Sunday, January 16, 2005

Set Up 

With some reporters, you know when they call that nothing will go well from that point. It's the 60 Minutes Syndrome. Last Thursday, a gentle-voiced reporter called me and said she was going to write about a client. Could I possibly arrange an interview? I bolted to attention. This reporter never writes anything that praises anyone. She is an investigative columnist.

I told her I had to check on the availability of the client, who really was out of town and not easy to access. My first temptation was to say the client was unreachable, but I knew she wasn't calling unless she was going to write. I ditched that idea instantly and called our direct client contact, who was in a meeting. He was whispering on the phone to me until I told him the name of the reporter. You could hear him leaving the room and concern rising with his voice. I told him I was going to find the people the reporter wanted to talk to but he needed to know.

We got the client on the phone and thankfully, there was no resistance to talking to the reporter. The client knew the case and understood that if the client's points weren't made up front, they wouldn't get into the article. We had to dash to a videoconference so the client called the reporter alone, something we don't like to do but in this case was unavoidable.

Well, the story appeared, and it is everything we expected -- awful, harsh, mocking. The reporter did mention the client's points, however, which scarcely mitigated the hatchet job she did. Fortunately, the client hasn't expressed much irritation. Everybody knew it was going to be bad. It was a matter of degree.


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