IE 11 Not Supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.

Bad News Is Not Like Wine

Run, don’t walk, to share bad news.

I generally try to stay away from politics, since it is not my goal to irritate anyone who reads this blog ... but the latest security document news is too hard to resist.

Basically, there is this: Classified documents were found where they did not belong in buildings to include President Biden’s garage (where his Corvette is parked). There have now been three separate “findings” associated with a document here, there and everywhere.

The news is not so much about where they were found or what was in them, but about when they were found and when was it publicly announced. They were found Nov. 2, if I remember that correctly, and not announced until December.

Which brings me to the teaching point: Bad news does not get better with age! Unlike wine, it does not age well. If you have bad news to share, don’t wait for the Friday afternoon news cycle, GET IT OUT immediately. That, after all, is what “transparency” demands, does it not? Trying to “time the release of bad news” rarely helps you with the impact of the news itself. And the news will come out!

You can argue about the differences with President Trump and his refusal to turn over documents, thus the search of his home/properties. But, the not-so-nuanced differences between the two circumstances will be lost on many people.

Which brings me to the second point I’d like to make. Events and history can change people’s perceptions about certain acts. I think that if the Biden issue had occurred in a vacuum, and there was no Trump brouhaha before hand, then likely there would have “maybe” been a small media item on it, but not the congressional investigation that is sure to come.

The standards and perceptions have changed and thus, bad news does not get better with age. What are you trying to hide? What advantage were you trying to achieve by waiting? All of that type of thinking has caused a much bigger problem for the current White House.

Then there is the drip, drip, drip of multiple discoveries of documents. Hedge your bets when making announcements about things you are not totally sure about. Deaths, injuries, total damages, location of damages, most impacted areas. Use words like “we believe ...” and stay away from definitive statements and using words like “all” and “everything.” It might turn out that those comments could be in error.

May you not have any bad news to announce, but if you do ... get it out!
Eric Holdeman is a contributing writer for Emergency Management magazine and is the former director of the King County, Wash., Office of Emergency Management.