What’s particularly notable in this case is the paper’s reaction. Its business editor told Romenesko this week that he felt the false denials damaged the paper:
“I felt like our brand — our newspaper — was damaged” by Schnucks’ denials, which prompted the paper to stay silent about sale rumors, says business editor Roland Klose. Readers, he says, have accused the paper of being “derelict” by not running rumor stories, but “we felt it would be irresponsible and it was such an adamant denial” from Willis.
Bailey doesn’t believe the PR woman was simply out of the loop when she talked to him in late August. After the deal was announced, he says, “she said, ‘We couldn’t tell you, Tom, because we had this agreement” with Kroger.
A source burned the paper, so the paper decided to burn the source by detailing her lies in a follow up report.
The resulting report may seem like nothing more than payback, but it does two important things. First, it helps readers understand why the paper published a story that led with false information. At the same time, it holds the company accountable. Second, the story functions as something of a warning to other would-be dishonest sources: You can’t lie to us and get away with it.
I suspect the paper feels justified in doing this because the transgressor is a professional communicator. She is expected to meet a higher standard, and it’s fair game to hold her to it.
That’s especially true when you consider what Willis told Romenesko. Asked why she told the paper no deal was being negotiated when that’s exactly what was going on, here’s what she said: “I gave them the best information I had at the time.”
Yep, another lie.
Correction of the Week
A profile of the Icelandic billionaire Thor Bjorgolfsson referred to his plan for a super yacht known as Project Mars, as a play on his thunder god name. To clarify: Thor is the hammer-wielding Norse god of thunder. His nearest Roman equivalent is the thunderbolt-wielding Jupiter, rather than Mars, the Roman god of war (“Icelandic tycoon still living the high life in London after the collapse of Icesave”, Business, last week, page 35). — The Observer (U.K.)