Not 24 hours after a media spitstorm, Her Excellency comes out smelling like a rose… and shows the rest of us how to handle a bad-news day. Here’s how:

  • She responded immediately, and made herself available: “Hearing the story on CBC Radio Thursday morning, Gov. Gen. Adrienne Clarkson called to give her view of the events.”
  • She stated her position in clear, simple terms: “‘Anyone who comes to this house is welcome to ask a question. There’s no such thing as an inappropriate question … There’s only inappropriate answers,’ she told CBC Radio.”
  • She showed transparency and generosity: “Clarkson has invited Patfield and his father back to Rideau Hall for tea, and promises to answer his questions.”
  • She took action to address the problem: “Clarkson said she’s talked to staff about the incident. ‘We will make sure it doesn’t happen again,’ she said.”

The result: the story’s protagonist, Grade 8 student Jeremy Patfield, tells the media, “She sounds like an awesome person. So down to earth. So kind.” Hard to think of a better-case scenario.

True, not like every bad-news story can be defused with a cup of tea and a friendly chat …although that’s the case more often than you might think. But next time you’re hip-deep in headline hell, you could do a lot worse than to ask yourself what Adrienne Clarkson would do.

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