business news in context, analysis with attitude

Now available on iTunes

To hear Kevin Coupe’s weekly radio commentary, click on the “MNB Radio” icon on the left hand side of the home page, or just go to:

Hi, I’m Kevin Coupe and this is MorningNewsBeat Radio, available on iTunes and brought to you by Webstop, experts in the art of retail website design.

There was a bit of not-so-good-natured banter earlier this week on MorningNewsBeat over the actions and motivations of the Shank family, which has been fighting to hold onto medical benefits received from Wal-Mart after Debbie Shank, a former employee, was permanently brain damaged in a car accident eight years ago. Her medical expenses were covered by Wal-Mart, but when she sued the person who caused the accident and won, Wal-Mart sued to get back more than $400,000 in medical expenses – something it was allowed to do under the terms of the company health plan. Wal-Mart eventually changed its mind., which was the right thing to do…but when one MNB user questioned the family’s motives, a number of users – including me – jumped ugly with him.

Now, I still think he was wrong and we were right. But in thinking about the exchanges a little more, it occurred to me that I let the discourse get a little more personal than I am comfortable with. I was particularly sensitive to this because of a different set of circumstances that I encountered just last week…

Those of you who have been reading MNB for any period of time will know that I have been fairly merciless in my criticisms of A&P. I haven't been alone, but I’ve said things like “Can there be worse news than coming to work in the morning and finding out that your company is being bought by A&P?” And to be honest, that’s a line I’m sort of proud of. Or at least I was.

Because last week I found myself at a dinner, and then a small conference, where I was at the table with Christian Haub, who is executive chairman of A&P. And I have to tell you, he couldn’t have been more charming and friendly – a lot more charming and friendly than I might have been if I’d encountered some blogger who’d been raking me and my company across the coals. And, just coincidentally, I got a note on a completely unrelated subject from Eric Claus, who is the CEO at A&P, and he was extraordinarily nice and even said some kind things about MorningNewsBeat…and I can guarantee you that I wouldn’t have done that if our positions had been reversed. No, I think I would have been fairly vindictive…because let’s face it, one of the advantages of this little soapbox is to be able to say nice things about people I like, and rip the folks about whom I am, to put it charitably, less fond…even if they haven’t done anything to me personally.

I’m not sure that says something very good about me. As I think about it, there really isn’t much cause to be personal…at least most of the time. Even when I violently disagree with someone, it is probably fair to say that in most cases they are doing the best they can to confront the situation in which they find themselves. And I should start from that premise….giving people the benefit of the doubt, even if I doubt the wisdom of their actions.

So I’m going to try to be better about this. Or at least more thoughtful. I can’t guarantee I’m going to be perfect, because there may be a morning when I think of a really funny line that is sort of mean, and I won’t be able to help myself. Or, either Larry Johnston or Priceline will decide to go back into the grocery business, and I’ll be compelled to find and use every eviscerating adjective at my disposal.

But I’m going to try. It seems like the right thing to do.

For MorningNewsBeat Radio, I’m Kevin Coupe.

KC's View: