This story was written by Keith Dawson for the Media Unspun email newsletter and is Copyright 2002 by Keith Dawson.
M E D I A   U N S P U N
Press 7 to Send Your Voice Mail to the Media

Two days before the big vote, Hewlett-Packard's CEO Carly Fiorina left a message for her CFO saying they might have to do "something extraordinary" for Deutsche Bank and two other big shareholders, "to make sure that we get them in the right place," i.e., supporting the Compaq merger. On Wednesday that message and a transcript were posted on the San Jose Mercury News' Web site.

The Merc ran a handful of stories about this latest installment in everyone's favorite corporate soap opera. Columnist Mike Cassidy filed the only piece Unspun saw that crossed the line into open guffawing at H-P. Cassidy suggested that the company adopt some of the juicier sound bites from Carly's voice mail in its ongoing PR campaign -- "H-P: We'll get you in the right place." Another Merc story delved into the essential insecurity of voice mail, quoting a security consultant thus: "People quite often will write their passwords down and put them, for instance, under their keyboard," causing thousands of readers to peer under their keyboards in alarm.

Most outlets covered the story without laughs, tying it to the court fight Walter Hewlett is waging about the moves H-P may have made at the last minute to win the votes of Deutsche Bank. The consensus among the law profs these outlets talked to: interesting development, but no smoking gun. Forbes pointed out the extraordinary lengths to which someone went to get that voice mail on the answering machine of a Mercury News reporter. "There hasn't been (at least thus far) anyone willing to break the law to show their support of the deal," Forbes deadpanned. Either that, or their voice mails haven't gone public yet. - Keith Dawson

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