LAST CALL: Media relations 'expert' could use a quick lesson on thesubject himself

"Anything I say - any single sentence - can be used in isolation."

So wrote Polk Laffoon, Knight Ridder's vice president of corporate

relations, in a "rules of thumb" memo to executives, publishers and

editors on how to deal with the media.

Alas, it was more than just this "single sentence" that the Philadelphia

Weekly used when it got hold of the memo. It published almost the entire

oeuvre, and like the release of the memo, his words - whether in

isolation or their full context - are less than wise.

In the memo, entitled, Talking to the Press, Laffoon says "'no comment'

often ... makes good sense" since, according to Laffoon, "our business

is just that."

Laffoon also advises that reporters "virtually always have an agenda."

(Hang on a second, Polk, don't you work for the nation's second largest

news-paper company? - Ed.)

As proof of his PR savvy, Laffoon cites a June 18 Wall Street Journal

article. While the article was "nobody's idea of a helpful piece,"

Laffoon said it was "not nearly as strong as (the reporter) would have

liked, mostly because we threw so much contrary information at her."

A source within Knight Ridder, who leaked the story, asked: "Where was

this brilliant guidance when it was needed from calls from ... dailies

and weeklies across the country who for months recorded the carnage

inside Knight Ridder?"

Laffoon, whose name conveniently rhymes with Buffoon, offers a final tip

(with which to hang himself). You should understand your own motives, he

says. "You have to think: 'What am I trying to accomplish?' Because if

you impart something that isn't ultimately flattering to what we are all

about ... what has been gained? Indeed.

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