Author Topic: ...no comment. (For the journos.)  (Read 17018 times)

Rae

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...no comment. (For the journos.)
« on: October 17, 2012, 10:32:50 PM »
So. I'm a journalist by trade. On October 4, I emailed H&K Strategies to ask them for comment for an article I was hoping to place in a magazine with some questions for NC Soft about the sunset of City of Heroes.

This is..reasonably standard fare in journalism. You get someone who comes to you with a story, and then you contact the other side of the argument for their side of the story to keep it unbiased. Here's the email I sent them.

--

Sir/Madam,

 My name is (deleted) and I am a freelance journalist, working on an article for (deleted) Magazine, the UK's (deleted) magazine. I apologise if I have sent this to the wrong person, and I'd be grateful if you could pass this email on, if you are not the right person to address these queries to.

We have been covering the story of the ongoing campaign to save the MMO City of Heroes, after the games publisher, NC Soft announced it was to close. I have enclosed links to two articles we have previously run on the campaign.

(LINKS WENT HERE)

Following the official statement issued by NC Soft, a number of people from the Save campaign have contacted us, questioning the content of the statement.

 The statement says that  NC Soft have 'exhausted all the options including the selling of the studio and the rights to the City of Heroes intellectual property, but in the end efforts were not successful.

 The Save campaign say that Paragon Studio was closed the same day of the announcement, with no attempts made to sell the studio. They claim that Paragon Studios were unaware of the closure of both the game and the studio and were unaware of any attempts to sell them. I would be grateful if you could confirm when these attempts were made, who the interested parties were, and why the sale did not happen.

 The save campaign also say no attempt was made to sell the rights to the intellectual property and that they are aware of a number of potential investors who came forward to try and buy the rights, who did not receive a response of any kind from NC Soft.

 They believe the announcement of 'exhausted all the options' are more than a little premature, given that the game is not due for closure until November 30, and taking into consideration that is has been only 32 business days since the announcement of the 'sunset' of the game.

 They are demanding to know why closure was the first thing considered by NC Soft, instead of combining servers, putting the game in maintenance mode and keeping it running without further developments or updates, allowing people to create their own, private servers, or selling the game to other, interested parties.

 The campaigners are also calling on NC Soft to publically name a price that they would be willing to accept for either Paragon Studios, or City of Heroes itself.

 They are demanding to know why a game that was running 'well in the black' and had seen an increase in players in the months leading up to the announcement is being closed down, while games such as Guild Wars which are running at a loss, are being kept alive.

 They also want to know why NC Soft did not respond to an invitation from players to play the game with them, or a letter from best-selling author Mercedes Lackey to endorse NC Soft products, free of charge, for a period of five to ten years, for free, if they would be willing to work with players to keep the servers online.

 My deadline for this article is October 14 and I would be grateful if you could provide me with a statement addressing those points as soon as possible.

 Kind regards,

Me.

--

HK Strategy didn't acknowledge my email, until I tweeted them from my work account 7 days later and added the HKSTrat hashtag, so all their customers could see that I was chasing them and they'd ignored me. They sent a DM asking how they could help, then ignored me again.

I gave them  another three days, but with no response I tweeted HK Strat London, thinking maybe the US branch was ignoring me because I was trying to place the article in a UK magazine, and asked if they could help. They said they'd try, so I forwarded them the email I'd sent the US office (which I CC'd in, in case it'd got lost.)

This is now October 16, and two days /after/ my original deadline.

I asked them the same questions, and added in:

"If you no longer represent NC Soft, I'd be grateful if you could let me know so I try to find out who I should be talking to.
If I am sending this to the wrong person, I'd be grateful if you could let me know who the right person would be, so I can contact them directly.
If NC Soft do not wish to issue a response to these queries, I'd be grateful if you could let me know.

If I don't get a response by Friday afternoon, I will be submitting the article to my editor, saying that NC Soft and HK Strategies did not respond to requests for comment, and did not take the opportunity to put their side of the story across."

