| || |
About that ML&P story
July 25, 2008 - Harry Eagar
You weren't supposed to learn about it until Friday. Perfectly legitimate, too. My policy as a business writer is that as long as it isn't breaking the law, a business can announce its doings on its own schedule.
This isn't a usual outlook by reporters, but I am old-fashioned enough to believe that not everything is fair game. How would you like it, for example, if you were going to pop the question to your best girl, with an elaborate presentation of the ring and all, and somebody tipped her first?
But, if you read the Internet edition shortly after 6 p.m., you did learn about it. Here's how that happened. Scoundrels will be named, so keep reading.
ML&P sent out an e-mail at midday Thursday, embargoed until 10 a.m. Friday. This is prudent, if the company can trust the news outlet, because it gives a little time to prepare a thorough story. ML&P told us it wanted a chance to tell its fired workers in person, individually, rather than having them find out via a news report.
The news was leaking around a little. Thursday morning, at a hearing of the County Council, one of the members hinted that a local company would soon announce large layoffs. ML&P had, I believe, told the mayor and at least
some council members about it at the sametime or even a little before it let The Maui News know,
I started working up the background around 1:30 p.m. Our editors had told ML&P that we'd observe the embargo as long as everybody else did. This worked to our disadvantage, because when the news was released at 10 a.m.
Friday, we would be unable to get it out in print until Saturday morning. We planned to publish on the Internet at 10 a.m.
That would have given the broadcast competition about 20 hours headstart for most of our readers, since I don't imagine many people log into the Internet edition oftener than once a day.
I'd have bet next month's pay that one of the Honolulu TV stations would break the embargo, and I'd have bet $100 that all of them, plus Pacific Business News, would. Sure enough, we turned on a set, and right on schedule
an untrustworthy TV anchor was telling you the story.
The one I saw was Shawn Ching at KITV, with his comical sidekick-- Tonya Joaquin? I don't watch much TV, so I don't know the names. It was probably a similar scene at the other stations, but I didn't see them.
Ching said something like, "It has been learned . . ." Well, yeah, somebody sent him an e-mail. Great work, Hawkshaw. Then he handed off to Tanya or Tonya or whatever her name is, and she announced that "sources report" and
then quoted from the e-mail. As if the station had confirmed the story from some other source. Next thing, she was reading from the announcement. What a cock-up! The boobs can't even fake a simple lie.
And for what? Is somebody going to walk into the barbershop Friday and announce, "Say that Shawn Ching is one crackerjack reporter, ain't he? Did you see him break that hot story from Maui?"
I don't break embargoes. Never have, even though it's cost me some genuine beats. The most painful was the discovery of the Sarah Jo, which I found out about on my own by being in Hana and listening to people in Hana, not by a fax to the office. I was asked to sit on the story until the relatives of the missing Hana boys, some of whom were scattered around the Mainland, were told.
Somewhat reluctantly, Nora Cooper, then the GM, agreed that we'd wait. I had the story in the can, and a couple days later my Hana contact left a phone message that the story was clear. He then picked up the phone and called
the TV stations.
In a charitable mood, I can imagine he didn't understand that he'd stabbed me in the back. He should have waited until our press ran, then called the other outlets.
Maybe this is too much inside baseball for you, but take this home with you: If I tell you I'll honor an embargo, I'll honor the embargo. Same with the rest of us here at The Maui News. Anybody else in the state tells you that, chances are he's lying.
No comments posted for this article.
Post a Comment