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Sustaining Vindicator’s legacy of leadership

Published: Sun, May 23, 2010 @ 12:00 a.m.

By Todd Franko (Contact)

Tuesday’s visit by President Barack Obama was a celebratory event for the Valley, and especially for V&M Star.

So it took special knack, depth and gumption to recognize certain weaknesses in the event.

Or at least, find weaknesses at a level that rise above political foes throwing the typical punches at each other.

The Vindicator’s editorial the next day celebrated a bit, as many did. But it also took to task some aspects of the event:

(Obama) used the Valley’s most recent success as an example of how the administration’s economic stimulus plan is working and praised the area congressional delegation for voting for the stimulus bill. Noting that stimulus money helped fund about $20 million in road and railroad improvements adjacent to the plant, he said: “So as a result of this investment, V&M Star’s parent company decided to invest $650 million of its own money — its own money — to build a new one-million-square-foot mill right here in Youngstown ...”

And that was the one and only time the president mentioned V&M, though he said “GM” five times during his 20-minute speech.

He recognized congressmen, mayors, the governor and the Ohio secretary of state by name. But he never said the name of V&M Star’s parent company, Vallourec, nor did he acknowledge during the speech Joel Mastervich, V&M’s president and CEO, or Philippe Crouzet, chairman of the management board of Vallourec, who was visiting from Paris.

Two explanations come to mind.

One is that a White House speech writer is guilty of a damning oversight.

The other is that the president and his administration don’t fully appreciate where most jobs come from — companies and their investors. Sometimes those jobs are created with government help, and sometimes they’re created in spite of government interference. In any case, the risk-takers deserve more than a passing mention.

One participant picked up on it as well and thanked us for saying what V&M, as gracious hosts, could not:

V&M and its parent company, Vallourec, certainly do not wish to seem ungrateful recipients of government incentives. Nor did they want to be inhospitable hosts to the president. However, you and your staff keenly saw the slight the company executives were subjected to, and you editorialized about it in a way that was positive, fair and honest.

By various measures, we’re not the force we once were. No media are anymore in our fragmented, oversaturated, click-happy world.

Audience fragmentation aside, advertising usage has changed dramatically, too. It has affected every media outlet as well, in that more revenues mean more resources; and less, of course, means less.

It can make for some trying days at the office.

But we’re buoyed by the reality that there’s a legacy of leadership that exists in our role that is tough to find elsewhere.

We are not immune to imperfections, for sure.

But we are also invested in striving to say what’s right for the Valley — even if it means nudging a president on a day he chooses to get out of Washington, D.C.

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