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A letter to Wal-Mart

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Mike

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Mr. H. Lee Scott, CEO
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
Bentonville, AR 72716


Dear Mr. Scott:

I was contacted yesterday by Jack Newton of Hill & Knowlton PR firm in Atlanta. Mr. Newton advised me that Wal-Mart representatives were "available for interviews" about the firm's nationwide campaign to "set the record straight about the facts about Wal-Mart."

In addition to co-owning and operating four community newspapers in Northeast Georgia, I also currently serve as president of the National Newspapers Association. As both a newspaper publisher and as a spokesman for several thousand community newspapers in America, I want to let you know that I, and many of my fellow publishers, are insulted by this Wal-Mart PR effort.

Wal-Mart built its foundation of stores in many of our rural and suburban communities, the places where I and many of my fellow publishers operate newspapers. Yet community newspapers across the nation are all but invisible to Wal-Mart -- unless the company is looking for some free PR in our pages. Wal-Mart has a fairly standard policy of doing little to no local newspaper advertising. But now, when under fire from various critics, you turn to us to help you fight back.

Adding insult to injury, you expect us to give you free space to do that with PR solicitations such as the one I received from Hill & Knowlton. So why is it that community newspapers in America are good enough to help you fend off critics with free PR, but we're not good enough for your paid advertising? You can't have it both ways.

Based on a number of previous conversations I've had with newspaper publishers and editors across America, I don't think you will find very many who are willing to give you the requested free PR space to fend off attacks from your corporate critics. I believe my view is one held by many newspaper publishers: If Wal-Mart wants to communicate valuable information about itself to our readers, then you can purchase our valuable advertising space to do it. Anything less is just an insult to the community newspapers of America.

Sincerely,


Mike Buffington
President, National Newspaper Association
 

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