How well do the spun spin? That’s the non-legal question on the table as the Star Tribune and Pioneer Press squabble in court over former Pioneer Press publisher Par’s preposterous paper pilfering prank.
To the drive-by observer, Par Ridder’s defense comes across as “sure, I stole your property, but I didn’t use it to hurt you, so get over it.” Putting aside how likely it is that the stolen information was never used – not very, it seems — that argument doesn’t pass the smell test at the water cooler.
Imagine if someone stole your car and their defense was “sure, I stole your car, but I didn’t ram you with it, so get over it.” Note: The stuff Mr. Ridder stole was probably far more valuable than a car.
As a legal matter, I imagine Mr. Ridder’s defense team does have to show the Pioneer Press wasn’t actually harmed by the action. As a PR matter, however, publicly arguing that “no blood, no foul” point is making Mr. Ridder look like a buffoon.
If that’s the only legal argument they have, no amount of word-smithing can limit the PR damage. So, the lesson here isn’t that Mr. Ridder should spin better. The lesson is that Mr. Ridder shouldn’t steal stuff, because no amount of spin can get your reputation back when you act like a criminal.
Perhaps even more damaging to Mr. Ridder’s long-term reputation might be this tidbit from today’s coverage: “In his testimony Tuesday, Ridder professed to know very little specific information about the Pioneer Press’ marketing strategies, advertising rates, business plan or current financial situation.” Ridder was the Pioneer Press publisher for three years.
My goodness. If that’s true, Mr. Ridder should never work in publishing again. If it’s false, he might be joining Scooter Libby in perjury prison.