Tiger Woods was silent for almost a week amidst wide-spread media coverage of his suspicious late night car accident. For months Toyota was not only silent about the real problem with their gas pedals, they tried to initially blame the acceleration problem on floor mats. Both stories continue to have intense media coverage which includes reports on every new twist or detail, while rehashing the basic facts over and over again.

In contrast, David Letterman self-reported his sexual trysts with female staffers on his own terms, in his own words, ahead of a threatened blackmail scheme. Media coverage of Letterman’s trysts has dried up and the matter is now considered a non-story. What is the difference and what can businesses learn from these major news stories?

Self-reporting of problems helps to control the message and the timing, and seems to shorten the media life of a story. Coming clean can help a business move on past the initial media flurry, return to business as usual faster, and hopefully preserve sales and reputation. Businesses should consider credibility and accountability, and the perception of the public. Admitting mistakes and accepting responsibility is more than just something your mother tried to teach to you. It applies to businesses, sports superstars, and celebrities as well.