A golden rule, broken

September 21, 2006 A golden rule when working with the media is “never say anything near a journalist that you wouldn’t want attributed to you on the front page of tomorrow’s paper.” To apply this concept, you need an idea of what might offend the important people in your life—shareholders, customers, voters, family, etc.—and you need to care about offending them.

Astonishingly, there are many people, including media people, who don’t understand this very basic idea. Here’s an example.

Yesterday, Guy Fournier, the chairman of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, resigned for, as the CBC delicately put it, falsely claiming that Lebanon “allows men to have sex with animals, as long as they’re female.”

Mr. Fournier wasn’t content to just say something stupid around a reporter—like George W. Bush calling New York Times reporter Adam Clymer a “major league a**hole” or Ronald Reagan’s open-mic remarks about bombing the evil empire—he published his comments in a magazine article.

The mind boggles.