1. #1
    Forum Member

    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Kansas
    Posts
    16

    Default Dealing with negative press.

    Here's what's going on. This past Tuesday we got paged out for a structure fire. I was not there as I was home alone with my daughter, but I was listening to the scanner and my father-in-law is our chief, so I know what happened.

    This is what I heard on the scanner. My department arrived within a few minutes (not sure on times, but I can check the run sheet to be sure). Our auto-aid departments arrived probably five minutes later (two departments, each one about 7 miles away). I know this because I heard my F-I-L stage one department and ask for manpower for a search, then a few minutes later stage the other department for stand-by. A while later he radioed dispatch and said that the fire was out and asked for the fire marshall.

    Now here is what he told me and my wife later that night. Apparently one of the neighbors is going around town telling people that our mutual aid departments were there before us and had the fire out before we even got there (apparently because our guys had to stop for a coffee break), which is a bold face lie. She also went to the city to complain about the fire hydrant not working, even though it was (that whole section of town had the water mains and hydrants replaced just a few years ago). My F-I-L said she was going around at the fire complaining about everything our guys were doing.

    About two hours before the fire started someone was there working on the furnace. The fire marshall ruled the fire as accidental and said that our guys did a good job on a house that should have been torn down anyway. I believe the house was an unoccupied rental. Funny thing is that the guy who owns the house has had two fires in a business of his within the last couple of years, the second one destroying the building.

    I'd be very suprised if there isn't a write-up in the paper next week by this woman that has been complaining. She is one of those that will find anything and everything to complain about. I live in a small town (about 3000 population) so I'm sure that most people know about her and her reputation to complain.

    What my question is, is how should this be dealt with if she does write something in to the paper? I do feel that it is the duty of the members of my department to defend ourselves when something like this happens, but I want to do so in a very dignified, adult-like and classy manner, stating the facts. Should we respond if this happens, or just blow it off and move on? How do all of you deal with negative press? Thanks for any advice.

    Dan

  2. #2
    Forum Member
    FWDbuff's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2003
    Location
    Pee-Ayy!
    Posts
    7,411

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Dan208 View Post
    I do feel that it is the duty of the members of my department to defend ourselves when something like this happens, but I want to do so in a very dignified, adult-like and classy manner,
    1. Do the dignified, adult-like classy thing and ignore her. She will go away.

    2. Be careful about saying things like you did about the owner of the property. That can come around and bite you in the *** later on in life.
    "Loyalty Above all Else. Except Honor."

  3. #3
    Forum Member

    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Kansas
    Posts
    16

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by FWDbuff View Post

    2. Be careful about saying things like you did about the owner of the property. That can come around and bite you in the *** later on in life.
    Oh, I'm not going to go around town spreading rumors or anything like that. I'm a little more mature than that. Just a little.

  4. #4
    Forum Member
    ndvfdff33's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2004
    Location
    Winterpeg Manitoba
    Posts
    2,461

    Default

    We've dealt with these type of folk before as well and as irritating as they may be you just have to ignore them. As FWD said, she will go away and move on to some other group to complain about.
    If someone with multiple personalities threatens to kill himself, is it considered a hostage situation?

    Ryan

  5. #5
    MembersZone Subscriber

    Join Date
    Jul 1999
    Location
    Flanders, NJ
    Posts
    13,537

    Default

    Ignoring them is not the best thing. If what you are saying is true, you have documented public records to prove her wrong. Have a designated spokesperson (not your Chief) prepare a press release with the factual information as documented by the public records. Answer questions within the confines of the press release. I do agree that it is wise to stay above her level and not say a single word about her, just deal with facts.

    BTW, I hope your FM is smart enough not to make those statements in public.
    PROUD, HONORED AND HUMBLED RECIPIENT OF THE PURPLE HYDRANT AWARD - 10/2007.

  6. #6
    Forum Member

    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Posts
    142

    Cool

    I see it this way, you can do one of two things. Ignore her, or throw her some bunker gear and tell her to have at it! And fire hydrants do break, new and old alike. That's the towns problem here where I live, not the fire departments, although we do have a big say in problems like that.
    Last edited by DugdogFiredog; 03-22-2008 at 05:41 PM.