Tonight (Oct 17 - 13 days after my original email, three days after my deadline) I had a response from NC Soft in Seattle. Their response was:

--

"I wanted to let you know that we will be declining your interview request  as it relates to the sun setting of City of Heroes."

--

I'm honestly completely confused. For one thing, I didn't ask for an interview, but still. That's neither here nor there.

I've been a journalist for eight years, and I've written thousands of articles in that time, both as a reporter on my local newspaper, and freelance for other publications. This is the first time anyone has ever refused to answer my questions.

Sure, I've had "We can't get you a comment in time," or "We can't comment on individual cases, but...we strive hard to make sure that our customers get the best service but sadly sometimes we fall short on that..." I've had people lie to me, I've had people try to spin me (most memorable was our local council who reported me that they were setting aside a bunch of money to buy a new skatepark, hurrah! With a bit of digging, it turned out it was because they'd gone in and demolished the old one in the middle of the night without notice, on International Skateboarding Day, no less.)

But I've honestly never had anyone point blank refuse to give a response to questions.

If any journos out there want a copy of the correspondence, PM me and let me know. It might make the basis for a 'why won't NC Soft answer questions' piece. I'll try and pitch that to a few of my contacts too, but some of you in the gaming press may be better placed than I am to get something out there quickly.

It's ridiculous for them not to answer these questions. They're not unreasonable. I was basically giving them the opportunity to shut us up and send us packing with our tails between our legs.

I really need the rest of the press to put pressure on them now. If they won't answer the questions, I need you guys to help me find out why they won't answer these questions. Why they won't discuss the sunset of City of Heroes.

I'm pretty sure that it's because they didn't do anything that they said they did in their press release, and I want people to know that they lied to their customers. I need for the rest of the press to call 'em on this.

Please.
« Last Edit: October 18, 2012, 12:48:56 AM by rae »
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Victoria Victrix

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Re: ...no comment. (For the journos.)
« Reply #1 on: October 17, 2012, 10:43:22 PM »
Hey Rae--I now am "officially" "NYT Bestselling author."  Came in this week at #20 on the NYT Bestsellers List.    :) So you can add that if you want.
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Mentalshock

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Re: ...no comment. (For the journos.)
« Reply #2 on: October 17, 2012, 10:49:43 PM »
That definatly seems odd.

    Another thing for the 'Hmmm, that's interesting' file.

TimtheEnchanter

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Re: ...no comment. (For the journos.)
« Reply #3 on: October 17, 2012, 10:51:05 PM »
*facepalm*  :-[

I am now officially adding "Area 51" as an idea for NCsoft memes.  8)

downix

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Re: ...no comment. (For the journos.)
« Reply #4 on: October 17, 2012, 10:52:08 PM »
This is par for the course, and it bodes poorly for the company.

Rae

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Re: ...no comment. (For the journos.)
« Reply #5 on: October 17, 2012, 10:55:15 PM »
Hey Rae--I now am "officially" "NYT Bestselling author."  Came in this week at #20 on the NYT Bestsellers List.    :) So you can add that if you want.

Congratulations, VV! You must be stoked!
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Segev

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Re: ...no comment. (For the journos.)
« Reply #6 on: October 17, 2012, 10:59:13 PM »
From NCSoft, the deafening silence makes a mild amount of sense; they're bunkering down and hoping it will blow over.

From H&K Strategies, a professional PR firm, no attempt to even spin it is...yes, I think I'll go with Mentalshock's "interesting."

I am particularly fascinated by the phrase, "as it relates to the sun setting of City of Heroes." If I'm reading the clause dependency correctly, that is being given as the reason they will not speak with you. (The other possible reading is that they will not speak with you on anything relating to it, but aren't refusing to speak at all, but it amounts to a similar thing in this particular case.)

