This morning I ducked into a place to have the oil changed in my daughter’s car (read: good mom). A table before me had all the pubs I love to leaf through but rarely get the chance to see. So I put down my Stephen King book and my Palm Treo and began my feast. First, I looked at the pictures in People, a luscious treat that usually only happens at the dentist. Then I cringed at the pictures included in an article about tummy tucks. Finally, I opened the pages of the Chicago Sun-Times, another rare treat.
The first and only article (these folks at Duxler are FAST) I read was about the written prayer that Barack Obama left in a crack of the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City. Rule number one: those notes are private. Rule number two: since they are private they’re supposed to remain that way. Apparently, the note was taken (by whom isn’t so clear though it might have been a student) and then published yesterday in the Israeli paper Maariv. I won’t include the prayer here; you can look that up yourself.
But I thought it might be interesting to raise this issue of what to print and what not to print and all the ramifications involved. But of course I have a bigger lesson to offer, too. While I wasn’t in on the editorial meeting during which the publication of the prayer was discussed I have to guess that the editors at least raised the possible ways the public might respond to the paper sharing Obama’s private exchange with his god. I know for this blogger, an invasion of privacy like this makes me very uncomfortable and I wonder a little if the paper will suffer at all. I have to believe they prepared themselves for the fallout and there has been fallout.
The lesson, of course, is that when you take a risk like this you absolutely must be prepared for the impact. I try really hard to impress upon my clients that reputation is everything and that means everyone in a company must feel the same way. We can’t control what people say inside or outside a company, but we can explain how their actions can have a much broader impact than they might believe. I’m going to guess that there might even be Maariv staffers who completely disagreed with the paper’s decision. Indeed, another Israeli paper, Yediot Ahronot, reported Friday it had also obtained the note but decided not to publish it to respect Obama’s privacy. Okay, what transpired in that newsroom? I’d love to know. Bottom line for me: I don’t think the episode does a whole lot for the reputation of the paper Maariv. I do, however, feel like the other paper, Yediot Ahronot, comes out much better and all they did was nothing. Sometime to think about.