  7. #7
    MembersZone Subscriber
    dmleblanc's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2001
    Location
    Not the end of the earth but I can see it from here...
    Posts
    2,318

    Default

    It's even worse when the sole writer/editor/editiorialist of the local paper is the one who has a it in for the fire department. Try printing a rebuttal in the paper when it's the paper who's attacking you Guaranteed he'll print your rebuttal on page 13 underneath the want ads, but his "reply" to everything you've stated, with his own negative spin on it, will be in bold type on Page 1. I'm not exaggerating, either, this has happened to us and to me in particular. I've found that with this guy, ignoring him is the best approach, because it's his paper and he's always going to have the last word.....
    Chief Dwayne LeBlanc
    Paincourtville Volunteer Fire Department
    Paincourtville, LA

    "I have a dream. It's not a big dream, it's just a little dream. My dream and I hope you don't find this too crazy is that I would like the people of this community to feel that if, God forbid, there were a fire, calling the fire department would actually be a wise thing to do. You can't have people, if their houses are burning down, saying, 'Whatever you do, don't call the fire department!' That would be bad."
    C.D. Bales, "Roxanne"

  8. #8
    Forum Member
    MEck51's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2004
    Location
    South Jersey
    Posts
    444

    Default

    I would use the same approach as George.
    Press release.
    State the facts. Response time, actions taken.
    It would even be a good idea to strike first with a simple press release stating.
    0000 FDresponded for a fire of (whatever) type, 0000 units arrived within X minutes of dispatch and took (whatever) actions to estinguish the blaze. Units from nieghboring towns responded and arrived in x minutes after 0000 units. They assisted in the fire control.
    You got your FACTS out first and you have a nice little pr piece for your department.

  9. #9
    Forum Member
    FyredUp's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 1999
    Location
    Rural Wisconsin, Retired from the burbs of Milwaukee
    Posts
    10,171

    Default

    If it is as you state a small town it will be divided into 2 camps, those that love the fire department and those that can't stand it. Those that love you know better and those that can't stand you will say you made up the time stamp numbers and are lieing.

    We faced the same thing here. Structure fire, mutual aid called from 2 FD's our guys had the fire knocked down but not out when help arrived and our "friends and neighbors" spread rumors that we couldn't even get the pump in gear. Agin those that know better defended us and those that hate us rode the wave of the rumpor for a few weeks. We have always had detractors that looked for any chance to slam us. We simply refuse to sink to their level and go about our business.

  10. #10
    MembersZone Subscriber

    Join Date
    Jul 1999
    Location
    Flanders, NJ
    Posts
    13,537

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by FyredUp View Post
    If it is as you state a small town it will be divided into 2 camps, those that love the fire department and those that can't stand it. Those that love you know better and those that can't stand you will say you made up the time stamp numbers and are lieing.

    We faced the same thing here. Structure fire, mutual aid called from 2 FD's our guys had the fire knocked down but not out when help arrived and our "friends and neighbors" spread rumors that we couldn't even get the pump in gear. Agin those that know better defended us and those that hate us rode the wave of the rumpor for a few weeks. We have always had detractors that looked for any chance to slam us. We simply refuse to sink to their level and go about our business.
    Putting out a positive, factual press release is not sinking to their level.
    PROUD, HONORED AND HUMBLED RECIPIENT OF THE PURPLE HYDRANT AWARD - 10/2007.

  11. #11
    MembersZone Subscriber
    dday05's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Posts
    1,331

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by dmleblanc View Post
    It's even worse when the sole writer/editor/editiorialist of the local paper is the one who has a it in for the fire department. Try printing a rebuttal in the paper when it's the paper who's attacking you Guaranteed he'll print your rebuttal on page 13 underneath the want ads, but his "reply" to everything you've stated, with his own negative spin on it, will be in bold type on Page 1. I'm not exaggerating, either, this has happened to us and to me in particular. I've found that with this guy, ignoring him is the best approach, because it's his paper and he's always going to have the last word.....
    I agree with you. Some writers around here like to stir the pot. So anytime they come to interview me either on scene or back at the fd I just give them I have no comment at this time speach. It works rather nicely. Some places get a bad rap sometimes b/c maybe someone was removed from their dept and will go and get some people talking and it goes down hill from there.

  12. #12
    MembersZone Subscriber

    Join Date
    Jul 1999
    Location
    Flanders, NJ
    Posts
    13,537

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by dday05 View Post
    I agree with you. Some writers around here like to stir the pot. So anytime they come to interview me either on scene or back at the fd I just give them I have no comment at this time speach. It works rather nicely. Some places get a bad rap sometimes b/c maybe someone was removed from their dept and will go and get some people talking and it goes down hill from there.
    "No comment" is absolutely the single worst thing any public official could ever say. It has bad connotations that are based in history.

    This is exactly why the Chief officer should never function as the PIO. The PIO can gather info, give a press briefing and legitimately offer that he has to get back to a reporter whose question is outside the bounds of the press briefing. The PIO should make sure that he does actually get back to the reporter.

