"I don't care what the newspapers say about me as long as they spell my name right."
That famous quote has been attributed to numerous people – Mae West, George M. Cohan, P.T. Barnum, et al. For them publicity, good or bad, was mostly profitable.
But today bad publicity can be damaging. Just ask Tiger Woods.
And bad publicity for a business or a community is positively deadly.
Beaumont's gotten plenty of bad publicity over the years, thanks to its reputation as a venue of choice for forum-shopping plaintiffs and their attorneys. A recent excoriation by Kimberly-Clark defense attorney Stephen Fogdall is but the latest of a long sequence of costly criticisms.
Fogdall protested a decision by U. S. District Judge Eduardo Robreno remanding to Jefferson County 73 asbestos suits targeting the international paper company.
The Philadelphia attorney charged that Robreno's ruling played into the hands of plaintiffs from Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee who'd filed suit in Jefferson County "solely to give them the unilateral ability to manipulate the state court's docket and to exercise complete control over the conduct of the litigation."
You can't buy that kind of publicity, and who would want to. But now Beaumont's saddled with it, and it's going to cost us a fortune and many years of determined effort to overcome it.
Our bad-boy reputation undoubtedly has benefitted numerous plaintiffs attorneys, homegrown and imported, but it's done great harm to the rest of us.
As taxpayers, we underwrite this circus of chicanery. As citizens, we suffer the consequences of an unwelcoming business climate – fewer job opportunities for us and our children, a smaller tax base to support civic institutions and services, increasing unemployment, etc.
Frankly, we don't care how people spell Beaumont, but we do care what is said about us, because it matters deeply--especially when it's ugly and true.