Punitive or Petty? Or Both?
Earlier today, President-Elect Donald Trump, Gov. Pence, and a representative from Carrier stood before the Carrier logo at a media event that was widely anticipated by local and national media.
One reporter, however, wasn’t allowed a credential to cover the show. Why?
Because Carrier wouldn’t let him in.
Carrier hasn’t offered any explanation as to why, so let me take some liberties with a possible explanation. One can reasonably assume that they don’t like that Rafael Sanchez, an investigative reporter has asked them tough questions. They probably don’t like that he went to Mexico to see how it’s possible to live on $3 a day. Oh, and they probably really don’t like that he got to know the workers – many of whom are members of the United Steelworkers union – and told their stories about what happens when a company abruptly and callously leaves you in the dust.
I can only assume that Carrier doesn’t like that Rafael Sanchez is doing his job. I can also give them a quick journalism 101 course – when you decide to close a factory and move the jobs to Mexico, it’s NEWS.
And here’s what else is news. The State of Indiana – whose hardworking Hoosier taxpayers Gov. Pence and Mr. Trump say they are championing – is going to give Carrier $7 million dollars. People are still losing their jobs in Huntington. People are still losing their jobs in Indianapolis. So it’s fair to ask what we’re getting for that $7 million.
Should reporters and frankly citizens ask tough questions about the deal – and all the details? You bet. As a business leader would say, what’s the ROI?
I can imagine the discussion in the room at Carrier. Executive A doesn’t like that a reporter won’t just take the company line (that’s likely been prepared by an outside firm whose retainer costs more than a house in Warren Township). Executive B puffs up and revokes the credential. PR Person A pleads to not pick a fight with the reporter. And PR Person B, who is plain exhausted by the whole exchange and frankly a bit tired of the reporter, gives up and gives in.
Is it punitive and petty? Yes.
Is it tone deaf and a missed opportunity? Absolutely.
Does it make the story, or the reporter, go away? Absolutely not.
Taking tough questions from reporters is part of the job, folks. Especially when you have behaved like Carrier and their executives. Bring in reporters, answer their questions. You might not like it, but that’s part of living in a society with a free press.
It’s just part of the job.
[Note: Full disclosure, I’ve worked with Rafael Sanchez – taking his tough questions – for nearly 20 years.]