I reported recently that Sharon Kleinpeter, PR person for Cox Baton Rouge/Lafayette, had spent here time at the recent IndExpo denying that she’d ever heard from the crew that put together the recent Bill Moyers special that featured Lafayette’s fiber fight. –That film had shown on the local PBS station the day before and the producers had made a special point of saying that they’d contacted the two incumbent companies but had gotten no response. It made a big splash in Lafayette–lots of folks tuned in and there was a lot of talk on the street about it. But Cox and BellSouth came off very badly.
I contacted Karr, who was the reporter in charge of this for the PBS team, and told him of Kleinpeter’s semi-public claims. He stands by–emphatically I might add–the claim made in show: he contacted the local, regional, and national offices of both Cox and BellSouth. None of them ever got back.
Perhaps Kleinpeter was only trying to cover a little personal embarrassment. After all, knowing Lafayette’s mood, I’m confident that Kleinpeter did get some blowback from the show at her booth. It’d be natural enough (if not particularly admirable) to deflect criticism by trying to cast doubt on the fairness of the show’s reporters.
But I have to wonder if that is really all of it.
Corporations have developed a bad habit of saying in private and semi-private things that they couldn’t defend in public. The not so polite way to put it: Lying. The best example (though not the only one) came during the fiber fight was when BellSouth’s Louisiana President, Bill Oliver, made a tour of the state’s editorial boards attacking Lafayette and pushing the papers to take editorial stands in opposition to Lafayette’s initiative. He took umbrage at being accurately quoted by a reporter for threats he passed during an Advocate editorial board meeting to pull the Cingular call center in North Lafayette if Lafayette went through with its fiber plans. As in the present case he essentially accused the reporter of lying. The brouhaha died down quickly when the Advertiser follow up to the story admitted that he’d said pretty much the same thing to them and Durel and a former president of the Chamber of Commerce also confirmed that the threat had been made to them. The present case sounds uncomfortably similar: if you don’t like the truth being made public, claim the reporter is lying.