    Can I really believe that I am reading there are fire service professionals who believe releasing no information to the press (hence the public) is the intelligent thing to do? Do you wonder, then, why you get bad press?

    PRess is something that, believe it or not, you CAN control ( to a certian extent). It just takes intelligence and commitment.
    PROUD, HONORED AND HUMBLED RECIPIENT OF THE PURPLE HYDRANT AWARD - 10/2007.

  13. #13
    MembersZone Subscriber
    dday05's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Posts
    1,331

    Default

    Well our news likes to start problems. I really don't know how to explain it though it causes tension in some ways towards depts in which the way the write some of the articles. I use to give interviews. I gave one a while ago and explained in detail of everything that they asked questions of (atleast I thought I did). Read the news the next day and it was all messed up and didn't sound good. And when I have a writer up my *** trying to do a interview when my people are doing and extrication what do you want us to say? We shut down a road and the pd allows the media in sometimes. They are rather rude in the fact they like to take pictures while we are cutting a pt out of a vehicle. I don't have the luxury of a pio in the daytime or have someone fill in that capacity. I am sure you will have a comment for this but this is how it is. I do think though I shouldn't be such a ***** to them but that rubs me the wrong way when they do stuff like that...

  14. #14
    MembersZone Subscriber

    Join Date
    May 2000
    Location
    SW MO
    Posts
    4,249

    Default

    We've had to deal with the negative press thing for a few years now. We combated it much like George is recommending, by using factual press releases based on facts.

    To our benefit, we started prior to our problems as the means to better the public image of our department. Whenever someone completes certification, we put out a press release. Whenever we get a grant for new equipment or apparatus, we put out a press release. When we get the new equipment or apparatus, we put out a press release. Whenever we have a fire or rescue (something "news-worthy") we put out a press release. In the process, we've built a nice relationship with the media, as we give them something to print.

    When the excriment hit the oscillating device when we put in for a tax-based fire district (we were membership based), we had already learned how to work press releases and built a relationship with the media. We've dealt with being called liars to accusations that we have missed calls. A lot of the stuff had already been printed in the past with a detailed account, the rest we were able to provide to the writer with our "version" of what really happened. While not every article is how we'd like it, they've all been pretty unbiased.

    I would suggest one thing. DO NOT get in a media ****ing contest. Do not directly address the accusations unless you're asked in an interview. If you do, be very careful with your words and do not make any comments that make you apear in appropriate. Be open with information and give them the facts and documents backing the facts (run reports, attendance reports, dispatch records) as most are publicly accessible records anyway, and let the facts speak for themselves. If you have the facts and the writer has any credibility at all, you won't have to debunk what the pot-stirrers say, the facts will do it all on their own.

  15. #15
    MembersZone Subscriber

    Join Date
    Jul 1999
    Location
    Flanders, NJ
    Posts
    13,537

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by dday05 View Post
    Well our news likes to start problems. I really don't know how to explain it though it causes tension in some ways towards depts in which the way the write some of the articles. I use to give interviews. I gave one a while ago and explained in detail of everything that they asked questions of (atleast I thought I did). Read the news the next day and it was all messed up and didn't sound good. And when I have a writer up my *** trying to do a interview when my people are doing and extrication what do you want us to say? We shut down a road and the pd allows the media in sometimes. They are rather rude in the fact they like to take pictures while we are cutting a pt out of a vehicle. I don't have the luxury of a pio in the daytime or have someone fill in that capacity. I am sure you will have a comment for this but this is how it is. I do think though I shouldn't be such a ***** to them but that rubs me the wrong way when they do stuff like that...
    Of course I have a comment. Is there something wrong with that?

    I iwll guarantee you that, if your relationship with the press is that bad, someone (maybe not you, but it sounds like it is probably you) made it that way. The local media didn't just decide one day to screw with the FD because they had nothing else to do.

    If you want to fix the problem (not sure you do), the best place to start would be to deal with them BEFORE the incident. Invite them to some training activities. Educate them on what exactly it is that you do. Start building positive relationships so that there is someone you can call and someone they can call when info is needed or when info needs to get out. You would be amazed how much better your press would get if you were on a first name basis with some of the media reporters.

    The second thing that can be done is to get some of your guys to some PIO training. Surely you have older members that still want to help but no longer participate in tactical activities. Perfect place for them. It almost sounds like you enjoy being antagonistic. That is why you shouldn't be dealing with the media.

