When should speechwriters shut up?

Recent tragedies prompted us to wonder if public apologies are worth a damn, the president coins a new phrase, and a roundup of the latest speechwriting news you can use.

Meanwhile, Topps Meat, a privately owned company in New Jersey, recalled millions of pounds of its frozen beef patties when dozens of people nationwide were sickened with the potentially deadly E. coli. The (now defunct) company’s Vice President of Operations Geoffrey Livermore had this to say in a written press release announcing the recall: “Because the health and safety of our consumer is our top priority, we are taking these expansive measures … We sincerely regret any inconvenience and concerns this may cause our consumers.”

Speechwriters, we have a question for you: In light of these tragedies and the statements from the companies responsible, is publicly apologizing for an incident that kills almost 100 people an inadequate sop thrown at those whose lives were wrecked by the crash? Furthermore, is sickening dozens of your “consumers” with a potentially deadly bacterium an “inconvenience”?

Are these examples of times communicators should simply shut up? Or are public apologies a necessary part of coping with tragedy?

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