Our alternative brethren at the Philadelphia Weekly newspaper recently unearthed an interesting memo reportedly sent to publishers, executive editors and other honchos at the Knight Ridder news corporation, which includes the Free Press among its many media holdings.
Like much of the newspaper business, KR has taken a beating recently as ad sales have headed south. Just last week, for example, the company reported profits for the quarter ending July 1 were down a whopping 86 percent. (Among the papers contributing to the drop, according to the Associated Press, was our very own Freep, which suffered an 11 percent revenue drop during the quarter.)
The corporation saw the red ink on the wall earlier this year and started wielding its budget-cutting ax with a vengeance, announcing in June that it planned to chop 1,700 full-time positions nationwide.
Naturally, all this bloodletting has attracted the attention of other media. Which brings us to the memo issued by Polk Laffoon, KR’s corporate spokesperson. Mr. Laffoon, it seems, thinks that most of the reporters calling for information have some sort of “agenda” that is frequently unfriendly to KR’s corporate interests. Given that, Laffoon instructs the company’s news people that “there’s nothing the matter with saying nothing, or ‘no comment.’ Often it makes good sense. We are under no obligation to tell a reporter about our internal business.”
Likewise, according to the memo, the news people at KR should be cautious not to let any negative facts slip out, even if issued off the record.
“Because if you impart something that isn’t ultimately flattering to what we’re are all about,” instructs the memo, “and the reporter then uses it as a springboard to get someone else to say it, what has been gained?”
And here we thought the newspaper business was about telling the truth, even when it hurts, and even when it is about yourself.