    If your relationship with them is bad when there are routine things going on, how much worse is it going to get when someone in your FD screws up? Again, much better to have friends there then enemies.
    PROUD, HONORED AND HUMBLED RECIPIENT OF THE PURPLE HYDRANT AWARD - 10/2007.

  16. #16
    MembersZone Subscriber
    dday05's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Posts
    1,331

    Default

    Thanks for suspecting that I am the problem with our local media... We don't have to many old people on our dept. Multiple departments around the area have invited them to come to stuff and they usually don't appear unless it's a call to report on. And some depts have advised them to stay back at a incident out of the way until things have calmed down, and they can't do that. I agree we should do a better job with the media and I actually know about 80% of the reporters now b/c they have hired a bunch of new people. They spend a lot of time chasing political issues around. This would be a good time to turn over a new leaf huh? Not everything is perfect everywhere as we all know...

  17. #17
    Forum Member
    MEck51's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2004
    Location
    South Jersey
    Posts
    444

    Default

    Sounds to me like you could benifit from a PIO class. What George is saying is correct. When the press has no info they will get if from someone, that someone will be a bystander that is giving his or her version of the events. You need to first and foremost talk to you PD, the press should be no where near your personnel during an event. If you don't have a PIO, PD should be telling them to go stand by an area and we will talk to you as soon as you can. Sounds to me like Catch22 is working torwards or has a good relationship with the press.

  18. #18
    MembersZone Subscriber
    XRaysJL's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Location
    Red Lake (Outside of Williams), AZ. USA
    Posts
    200

    Cool Press training

    I have had experiences with the press before. Their main interest is NOT merely reporting the news. Their main interest is ratings, getting people to watch their stories. For them to do this they will report what is going on but in such a way to make big enough for people to watch.

    When I used to work at a prison there was a hole undeath a fense caused by a gopher and the media got wind and reported it as a major security breach.

    I've learned that you can not win in a war with the media. They will always get the last word and your word may not even be heard in the first place because they may choose not to air it (Even if they do they will get the last word........they will see to it.).

    Here's what you can do:
    - Stay professional.
    - State only the facts that you can back up with proof.
    - Have a designated Press Information Officer (PIO).

    Once the situation becomes old to them they will probably move on and out of your hair.

  19. #19
    Forum Member

    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Location
    TEXAS GULF COAST
    Posts
    111

    Default

    get an article in the next edition of the towns paper about the fire with statements from officials about the good job firefighters did
    if you miss the deadline for articles, wait and see if she rights in and then right a professional letter to her concerning her thoughts
    if she keeps persisiting then i would confide in the departments lawyer and ask him to draft up a letter to her with something along the lines of deformation of the department
    i believe a public information officer is a good thing for a small department as news agencies can really screw the facts up and make you look bad
    i am a PIO for a vol. dept in a town(county seat) of 7,000 and i try to put an article in the paper about every major call.
    Puttin the wet stuff on the red stuff!

  20. #20
    Forum Member
    FyredUp's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 1999
    Location
    Rural Wisconsin, Retired from the burbs of Milwaukee
    Posts
    10,171

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by GeorgeWendtCFI View Post
    Putting out a positive, factual press release is not sinking to their level.
    George,

    Where my volly FD is is not urban or even suburban New Jersey. It is a town of 700 in Wisconsin with NO local paper. Let me repeat that, NO local paper. Who do I give the press release to? The paper in the next city over? Great idea George, let's take a local village issue and let the entire county read about it. You may have the answers to big city life, you don't know jack about life here. I wouldn't presume to tell you that your press release idea is wrong there why do you presume to know the answer for the rest of the country?

    By handling it the way we did and letting the 2 factions do there thing it was over in a couple of weeks. Affect on the fire department and it's reputation...ZERO. Seems like a fine resolution.

    George, you are a smart guy and have a lot of knowledge to share. BUT, you simply don't know everything or everybody's individual situations.

  21. #21
    MembersZone Subscriber

    Join Date
    May 2000
    Location
    SW MO
    Posts
    4,249

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by FyredUp View Post
    George,

    Where my volly FD is is not urban or even suburban New Jersey. It is a town of 700 in Wisconsin with NO local paper. Let me repeat that, NO local paper. Who do I give the press release to? The paper in the next city over? Great idea George, let's take a local village issue and let the entire county read about it. You may have the answers to big city life, you don't know jack about life here. I wouldn't presume to tell you that your press release idea is wrong there why do you presume to know the answer for the rest of the country?

    By handling it the way we did and letting the 2 factions do there thing it was over in a couple of weeks. Affect on the fire department and it's reputation...ZERO. Seems like a fine resolution.