There is only one circumstance I know of where PR goes deathly silent regarding a specific issue and will refuse to speak on anything related to it. It's when lawyers tell them to. (Now, there could be others of which I am unaware or not thinking, but this is the one I CAN think of.) That generally means something law-related, very often civil or criminal, is going on surrounding it. However, given the lack of any leaks surrounding investigations or charges or actions filed in court, I think law suits or criminal cases are not so likely.

That leaves one other area of legal concern: there is some high-powered, high-finance deal in the works that somehow involves this and could be damaged severely if so much as a whisper leaked out. What that deal is, who the parties are, what it means for CoH (aside from its sunsetting on Nov. 30), we obviously cannot know at this time. But it's got my speculations running hard. Particularly because it is related strongly enough to the sunsetting of CoH that NCSoft is clamming up completely on that issue.

This also tells me that they're scared of something. Maybe not us, but we're probably at least a little worrisome since we're not going away and we're at least making motions to try to rock the boat. But something has them worried, and they're hoping silence will weather them through until whatever it is they're waiting for happens.

I don't expect Nov. 30 to be the end of this, at this point. We might see the information dam crack as early as Nov. 1, but if it doesn't immediately cause a firestorm and a bombshell, don't expect anything too substantive. NCSoft is not just playing a waiting game; they're doing something. And it's something that is big enough to warrant super-silence to make sure it doesn't get monkey-wrenched. And delicate enough that knowledge of it going public could shatter it.

...either that, or NCSoft is micro-managing their PR firm, or their PR firm thinks they're being so stupid they literally can't think of a way to spin it positive and is taking the "if you can't say something nice..." attitude.

TimtheEnchanter

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Re: ...no comment. (For the journos.)
« Reply #7 on: October 17, 2012, 11:36:54 PM »
Hey Rae--I now am "officially" "NYT Bestselling author."  Came in this week at #20 on the NYT Bestsellers List.    :) So you can add that if you want.

Bravo!! (Or... gratz on dinging 50?) Didn't notice that on the first read of the thread.

This also tells me that they're scared of something. Maybe not us, but we're probably at least a little worrisome since we're not going away and we're at least making motions to try to rock the boat. But something has them worried, and they're hoping silence will weather them through until whatever it is they're waiting for happens.

Or just hoping the silence will erode us. Given this is an entertainment company that knows all about using the power of shiny to attract attention, maybe they're just using the exact opposite to get rid of us. Logically, the more 'nothing' we get, the more people will lose interest in the campaign. It's quite possible that we're under a psychological siege. From a PR standpoint, that sounds foolish, but this is NC we're talking about. Perhaps they think that eliminating us is worth a little short-term damage?


Segev

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Re: ...no comment. (For the journos.)
« Reply #8 on: October 17, 2012, 11:53:18 PM »
Perhaps, but that doesn't explain H&K unless NCSoft is micromanaging.

DrakeGrimm

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Re: ...no comment. (For the journos.)
« Reply #9 on: October 18, 2012, 12:01:17 AM »
Perhaps, but that doesn't explain H&K unless NCSoft is micromanaging.

All NCSoft has to do is contact HK and go "We have no comment on anything." and that's that. :-/
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Re: ...no comment. (For the journos.)
« Reply #10 on: October 18, 2012, 12:02:55 AM »
All NCSoft has to do is contact HK and go "We have no comment on anything." and that's that. :-/

Wouldn't that be a paradox, due to the fact that even saying such is in itself a comment? :P
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Re: ...no comment. (For the journos.)
« Reply #11 on: October 18, 2012, 12:04:32 AM »
I confess I am baffled.  H&K is a US based and run company.  NCSoft may be under the impression that if they hide in the bunker we will go away, but at this point H&K's bots have brought them all our posts and they have to know better.  They have to know that after Nov 30, the gloves come off and the playing dirty starts.  They have nothing to gain and everything to lose by remaining silent.

