Forget “No comment.” When you feel your character and integrity are being challenged, you go public.
I’ve been described as having a “strong sense of justice and balance” and as a PR consultant and writer who studied journalism in college, I value honesty and integrity in my work. So when I hear claims of FAKE NEWS, misquotes and/or quotes being taken out of context, I am dubious because, personally, it goes against everything for which I stand–especially when it is for one’s own gain.
Then I became a victim of FAKE NEWS (okay, that’s the last time I will capitalize it); and no matter how hard I tried to remedy it privately, there was no correction or retraction to be had. The alleged perpetrator of the fake news story is the well-known consumer advocate website Elliott.org. So now I need a consumer advocate who can investigate a claim against a…consumer advocate. Oh, the irony.
I’ve worked with founder Chris Elliott (a stand-up guy whom I have always respected and admired) in the past and his agents have now helped successfully resolve two personal consumer issues. Part of the terms of accepting their help is to allow your story to be shared on their website and other assets. I had also contacted AT&T upper management myself. Two different representatives contacted me, so whether it was Elliott.org’s contact or mine that remedied the error, I can’t be sure. But, yes, I am happy to give credit where due (there’s that ‘justice’ again) and agreed that the consumer site could share my story.
What am I NOT willing to do is to be made to look like a fool trying to pull something over on the company (AT&T) with whom I had the dispute. It publicly threatens my character and my integrity.
The article in question claimed that I did not sign up for autopay as instructed; and as you can see from the comments, I look like an idiot for not doing so and Elliott.org looked foolish for investigating what was clearly “my” mistake. I immediately contacted Elliott.org via their online form explaining that I was ALREADY using autopay, but using a credit card, not a bank card as apparently required. (This was never articulated by the agent. Only upper management seems to be aware of this requirement, as four calls to customer service never revealed this either.)
Not wanting to look foolish themselves, Elliott.org added a line “In addition, AT&T will apply a $10 discount to your account when you associate it with a bank account for autopayments of your invoices.” However, they did not remove the sentence that claimed I had not signed up for autopay as required (which, again, I had.) I submitted a second request to remove this misstatement. The moderator would not approve any comments I tried to post explaining the inaccuracy.
I reached out to Chris Elliott personally, in the hope that he would step in and correct this injustice. He responded by forwarding my email to the writer, Jennifer Finger. They have since added a disclaimer: “Update: Although our case notes suggest that French was not signed up for autopayments, French has informed us that she was.” Not exactly the truth and whole truth I would have liked. (If you get nothing else from this story, remember this: to get the autopay discount with AT&T, you must pay by debit, NOT credit card.)
In the meantime, I have learned a sad lesson. All members of the media are not created equal. Some do not value the sanctity of journalistic integrity and objectivity. Some may very well subscribe to the belief that clicks trump truth.