I hope this column doesn't land us in court again.Actually, we weren't in court: It was an Akron law office for a deposition given by Senior Reporter Marty Whitford in an arbitration case involving a Yokohama Tire Corp. employee. It sure seemed like court, though. Marty, under oath, was grilled for nearly two hours by attorneys representing Yokohama Tire and the United Steelworkers of America. Two stenographers, three lawyers and a guy running the videotape camera were present. About as close to court as you can get.
The situation stems from a story we published in July 1996. Yokohama lost a major contract, and some of its employees told Marty it was because the company had shipped defective tires. He checked with customers, gave Yokohama a chance to rebut every claim, and we ran it.
Within days, a Yokohama vice president was in our office demanding a retraction. He produced an affidavit from a key source, who now denied he spoke to Marty. I told the VP, ``Hey, if a billion-dollar company is coming down on an employee, he might say anything to keep his job.''
Naw, we can't do anything to him, the Yokohama VP said. He's in the union.
They soon fired the guy. Now he's trying to keep his job, pension, etc., which brought Marty to that well-appointed Akron law office.
The issue isn't about the truth of what the employee said, just that he said it.
Interesting. I guess this law business is a lot different from what we do. We find news and print it. Period.
Not just happy news. Anything that's news, warts and all. If it's a story in which our readers will be interested, if it's as factual and fair as we can make it, we publish it.
Now and then I get grief about articles we run, like this Yokohama piece. Just part of the job.
Sometimes it's a big company, trying to put a good spin on a bad situation. Other times, it's an advertiser that expects special treatment.
Usually I see their point. Most tire makers wine and dine the press, take them on free trips (which we don't accept) to exotic locations; why wouldn't they expect special treatment? Likewise, an advertiser that's spending good money might expect a certain amount of attention from the editors.
Most companies understand, though, that our mission merely is to seek out and publish news. The editorial department's customer is the reader, and providing anything less than an honest, unbiased story would be cheating. Even if it sometimes drags us into a courtroom situation.
Noga is the editor of Rubber & Plastics News.