The only explanation I have is that NCSoft has ordered silence on their part--they can advise otherwise, but NCSoft is the client, and if the client says "Wall of Silence," no matter how ill-advised you think it is, you do what the client says if you want to keep the account.  Just as you cannot keep a client from launching a monumentally stupid ad campaign if he insists on it, a PR firm in the end has to do what the client orders.

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Re: ...no comment. (For the journos.)
« Reply #12 on: October 18, 2012, 12:09:29 AM »
It just sounds like NCSoft is holding their hands over their ears and saying " LALALALALA I CANT HEAR YOU LALALLALA"

They know they hold all the cards. They know they don't have to say a word.

Rae

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Re: ...no comment. (For the journos.)
« Reply #13 on: October 18, 2012, 12:11:22 AM »
I have no idea. In my experience, I've never approached a press agency (in this case, HK Strat) and then had a response from the company directly.

Usually, I contact the PR person/agency, the agency contacts the business/person, who tells them a response, the PR agency then spins the response so it's media-friendly, and then sends it on to me, and I'd print it. So to get a response (of sorts) from an actual person in NC Soft, rather than from HK Strat isn't what I'd expect to happen.

And the actual response, what there is of it, was just completely baffling. They could easily have taken the opportunity to explain that the game wasn't in profit and we were all rubbish at maths, or how the various deals fell apart, or that they really wanted to come and play with us, but they were washing their hair that day, and that their response to VV must've got lost in the mail, because they /totally/ sent it.

I was expecting some puff that'd make me annoyed - or even worse - something that showed we'd got it all wrong and they actually weren't the bad guys in all this and that it was perfectly reasonable for them to shut us down. Or maybe even "we can't really talk about this, because it's financially sensitive information relating to our business and we wouldn't disclose that sort of information," which would be frustrating but..you know..kind of fair enough, at a stretch.

It's just the weirdest thing.   
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JaguarX

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Re: ...no comment. (For the journos.)
« Reply #14 on: October 18, 2012, 12:16:33 AM »
So. I'm a journalist by trade. On October 4, I emailed H&K Strategies to ask them for comment for an article I was hoping to place in a magazine with some questions for NC Soft about the sunset of City of Heroes.

This is..reasonably standard fare in journalism. You get someone who comes to you with a story, and then you contact the other side of the argument for their side of the story to keep it unbiased. Here's the email I sent them.

--

Sir/Madam,

 My name is (deleted) and I am a freelance journalist, working on an article for (deleted) Magazine, the UK's (deleted) magazine. I apologise if I have sent this to the wrong person, and I'd be grateful if you could pass this email on, if you are not the right person to address these queries to.

We have been covering the story of the ongoing campaign to save the MMO City of Heroes, after the games publisher, NC Soft announced it was to close. I have enclosed links to two articles we have previously run on the campaign.

(LINKS WENT HERE)

Following the official statement issued by NC Soft, a number of people from the Save campaign have contacted us, questioning the content of the statement.

 The statement says that  NC Soft have 'exhausted all the options including the selling of the studio and the rights to the City of Heroes intellectual property, but in the end efforts were not successful.

 The Save campaign say that Paragon Studio was closed the same day of the announcement, with no attempts made to sell the studio. They claim that Paragon Studios were unaware of the closure of both the game and the studio and were unaware of any attempts to sell them. I would be grateful if you could confirm when these attempts were made, who the interested parties were, and why the sale did not happen.

 The save campaign also say no attempt was made to sell the rights to the intellectual property and that they are aware of a number of potential investors who came forward to try and buy the rights, who did not receive a response of any kind from NC Soft.

 They believe the announcement of 'exhausted all the options' are more than a little premature, given that the game is not due for closure until November 30, and taking into consideration that is has been only 32 business days since the announcement of the 'sunset' of the game.

 They are demanding to know why closure was the first thing considered by NC Soft, instead of combining servers, putting the game in maintenance mode and keeping it running without further developments or updates, allowing people to create their own, private servers, or selling the game to other, interested parties.

 The campaigners are also calling on NC Soft to publically name a price that they would be willing to accept for either Paragon Studios, or City of Heroes itself.

