Haiti, Rachel Maddow, Sprint, and leadership

Had I followed Rachel Maddow on twitter I would have learned of the recent cell phone and credit card companies’ soul–and souless—bearing in approximate real time.

On Rachel:
For the record, Rachel Maddow, who was a Rhodes Scholar and holds a Political Science doctorate, is a formidable reporter for her resourcefulness, accuracy, content relevance and density, exclusive interview of underexposed enlightening and informed voices and general interview conduct, inquiry and follow-up.

That’s a mouthful, but it’s true.

She came to broadcast prominence during the last and historic presidential campaign during which her analysis was broadly informed, sober, but mostly intellectually credible. She paid sophisticated attention to the right stuff at the right time and meaningfully refracted it. Even more, she exhibited ultra class during some of the most volatile political panels and interviews conducted in cable news.

Ironically, it’s the widely perceived demise of cable news media that seems to have specifically bred technologically savvy corrective venues exactly like The Rachel Maddow show. “Corrective” because they at least offer factual accuracy and cohesive context. Akin to an NPR probe, she gets out of the way of interviewees presenting salient news detail and allows for extended testimony and weaving together of ideas. It’s a useful skill in the current Haiti coverage.  So all praises to Rachel as a premium news conduit in general, and in her Haiti earthquake coverage in particular.

On Sprint:

This week we got to see who some corporate grown ups were.

In the first of the three nightly airings of the Rachel Maddow Show, Rachel reported—at 9:00—that Verizon and AT&T unlike Sprint had waived text messaging charges for donations to Haiti relief. By the 11:00 airing, Sprint apparently had had a change of heart and was on board with AT&T and Verizon as Rachel’s 11:00 intro newly reported. Personally, this did nothing but make Sprint look inhuman and dare I say, ridiculous. I’m clearly not the only one as there was a swarm of discussion like this:  Why Won’t Sprint Waive Text Messaging Fees For Donations to Haiti? So—and to question 1—Where were the grown ups at Sprint? What was Sprint to gain from holding tight to these profits? I’m glad for the turnaround, but—comes now point number 1—this is not what leadership looks like. The quick turn of decision–first not to waive, then to waive—means neither decision had any principle. It’s disappointing.

No matter, while Sprint was finishing up its cost-benefit analysis on texting fees, Verizon—showing clearly that it could cut up its own meat—pledged to immediately transfer texted relief donations. That’s right. Verizon, to mitigate against delays of ordinary collection, pledged to send the relief money in advance of customers even paying their bills:

“President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton have challenged the American people to donate to the Red Cross relief effort, and companies like Verizon need to step up to the plate. Time is of the essence, and it makes sense for us to toss aside our normal financial processes to get money where it can do the most good, in the fastest way possible.”–Verizon Wireless president and CEO Lowell McAdam

They clearly believe (a) their customers are classy and will pay their bills, and/or (b) even if they don’t pay, the “risk” in donating to Haiti relief, is worth any expense incurred thereby; leading to point number 2: This is what leadership looks like.

These waffles as I conclude them weren’t confined to the cell phone companies of course.  They found their place amongst the credit card firms too:  American Express and Visa both dropped their percentage cut of Haiti donations. Mastercard, however, had to think about it. Leading to question 2: Where were the grown ups at Mastercard?

On Leadership:

I confess: in a span of 24 hours, a brand to which I was indifferent, Verizon, clearly planted these associations with its brand in my mind, rightly or wrongly and fleetingly or unfleetingly: it appears to be (1) grown-up, (2) principled,  (3) efficient, (4) classy , (5) worldly, and (6) a LEADER.

As for the laggers, they conjure up the sentiment of being disconnected, self-focused and calculating beyond decency.

In fairness, Sprint did come on board and is now pledging texted relief funds in advance though only at an 80% rate. The problem is that in the real time of decision-making, this coming on board was relatively late and that fact signaled legitimately and poorly about Sprint.


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