    George, you are a smart guy and have a lot of knowledge to share. BUT, you simply don't know everything or everybody's individual situations.
    My department doesn't appear to be much different than yours. We are a town of 1,100 with no town paper. However, our citizens get their news from somewhere. Usually it's the paper from the neighboring town or one of the two county newspapers (or a combination). I'm sure your citizens are getting their news from somewhere other than the town coffee shop (which can be another good source to spread good PR).

  22. #22
    Forum Member
    FyredUp's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 1999
    Location
    Rural Wisconsin, Retired from the burbs of Milwaukee
    Posts
    10,171

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Catch22 View Post
    My department doesn't appear to be much different than yours. We are a town of 1,100 with no town paper. However, our citizens get their news from somewhere. Usually it's the paper from the neighboring town or one of the two county newspapers (or a combination). I'm sure your citizens are getting their news from somewhere other than the town coffee shop (which can be another good source to spread good PR).

    And again, why would we take what is a local issue to a paper that gets most of the county coverage? Besides taking a local issue county wide what purpose does it serve?

    We had this happen before on an issue when an engine wouldn't start for a call...one of our village trustees called the paper with the good intention of trying to show that we needed a new engine. Well, it never got us a new engine, I did, by writing a successful grant. What did we gain by that article that got county wide circulation? Ridicule and nothing more.

    My advice is simple, do what you think is best in your situation. I offered my 2 cents, if people don't like my advice from my experience don't follow it.

  23. #23
    Forum Member
    Bones42's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2001
    Location
    Pt. Beach, NJ
    Posts
    10,685

    Default

    Every month, we send a summary of FD activity to the newspaper. If there is a significant event, there will be separate press release. The paper we send it to covers 6 towns. Do the other 5 towns really care what happens in our town? Nope. But it's the same paper for all 6 towns.
    "This thread is being closed as it is off-topic and not related to the fire industry." - Isn't that what the Off Duty forum was for?

  24. #24
    MembersZone Subscriber
    dday05's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Posts
    1,331

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Bones42 View Post
    Every month, we send a summary of FD activity to the newspaper. If there is a significant event, there will be separate press release. The paper we send it to covers 6 towns. Do the other 5 towns really care what happens in our town? Nope. But it's the same paper for all 6 towns.
    I like this idea. The wheels are spinning...

  25. #25
    Forum Member
    volfirie's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Location
    Victoria, Australia
    Posts
    558

    Default

    Local media can be good friends, and bad enemies. We try to feed information to them but it's always up to them what they actually print. As has been said above, they want readers, and sensation is what gets attention. Have a look at this photo - it was front page:

    http://tools.leadernewspapers.com.au...=16461&cid=315

    the headline? "Too Close for Comfort" or something like that. Sensation. Mind you, I like the photo (that was my truck), but it doesn't show that the grass fire was under control, that we were hitting a pile of tree litter that was around 15 metres from the truck...

    So what can we do? Try to look after them on the scene, talk to them as soon as possible about what's happened, point out a place for the cameraman to take some shots (might not work, they know what they want). And if at all possible, get someone trained in media relations, and again if possible, have them shadow a reporter to stop any interruption of firefighters. Doing some 'hot' training? Have someone take lots of photos showing flame, smoke, water, and PEOPLE. Offer the best of these shots to the paper with an account of what was being practised. Doing public awarenss work? Same thing, invite the paper as well. If it's a quiet week, or the shots are spectacular enough, the paper will run them. And remember you as being helpful.
    "Professional" means your attitude to the job...

    Nullus Anxietas ..... (T Pratchett)

Thread Information

Users Browsing this Thread

There are currently 1 users browsing this thread. (0 members and 1 guests)

Similar Threads

  1. You know the negative politics is a tad out of control when...
    By Dalmatian90 in forum The Off Duty Forums
    Replies: 7
    Last Post: 11-02-2004, 08:20 AM
  2. Negative Feedback
    By E229Lt in forum Firefighters Forum
    Replies: 21
    Last Post: 09-23-2002, 04:37 PM
  3. Webteam sees more and more negative attitudes.
    By StayBack500FT in forum Firefighters Forum
    Replies: 39
    Last Post: 08-09-2002, 09:07 AM
  4. in-house station alarms - negative health effects of same
    By stu harrison in forum Career/Paid Firefighters Forum
    Replies: 9
    Last Post: 11-10-2000, 09:37 AM
  5. PPV - Negative Aspects???
    By Paul Grimwood in forum Fireground Tactics
    Replies: 11
    Last Post: 08-14-1999, 10:41 PM

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts

Log in

Click here to log in or register