Let’s Think Before We Say “We Don’t Comment”

Every once in a while, amid the junk on social media, there’s a post that can make you think about something that you’ve never thought about before and it actually merits consideration.

It happened over the weekend when Washington Post media writer Paul Farhi tweeted:

“Companies almost always say they “don’t discuss personnel matters” when asked by reporters why someone was fired. But this is nonsense. They talk lots about personnel matters when they brag about an important or high-profile hire.”

He sure has a point, especially during times of crisis, adversity or just bad news.

Along the same lines, many companies will say that such a position is “a matter of policy.” Is there actually a policy?

Other times companies will say that they don’t “comment on pending litigation.” Is that also true when the company initiatiates the litigation?

Many companies will say that they don’t “comments on rumors or speculation.” But what about when rumors or speculation are flat-out wrong and necessitate a denial? Or is it only when there’s a rumor or a piece of speculation that contains at least a grain of truth?

Farhi’s tweet came after Post reporting on a TV weatherman in Illinois who ranted publicly about a policy set forth by his employer, TV station owner and news homoginzer Sinclair. Sinclair won’t say whether or not the employee was terminated for his actions, something very common by media owners, despite the fact that journalists employed by these companies run into similar stonewalls trying to do their jobs.

This is a good opportunity for all of us to involved in these statements from time to time to think about when and how we use them. Are you being consistent? Are you being honest? Would it just be easier to answer the question, somehow, and move on?