How to sink a story

By | February 27th, 2006

Did the cruise industry kill a story about passenger disappearances?

It might have.

Psst! Wanna buy an ad?

During my research for this article, I spoke with several sources who gave me a “heads up” that another outlet — a major newspaper on the East Coast — was working on a similar story.

But the piece never appeared, and now one person who has corresponded with the reporter says it never will. The reason? He says cruise lines threatened to pull their ads if the article saw the light of day.

If that is true, then any discussion of this case would probably focus on the exceedingly poor editorial judgment exercised by the newspaper.

But I think that would miss the point.

The real issue, I think, would be the apparent disconnect between what the cruise industry says and what it does.

It says it is taking a “zero tolerance” policy. It says it is telling us everything about crime onboard.

But what is it doing?

I hope the story wasn’t spiked, and that the advertisers didn’t try to influence the editorial process.

But I kinda doubt it.

I remember how the industry reacted when this commentary appeared in USA Today. The paper bent backward to allow the industry to publish a response. And I can only imagine the conversation that led to the deal:

Cruise lobbyist: OK, we’ll write a letter. And the ads stay. But you have to get rid of Elliott.

Publisher: We will. Just give us some time and we’ll come up with a reason.

And you know the rest.