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The Bulletin Doth Protest Too Much 

"Never complain, never explain," said Benjamin Disraeli, prime minister under Queen Victoria. Ever since their announcement that Western Communications Inc. was filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, The Bulletin's top executives have been explaining and complaining like guilty 5-year-olds. It isn't making them look good.

When the bankruptcy filing was first announced, The Bulletin ran a news story explaining what it had done and why it had to do it. That was legitimate and necessary. And it would have been enough.

But Bulletin management decided it wasn't enough. Editor John Costa felt compelled to write an accompanying column explaining the bankruptcy decision again at length and taking a few shots at Bank of America, the creditor who - in Costa's version of the story - is responsible for WesCom's financial predicament for being eager to lend it $20 million to build a new Bulletin office and printing facility and acquire and upgrade a daily newspaper in Northern California.

Striking a Napoleonic pose, Costa wrote: "It simplifies the issues, but is destructively misleading, to view this Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing as a fight only over money. It is a fight over values ... "

There wasn't one sentence in Costa's self-serving explanation to suggest that bad decisions by WesCom management might have had anything to do with the problem, or that WesCom - like so many others - made the mistake of believing the gravy train of the early 2000s would keep rolling forever.

Enter one Jonathan M. Kohnoski of Sunriver. In an "In My View" piece published Sept. 14, Mr. Kohnoski argued convincingly that, yes, it really is a fight over money. Bank of America had valid reasons to doubt that Western Communications would be able to repay the loan, Kohnoski wrote, and that's why it wants WesCom to pay a higher interest rate.

Moreover, Kohnoski had the temerity to suggest that WesCom executives "should take some responsibility for their predicament. ... Perhaps [WesCom] should have been more conservative in its business projections and not borrowed so much money."

That evidently didn't sit well with Costa. Last Sunday he fired back with another column, explaining once more why WesCom had to file under Chapter 11 and defending the decision to build the swanky new Bulletin office and buy that daily in California.

We're left wondering why Costa feels he has to explain his and other WesCom executives' business decisions to his readers instead of his board of directors. We're also wondering why, if he feels compelled to keep explaining, he doesn't just man up and say something like: "Yes, maybe we screwed up too. Maybe we painted too many rosy scenarios for Bend, The Bulletin and the economy in general."

Most of all, though, we're wondering when this will end. Does Costa plan to write a rebuttal every time a reader comments on the bankruptcy in a manner that he considers less than complimentary?

As we said at the beginning, gentlemen, this makes you look bad. What's worse, it's boring. Stop it, already. To encourage you to do so, here's THE BOOT.

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