‘Stimulus’ testimony misreported

To the editor:

I was quoted in an NHBR.com article (“N.H. businesses to House: We need stimulus”) concerning my testimony at a Ways & Means Committee meeting. The reporting, in respect to my testimony, made substantial errors of fact that could easily have been checked with me.

Chris Dornin’s reporting that I [Evan Smith] “told the committee his company has a no-layoff policy, but if it didn’t it would likely cut its 1,100-person workforce by 10 percent” is simply wrong. My testimony was that Hypertherm had very poor visibility to the demand outlook, and if we had to take a shot in the dark, would project a sales reduction on the order of 10 percent in 2009, and because of our no-layoff philosophy, that this would likely translate into a sharper contraction in profits.

I was reading from my notes, so there is effectively no chance that I somehow misspoke so badly as to have said what Mr. Dornin reported.

I understand that reporting is subject to natural error, but I also note that an actual quote (with quotation marks) attributed to me later in the article is a significant shortening and paraphrasing of what I said and should not have been indicated as an actual quote.

I’m not concerned about the content of that particular quote, but it is an indication to me of poor journalistic practice and ethics. In both cases of misreporting, normal fact-checking and quote confirmation would have avoided the error. I was available both after the committee meeting, and by phone afterwards.

The damage of the misreporting may seem subtle, but to Hypertherm it has the consequence of undermining our associate (employee) and community confidence, suggesting that we are somehow estimating the size of a workforce reduction if not for a policy – a suggestion that is simply false.

No harm was intended by Mr. Dornin, I understand, but was produced nonetheless by virtue of his failure to conduct simple confirmation.

Evan Smith
Vice President, General Manager
Hypertherm Inc.

Categories: Cook on Concord