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Face-to-Face Guilting

By RD Heldenfels Published: July 12, 2005

  Most of the time, I deal with publicists by telephone. They're in Los Angeles or New York in the main, and I'm in a place that they rarely know -- and sometimes can't pronounce.

Yes, people can mispronounce Akron.

It's a very convenient relationship. They listen to my questions, and I listen to their pitches, and on those occasions when we don't want to listen to each other, a telephone call can be ended tidily.

Imagine I said that in my best Claude Rains voice.

   It does not work so well in person, as I found out today. I was chatting with a publicist I've known for years, just general press-tour chatter, when she stuck one in my ear.

  ''You haven't been writing about 'P.O.V.,' have you?'' she said.

  She had me. On those occasions when I have sat down to watch the documentary series on PBS, I have found good things. I have in the past written about some of those good things. But lately, I haven't paid much attention.

   I tried to get out of trouble. I pointed out that there were times when I had wanted to write about the show, and the episodes were not airing at a decent time in Northeast Ohio. I know there have been situations like that, but I didn't know if there had been any recently. She insisted that things were different. Maybe they were. I didn't know, and had no bluff.

  I was about to take another approach, to explain that my job has changed, that I don't review shows as much as I used to because I'm doing the mailbag and other things instead. I didn't get a chance to make this argument, because the publicist was joined by two other people from ''P.O.V.'' They were very nice, too. This did not stop them from piling on the guilt, at least until they decided to go off to dinner.

   I was left with a large plate of crow.

  I don't know if it was tasty enough that I'll actually watch an upcoming ''P.O.V.'' After all, I admitted in a Beacon Journal column not long ago that good shows go unreviewed every week. But it's a lot easier to let something slide when you're on the telephone.

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