 They are demanding to know why a game that was running 'well in the black' and had seen an increase in players in the months leading up to the announcement is being closed down, while games such as Guild Wars which are running at a loss, are being kept alive.

 They also want to know why NC Soft did not respond to an invitation from players to play the game with them, or a letter from best-selling author Mercedes Lackey to endorse NC Soft products, free of charge, for a period of five to ten years, for free, if they would be willing to work with players to keep the servers online.

 My deadline for this article is October 14 and I would be grateful if you could provide me with a statement addressing those points as soon as possible.

 Kind regards,

Me.

--

HK Strategy didn't acknowledge my email, until I tweeted them from my work account and added the HKSTrat hashtag, so all their customers could see that I was chasing them and they'd ignored me. They sent a DM asking how they could help, then ignored me again.

So then I tweeted HK Strat London, thinking maybe the US branch was ignoring me because I was trying to place the article in a UK magazine, and asked if they could help.

I asked them the same questions, and added in:

"If you no longer represent NC Soft, I'd be grateful if you could let me know so I try to find out who I should be talking to.
If I am sending this to the wrong person, I'd be grateful if you could let me know who the right person would be, so I can contact them directly.
If NC Soft do not wish to issue a response to these queries, I'd be grateful if you could let me know.

If I don't get a response by Friday afternoon, I will be submitting the article to my editor, saying that NC Soft and HK Strategies did not respond to requests for comment, and did not take the opportunity to put their side of the story across."

Tonight I had an email from NC Soft in Seattle. Their response was:

--

"I wanted to let you know that we will be declining your interview request  as it relates to the sun setting of City of Heroes."

--

I'm honestly completely confused. For one thing, I didn't ask for an interview, but still. That's neither here nor there.

I've been a journalist for eight years, and I've written thousands of articles in that time, both as a reporter on my local newspaper, and freelance for other publications. This is the first time anyone has ever refused to answer my questions.

Sure, I've had "We can't get you a comment in time," or "We can't comment on individual cases, but...we strive hard to make sure that our customers get the best service but sadly sometimes we fall short on that..." I've had people lie to me, I've had people try to spin me (most memorable was our local council who reported me that they were setting aside a bunch of money to buy a new skatepark, hurrah! With a bit of digging, it turned out it was because they'd gone in and demolished the old one in the middle of the night without notice, on International Skateboarding Day, no less.)

But I've honestly never had anyone point blank refuse to give a response to questions.

If any journos out there want a copy of the correspondence, PM me and let me know. It might make the basis for a 'why won't NC Soft answer questions' piece. I'll try and pitch that to a few of my contacts too, but some of you in the gaming press may be better placed than I am to get something out there quickly.

It's ridiculous for them not to answer these questions. They're not unreasonable. I was basically giving them the opportunity to shut us up and send us packing with our tails between our legs.

I really need the rest of the press to put pressure on them now. If they won't answer the questions, I need you guys to help me find out why they won't answer these questions. Why they won't discuss the sunset of City of Heroes.

I'm pretty sure that it's because they didn't do anything that they said they did in their press release, and I want people to know that they lied to their customers. I need for the rest of the press to call 'em on this.

Please.


Alright, not to knock your questions, but reading what you said you sent to them, they probably turned it down for a number of reason. Being in a position I'm in, and sometimes crap hits the fan at high speed and people come with questions, sometimes, it's best to answer and respond to those that do not seem to already pass a judgement or demand specific things and probably use your words against you.

From the looks of it, Remember I'm coming from the PR side of when I recieve stuff like this, so again no offense is meant, but it seems you are relaying demands from the other side more so than being interested in what they have to actually say. If I received an email like that, I'd refer you to government PR hell, aka, the department where stuff like this goes and get passed along until you lose interest. A letter like that would put most PR departments on the defensive or to give out the usual "no comment" statement.

