Monday, March 13, 2006

From a certain point of view

Joe Simnacher of the Dallas Morning News and I (Alana Baranick of The Plain Dealer, Cleveland, Ohio) wrote obits from opposite perspectives about the same man.

Joe's obit, which ran March 10, 2006, carries this headline: William H. Bricker: Brought Diamond Shamrock to Dallas - which was a positive for Texas.

The problem for my readers in Cleveland is that Bricker "brought" the oil/energy/chemicals corporation's headquarters to Dallas from Cleveland. So the headline for the Cleveland obit of March 13, 2006, is: William Bricker, led Shamrock to Dallas, LTV in bankruptcy.

That "LTV" thing cemented the man's unfavorable reputation in my neck of the woods. You'll have to read the entire story to understand why Clevelanders didn't like him much.

I'm not opposed to writing negative things about the deceased, but I do not relish doing it. Sometimes there's no way to avoid it. These are news stories, after all.

Both obits are worth reading and comparing.

I can't say that Joe wrote a eulogy for the man, but he did include some comments from the family emphasizing his good points. And that's understandable.

Hats off to Joe for working in a most unusual anecdote! How many places will you read about semen from a prized bull, oil-drilling and Indonesia in a single paragraph? Only in the obits!

1 comment:

Alana Baranick said...

On Saturday, March 18, The Plain Dealer ran a letter-to-the-editor from William Bricker's son, who naturally was upset at what I wrote.

I think it only fair to share what was printed:

"The other side of the William H. Bricker story

Alana Baranick took the ultimate cheap shot when she crafted her obituary about my father, William H. Bricker (March 13).

My family loved living in Cleveland. William Bricker moved Diamond Shamrock to Texas because he was transforming a chemical company into a diversified petroleum company. Diamond Shamrock soon became one of the largest oil companies in the world.

Much has been written about LTV Steel, a job that my father accepted reluctantly. What you don't read in the papers is how hard my father worked to try to save LTV. You never saw the look on his face when he talked about the possibility of reaching a deal that would save thousands of jobs. He gave his very best efforts to try to save the company and the people who worked there.

After LTV, he served as interim president of Mexico's largest steel producer. He encountered a company that was in bankruptcy. He left a company that was well on its way to being successfully restructured, saving thousands of jobs.

William Bricker was a decent, honest man who loved life and loved people. He and my mother were married for 51 years. He was a family man. He was also a businessman."

Two of Bricker's irate sons wrote letters. This one was a revision (revised by the son) of a much longer letter that gave details of what the son knew - or believed - about his father's business dealings.

In the event that the Bricker family stumbles upon this posting and this comment, I want them to know that I am sorry for the pain I caused them. But I was not trying to villify him. I have no connections with the two Cleveland-area companies he headed. None of my family or friends were put out of work or otherwise adversely affected by him.

What I wrote was based on hundreds of articles printed in many Cleveland-area and national newspapers and magazines over the last 25 years or more. Those pieces weren't just Plain-Dealer articles that were picked up by newswire services. Many were generated by respected business publications.

I left out a lot of other negative details I found about his corporate track record. I won't share them here. I don't want to appear to be piling on.

For the record, I received phone calls, emails and in-person comments about the Bricker obit from Clevelanders, who said the obit was, you'll excuse the expression, "Dead on."