and fast, so that gossip and rumor won't reach people first.
How do you handle bad press?
Update 8 June: We crafted the letter to the editor and it was in fact printed.
"FAST program is a proven success"