Earlier this month, I argued that Standard Federal Savings and Loan was wrong to have a policy of non-cooperation with the press, even if the intended publicity was positive. Ernest V. Haag of Falls Church was not persuaded:
"Perhaps you said it best in that same column: ' . . . no business has anything if it doesn't have trust.' Where stands the journalist along the continuum of trust? He who would condemn the policy without a thorough understanding of its genesis is usually a journalist or a politician. Defensive policies are most often the result of 'offensive' actions."
Stipulation: journalists make mistakes (whether they make more than politicians is a subject for another day). But my point, Ernest, was that Standard Federal's policy does nothing to promote a climate whereby journalists can do better.
I'm sure the genesis of the policy was that Standard Federal got burned by an inaccurate reporter once upon a time. Burns are no fun. But is Standard Federal going to grouse about one burn forever?Why not accept coverage as inevitable, and do what you can to contribute to accuracy?
A column that same week brought an angry letter from Dorothy Hodges of Oxon Hill:
"There are two effects (as a minimum) of your mentioning the Coca-Cola contest and its frustrated participant who can't get the word 'Smile' on a bottle cap. One is the major effect intended -- to tell the public what a long chance is involved in a try for the top prize. The second is to give Coca-Cola free publicity . . . .
"My objection to giving free publicity to Coke, or any other carbonated soft drink, is that carbonated soft drinks, and my dentist says Coke in particular, are all very damaging to the teeth . . . It may be symbolic that Coke decided to make 'Smile' the hardest word to find."
I share your concern about good dental habits, Dorothy, and I can say with a clear conscience that I'm not part of a conspiracy to wreck the teeth of America. The column in question wasn't designed to give Coke free publicity. Coke wouldn't need it. The company has already paid for more publicity than I could give it in three lifetimes.
The point of the column was to spotlight the agony of trying to win a contest. I would have written about that agony if the product had been wheat germ. By the way, dentists tell me that drinking Coke isn't nearly as damaging to your teeth as failing to brush, or failing to use dental floss.
My report of a Roy Rogers Restaurants hamburger coupon that appeared in The Post after its expiration date drew a sharp note from Barry L. Smith, executive vice president of W. B. Doner and Company, which handles Rogers' advertising:
"The wrong organization has been nailed. The Washington Post, not Roy Rogers Restaurants, should be the organization taking the cutting edge of Mr. Bob Levey's column . . . . "
Happy to correct the record, Barry. While the original column item did not state in so many words that Roy Rogers was responsible for the fluff, that impression could easily have been left. The error was entirely the responsibility of The Post's advertising department. They apologize. I apologize.
Last but not least, Russ Adams of McLean added this contribution to my continuing crusade for proper pronunciation of Our Town's name:
"At least twice of late, readers have complained of hearing Washington pronounced as 'Warshington . . . ' I myself do not say Warshington (though I do on occasion come out with that peculiar regionalism, AMbuLANCE), but I still believe it is bad form for newcomers to the area to carp about the local accent.
"I lived in Boston for a number of years, and managed to develop a certain affection for such things as DAWchista for Dorchester. I submit that recent arrivals to Washington should do likewise with Warshington . . . . "
I still say right is right and wrong is wrong, Russ. But like you, I resent six-month residents who've turned into instant know-it-alls. Warshington may be a mistake, but at least it's our mistake. When in Rome, goof as the Romans do.