On the record
History looks unkindly on J Edgar Hoover, the former Director of the FBI, but he did supply two very memorable quotes. The first: "Truth telling, I have found, is the key to responsible citizenship" will sound ironic to those familiar with the legacy of Hoover.
You may not agree with his methods but you cannot deny his conviction. There is no doubt that he pursued what he perceived to be the ‘truth’ with such determination and clarity of vision during his lifetime that he earned his honorary knighthood by George V and the right to be laid to rest in the Capitol Rotunda alongside JFK, Reagan and Lincoln. With that in mind, members of the US independent community asked OPI to look into a story at the end of 2009.
Office Depot was once again in the news when the Attorney of the City of San Francisco accused the company of overcharging by $5.75 million. Depot was protesting its innocence. So, what was the truth?
You cannot underestimate the temptation for modern news agencies and services to get a potentially large story out in the public domain as quickly as possible. Especially a story that had the possibility of some very serious ramifications for the contract scene in the US, and for Office Depot in particular.
In this instance, with the festive holidays upon us, we did what we could in the time available, but it was apparent that more time was needed to do the story justice.
Besides it is OPI policy that we cover the facts and have them corroborated before we publish. In this case, there were far too many question marks for us to be able to properly search for the invisible ink hidden between the lines before we closed up for the holidays.
In the following weeks, the team at OPI put considerable effort into painstaking research, interviews and the scanning of legal documentation to ensure that what we publish is factually correct. Has Depot knowingly and systematically overcharged the city and people of San Francisco as has been alleged?
Well, this issue you get your chance to examine the situation thus far. What you will not find is a final verdict, simply because, legally, one does not exist (it could be some time before we’re even close to a ‘verdict’). Although some would find it suitable for the media to behave as judge, jury and executioner, we at OPI do not.
We believe in presenting the news responsibly and with a balanced view. And that relates to every company in this industry. Just because OPI may interview the CEO of a big box it doesn’t mean that we shop in their store. There are some very crucial and critical laws that we will always abide by before we strike the crucible and this is a policy we will never break.
And that draws me to Hoover’s other great quote: "I regret to say that we of the FBI are powerless to act in cases of oral-genital intimacy, unless it has in some way obstructed interstate commerce."
I’m not throwing that in to offend but to stress the point that there are limitations which exist to protect the individual, and at OPI we honour them implicitly. Even if, ultimately, Hoover didn’t.