When a pipe burst on the Carnival Dream last week, just how bad you thought the incident was — which included substantial flooding on one deck of the ship — probably depended on your choice of news sources. While some outlets compared the gushing water to the sinking of the Titanic, others — ourselves included — reported that the flooding actually only impacted about 50 staterooms and was dealt with incredibly quickly by the ship’s crew. But now, Carnival’s chief communications officer Chris Chiamis is taking irresponsible media outlets to task for their attempts to sensationalize the situation as opposed to reporting on the actual facts.
“So maybe there is something to be said about this fake news thing,” Chiames wrote on his LinkedIn page, “after 72-plus hours of managing an incident the media turned into the next at-sea disaster.”
On both his LinkedIn profile and later in an interview with PR Week, one of the outlets Chiamis specifically called out was the Miami Herald, which did not contact Carnival’s offices — located in the same city — for comment. He accused the paper of filing “a story that relied on secondary sources…like a 5th grade book report.”
He went on to say, “For those of you who followed the Carnival Dream story (and I know some of you did, because I’ve been getting texts and notes urging me to ‘hang in there’), everyone and everything is okay. Not to dismiss [that] about 100 of our passengers had a few hours of serious disruption, but everyone was back in their staterooms that night except for a few who chose not to sleep there. We offered [the impacted] guests a full refund and an early flight home. Only two people left early.”
Chiamis then went on to praise everyone involved in the ship-board incident. “The crew and the guests were all amazing. And our very sincere apologies to our guests.”
“Tell Me What The News Is”
When days later sites were still running the story — including a now-deleted video which had gone viral — Chiamis was flummoxed. “My question to outlets covering the news [at that point] was: Tell me what the news is one more time.”
At the end of the day, the actual facts of the incident had ceased to matter. “The drama of the video became the story,” Chiamis told PR Week. “Not the fact that the water was off, that section of the ship was restored and everyone was back in their rooms.”
The problem, Chiamis said, was that reporters at some media outlets “didn’t get the full story, or chased another outlet’s story in the rush to publish.” He added that Carnival Cruise Line “didn’t want to minimize the impact this had on our passengers — whether five, 50 or 100, it was a disruption to their vacation. But we also wanted to draw attention to the crew and passengers and how they responded to it. It was the quick, smart work of our onboard crew that allowed for the return to normal quickly.”
What do you think of the way news outlets handled the Carnival Dream situation?