Monday, August 29, 2011

Face Palm Moments in Journalism: Reporter vs 'Handsy' PR rep.

Sometimes on 'Face Palm Moments in Journalism, it's the subject of the news, rather than the reporter, that makes us slap our foreheads in disbelief.

In this example, investigative reporter Dan Noyes of ABC 7 in San Francisco was conducting an impressive corruption investigation.  The subject of his report, Laguna Honda Hospital, was allegedly misusing money from the 'patient gift fund.'

The money from this fund was meant to provide small gifts for nursing home patients.  Instead, it was possibly being used for gourmet meals, airline tickets, and luxury amentities....for hospital administrators.

Artist's interpretation of a Luguna Honda Hospital administrator

Dan Noyes decided to pay a surprise visit to a town hall meeting that the hospital administration was holding.  As he approached the hospital director who was running it, the hospital's PR director, Marc Slavin, moved in behind him.

At this point, things got a little bit awkward.

Okay, let's stop the tape right there before this situation really goes off the rails (oh yes, it gets much worse).

At the first instance of Mr. Noyes demanding that he not be touched, Marc Slavin may have actually been able to come out of this looking like the good guy.  The hospital director (corrupt as she may or may not be) was obviously taken aback by the reporter; he was asking her a sensitive question right before the start of a meeting that she was about to conduct.

PR superhero Marc Slavin then comes to her rescue while attempting to greet/get the attention of Dan Noyes with a friendly pat on the shoulder.  There are worse ways that Mr. Noyes could have responded to the gesture, but it's a pretty short list.

"Touch me again and I WILL DEVOUR YOUR SOUL!"

But then Slavin inexplicably continues touching Noyes over and over again.

Basic social etiquette should tell you to stop touching someone when they ask you to; basic survival skills should tell you stop touching that person when they are twice your size and really ticked off.

After a disastrous start, the meeting finally gets underway.  Dan Noyes stands in the back with his camera crew.  Marc Slavin stands by silently, ponders his options, and then decides to attempt some more quality PR angrily confronting Noyes, attacking Noyes' camera man, touching Noyes' production assistant, and continuing to inappropriately/repeatedly touch Dan Noyes.

Let's watch:

In the midst of all this hilarious awkwardness, a couple of things really stick out to me:

1.)  Maybe Marc Slavin felt that he had to reclaim his manhood by going nose to nose (or nose to chest) with Noyes and attacking his camera man.  It may have been a dumb decision, but he's a PR guy, so what do I know?  My question is how does Slavin then think that he is "that guy" that needs to tell everyone to "calm down"?  He's the one that brought the situation back up from simmering to a boil.

2.)  WHY DOES HE KEEP TOUCHING HIM?!  Seriously, he's even tapping Noyes on the shoulder as he is leaving!  Is Slavin hoping to annoying him to death?  Was he hoping to goad Noyes into a more physical confrontation?

Back in my day, you tapped a man on the shoulder 
for 3 rounds before the real fisticuffs began!

In this interview with, Dan Noyes sheds a little light on his inner struggle (and victory) over his desire to knock Marc Slavin into the next century:

"Well, as a reporter, and as a professional, you have to act a certain way. Of course, as a guy, I wanted to push him, but I wasn't going to do that because it really wasn't personal, it was business to me. It was definitely frustrating, because I told him not to touch me, he kept on doing it, and that's just wrong."

As a result of all this investigating and inappropriate touching, Laguna Honda Hospital changed how they accounted for money going into the gift fund.  They also claimed that they had done nothing wrong, though Mr. Noyes' report tells a much different story.

Marc Slavin didn't lose his job, Dan Noyes didn't lose his cool, donations for the patient gift fund were protected (sans the admittal of wrong doing), and we got a great viral video that made us smile and cringe at the same time.

I would like to think that after realizing how much joy they brought us, these two internet stars could one day meet again, bury the hatchet, and maybe even laugh about that crazy town hall meeting back in May of 2010.

Best Friends Forever