And I would of omited the last thing as it comes off as "Better reply or else." Now I know that is not what you meant but to a PR that what it seems. PR usually assume that if they refuse to comment that you will put something like "So and So company has been contacted but refused to comment at this time." any ways but stating it makes it seem more like a demand than an actual friendly request.

I think I'll leave it with that example as I really dont want to seem like I'm here to rip the request apart and seem like a butt as I dont think you meant to come off in that manner and the information you requested is reasonable, but could've worked a little better in your favor to get the information you seeked with a little rewording. One angle PR like is making it look like you contacted them first for clarification and will take their word as final. (Then of course get the other side or already have the other side of the story).

I doubt they are totally oblivious to what has been going on the forums and probably here and when a reporter shows up with the exact same issues and questions that the players have been demanding, it seems a little fishy to PR department.

But dont think it as a total loss, either way they have refused to comment so you must report the facts you do have, which are the SAVE COX facts. And sometimes when a company refuses to comment, it sometimes backfire. Well, alot of times, and sometimes they everntually release a statement covering the information you requested in the first place. People tend to judge things by the information they are presented with, and what information they have.


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Re: ...no comment. (For the journos.)
« Reply #15 on: October 18, 2012, 12:25:02 AM »

"I doubt they are totally oblivious to what has been going on the forums and probably here"

I agree 100%. It would be dumb not to know what strategies the opposition plan to use.

Rae

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Re: ...no comment. (For the journos.)
« Reply #16 on: October 18, 2012, 12:27:22 AM »
JaguarX -

To be fair the last statement was issued only after 10 days of them not responding to my original email.

(sorry - I've edited my OP to make that clearer, as I realised I didn't actually explain that.)

 I knew the questions I was asking weren't the things that couldn't be answered quickly, so I wanted to give them plenty of time to get the information and prepare a response, as well as meet the deadline put forward by the editor in question to get the article proofed and subbed for the November edition of the magazine. If he had to hold it over for the December edition, obviously, it wouldn't be current anymore.

(It's a lot different to my day job. The amount of time I call people and have to add apologetically '..er...I'm really sorry, but we go to press in an hour and a half...' on the end..)

It's interesting seeing things from the other side, though :) thanks!
« Last Edit: October 18, 2012, 12:56:49 AM by rae »
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Re: ...no comment. (For the journos.)
« Reply #17 on: October 18, 2012, 01:17:50 AM »
It sounds like NCsoft has already told H&K to zip it.  If so, they may have forwarded your request for comment on to NCsoft to ask if they can respond.  In typical bungling NCsoft fashion, they seem to have responded directly to you instead of telling H&K to reply with "no comment".

If I were H&K, I'd have a clock on the wall counting down to the minute their contract with NCsoft expires.
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Re: ...no comment. (For the journos.)
« Reply #18 on: October 18, 2012, 01:45:20 AM »
JaguarX -

To be fair the last statement was issued only after 10 days of them not responding to my original email.

(sorry - I've edited my OP to make that clearer, as I realised I didn't actually explain that.)

 I knew the questions I was asking weren't the things that couldn't be answered quickly, so I wanted to give them plenty of time to get the information and prepare a response, as well as meet the deadline put forward by the editor in question to get the article proofed and subbed for the November edition of the magazine. If he had to hold it over for the December edition, obviously, it wouldn't be current anymore.


Ah I see.

Yeah it's about close to that Nov deadline for sure. As they say, the show must go on.

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Re: ...no comment. (For the journos.)
« Reply #19 on: October 18, 2012, 03:06:44 AM »
I think you now might have something to interest a major news organization. Before I go on I would ask that everyone put aside their political opinions and not attack the idea solely on that merit (as was done when someone suggested this on the forums).

Contact Foxnews. You have a Korean company shutting down a profitable studio and taking jobs out of California, the Senate Minority Whip's state, after state tax increases there and upcoming increased federal tax burden on business. Workers lost their job with no warning and kicked to the curb.

That's news no matter what your politics.