Editorial: October 2012
I recently received a letter from a concerned reader pointing out what he felt to be an unsafe work practice in a photo in a past issue.
By Patrick Flannery
I recently received a letter from a concerned reader pointing out what he felt to be an unsafe work practice in a photo in a past issue. I love getting those letters because it means people are not only reading the magazine, but they are scrutinizing it very carefully, which means they are engaged and interested. In this instance, the reader thought we should not have published the photo because it might create the impression in some people’s minds that rental houses do not operate safely.
I think this touches on an interesting point about the relationship between a trade magazine and the market it serves. Is it the job of Canadian Rental Service to promote a certain image of this industry? Even more importantly, is it my job to promote that image regardless of whether or not it is a true representation?
The question of true representation is, of course, a thorny one. In the infamous words of Pontius Pilate, “What is truth?” No one can lay claim to the definitive answer to that question. However, we do have shared standards of truth. Perhaps the question is better rephrased to ask whether I should knowingly violate my own standard of truth to protect the reputation of the industry, or a particular operator.
I think a trade magazine’s mission is to be unfailingly, unswervingly supportive of the industry it serves. I feel I bear a heavy responsibility to do all I can to protect and promote the interests of rental operators in this country, and to help them in any way I can to cut costs, increase revenues and build their businesses. Telling the truth is part of that mission. The day I lose sight of that mission is the day you, the reader, stop trusting what you read in this magazine. And when that happens, you don’t have a magazine for much longer. No one wants to read lies. Even flattering lies.
So telling a deliberate lie to protect the image of the industry would defeat the very purpose it set out to achieve. A magazine with no credibility does not make or break reputations – it is simply ignored.
But what about errors of omission rather than commission? Most people would say that simply refraining from divulging a particular bit of information is not in the same category as a lie. As Mom used to say, “If you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all.“ Perhaps the interests of the industry would be best served if trade magazines showed only the good bits of what they cover and left the rest out of sight and out of mind. No intent to deceive, no deliberate cover-up, but just a decorous silence with regard to things unpleasant and uncomfortable.
Once again, I think Mom has the answer. How silent did she remain concerning your shortcomings as a kid? How unwilling was she to say something not-so-nice when you were rude or lazy or jumping on your brother’s head? Not that unwilling at all, as I recall. She spoke up to us because she loves us and knew that embarrassment or a guilty conscience is a small price to pay for a lesson learned.
I’m not qualified to teach the rental industry any lessons. But I can put the information out there and let people draw what lessons they can. Remember, Canadian Rental Service doesn’t go to your customers, it goes to your colleagues. Inside this industry family, I think the best policy is Mom’s policy: openness and honesty, good with the bad, warts and all.