September 7, 2011

Memphis Commercial Appeal
The Commercial Appeal tells readers today how it was deceived by the Schnucks grocery chain — specifically, communications director Lori Willis, who denied on August 25 that a deal was in the works to sell Schnucks’ Memphis stores to Kroger. “Typically, we would not comment on rumor and speculation, but I will acknowledge these rumors have gotten to a point with the media where I feel I need to tell you there is no truth to those rumors,” Willis told reporter Tom Bailey Jr. “There is no deal regarding any sale or purchase with regard to the Schnucks company.”

Eight days later it was announced that Schnucks was leaving Memphis and selling most of its stores to Kroger. Hundreds of employees will lose their jobs.

“I felt like our brand — our newspaper — was damaged” by Schnucks’ denials, which prompted the paper to stay silent about sale rumors, says business editor Roland Klose. Readers, he says, have accused the paper of being “derelict” by not running rumor stories, but “we felt it would be irresponsible …and it was such an adamant denial” from Willis.
Bailey doesn’t believe the PR woman was simply out of the loop when she talked to him in late August. After the deal was announced, he says, “she said, ‘We couldn’t tell you, Tom, because we had this agreement” with Kroger.

What does Willis think about today’s story that portrays her as a liar?

“I couldn’t bear to read it, but sympathetic friends in the media told me what it said,” the PR woman tells me. “I think it should have been on the editorial page.”

What about her claims to the Commercial Appeal that no deal was in the works?

“I gave them the best information I had at the time.”

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From 1999 to 2011, Jim Romenesko maintained the Romenesko page for the Poynter Institute, a Florida-based non-profit school for journalists. Poynter hired him in August…
Jim Romenesko

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