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Titanic: The Press Conference

By Scott Roeben

We at the White Star Line appreciate your attending our press conference today. As you know, last night at approximately 11:35 p.m., April 14, 1912, our cruise liner the Titanic was involved in what we’re calling an "incident." I’m the public relations representative for White Star, and for the next few minutes, we’ll discuss some of the facts surrounding this unfortunate incident.

Last night, we’re sorry to report, the Titanic did encounter an iceberg. Our ship went down, taking a number of passengers with her. 2,228 people were onboard when the Titanic left Southhampton—705 survived. We want to express our sympathy and condolences to the families of those who lost their lives to the sea.

We believe it is very important to dispel some rumors and misinformation being spread about this incident. Keep in mind, as we have, today is not a day to "place blame," but rather a day to "assign responsibility."

Before we get too far into this discussion, we should begin by clarifying some terms. First, we at White Star would like to request that members of the media stop calling last night’s incident a "collision." We have done some investigation into this matter, and our attorneys assure us the proper legal term for an occurrence such as this is "allision." When two ships collide, that is a collision, but when a ship hits an object, it is legally proper to refer to it as an "allision." We strongly believe the use of "allision" is not only more technically correct, we also feel strongly that it just sounds nicer. Secondly, in your reports of the incident in question, we would prefer it if you would avoid saying the Titanic "sank." We would prefer it if you would say our vessel became "floatation challenged." Feel free to use whatever terminology you feel is best in reporting this incident, of course. In fact, we’re fine with your saying the incident was a "downsizing" of our company. Completely acceptable as far as we’re concerned.

Now, we should get into the matter of clarifying some of the issues surrounding this unfortunate episode.

Some irresponsible individuals have put forth conjecture that asserts the White Star line is solely responsible for this event due to our ship hitting an iceberg. This is absurd. There are simply insufficient facts to substantiate these wild claims. We do not appreciate these distortions, and if they continue it may do irreparable damage to the reputation of our company.

Now for the facts: Experts confirm that icebergs—due to currents, waves and wind—can travel up to a knot a day. That’s right, a full knot a day. It is crystal clear to many observers that some fault for this tragedy lies with the iceberg. Therefore, it would not be incorrect to say the iceberg recklessly moved into the path of our vessel, a vessel minding its own business, never suspecting that an erratic iceberg—with a glaring disregard for human life—might travel negligently into its path. There are some that have gone so far as to say our company is actually the victim in this tragic situation. That, however, is for the public to decide.

Next, we do not deny the original design for the Titanic called for 64 lifeboats. We also do not deny that White Star Line management felt the boat-deck looked a bit cluttered so, with our customer’s interests in mind, we did indeed reduce the number of lifeboats to 20. However, before you jump to conclusions, please be aware our legal experts confirm this number of lifeboats exceeds all current legal requirements for a vessel of this type. That is an indisputable fact. We may not all agree with the legal requirements, but the fact is the White Star Line did nothing negligent in this regard. In fact, the only thing you might say we’re guilty of is caring too much for the satisfaction of our customers—the removal of the lifeboats was an attempt to give our passengers a more pleasurable experience while onboard our ship. We did what we thought was best.

On a related note, some rash members of the media are heedlessly reporting the Titanic was unsafe. This is a blatant, ill-informed fabrication. Titanic was a marvel of safety technology. There were a number of safety innovations on the Titanic including its double-bottom of one-inch thick steel plates. And don’t forget the system of 16 water-tight compartments, sealed by massive doors which were designed to be triggered by electric water-sensors. These safety measures were innovative and unprecedented. So, you might ask, why did these safety measures not work? The investigation is ongoing. However, it should be mentioned that we in no way intend to divert attention away from White Star Line by airing irresponsible concerns about the fact that, unbeknownst to us, "foreigners" may have been utilized in the building of the ship.

It is not our intention to point fingers, here. And that is especially true in the case of the astonishingly slow response time of the Carpathia, the vessel which sluggishly took it’s own sweet time in making its way to the site of the incident to extract survivors from the sea. In fact, we at White Star Line appreciate the assistance of the Carpathia, no matter how agonizingly slow it was in responding to the distress calls of the Titanic. While we’re on the subject, it should be mentioned that no passenger will be charged for passage on the Carpathia after the rescue—White Star Line has generously picked up the tab, in full.

Now let’s turn our attention to the innumerable unsubstantiated rumors that have surfaced since last night’s episode. We feel it would be careless not to publicly mention the rumors here, because rumors can only take hold if they continue to remain unaddressed.

Item #1: We cannot confirm or deny that Captain E.J. Smith was an alcoholic or that he was suicidal. Even if he were, those facts would not necessarily mean Mr. Smith is responsible for this incident, at least no more than 90-95% responsible, that is.

Item #2: We cannot confirm or deny that the sailor on duty in the crow’s nest who failed to spot the iceberg was indeed the son of a prostitute.

Item #3: There is no way to confirm, at least not at this early stage, passenger reports that an alien spacecraft was somehow involved in the incident.

Item #4: It is highly doubtful many of the passengers stayed on the ship as it went down because "they were enjoying the music." This rumor, while romantic, cannot be substantiated at this time, nor can it be entirely ruled out.

Item #5: It is irresponsible for members of the press to report that an arm of the government intentionally sank the Titanic to cover up abuses in campaign fundraising. We have not found substantive evidence that this is the case.

Item #6: There appears to be no validity to the claims this incident was caused by a paramilitary militia separatist hate group.

Again, during a potentially emotional time like this, it is very tempting to focus on the "negative." However, we at White Star Line are all about staying positive. In that spirit, we have collected a few of the positive outcomes of the events of the last 24 hours.

First, while these events are not "ideal," we’re gratified to see this incident has brought people together. People from around the globe have banded together during this time of crisis. We believe there’s great benefit in that because at White Star Line we’re all about "creating community."

Second, if we take a moment to look on the bright side—you can see that as a result of last night’s incident, the industry will now take a closer look at its safety technology and procedures. We’re proud to have inspired this renewed interest in corporate responsibility.

And third, let’s put things in perspective, shall we? As previously mentioned, a full one-third of the passengers on Titanic survived. A whopping one-third. Here’s something to ponder. In baseball, a batting average of .300 is considered amazingly good. So, in the baseball world, you might say White Star Line has hit a homerun!

At White Star Line, we’re all about keeping perspective.

A couple of other items and we’ll dive right into your questions. It should be mentioned that as part of our ongoing commitment to serving our customers, we’re providing free counseling to survivors and their families. These counselors are specially trained, and will reiterate to the survivors and their families the wise perspective supported by top psychologists—the truism that lawsuits only serve to prolong the pain in cases such as this. Long, expensive legal proceedings merely delay the "healing" process. We can’t bring our loved ones back. Legal action is not the answer. After all, you don’t see White Star Line filing a barrage of lawsuits, even though our firm has suffered massive losses because of this incident.

One further point of interest as we try to look for positive aspects of this incident. Simply put, any cruise line can take you from point A to point B. But at White Star we’ve given passengers adventure. Some passengers even report they plan to exploit their experiences in books and in the media. White Star Line is pleased to have provided this opportunity for self-expression and economic enrichment for our valued passengers.

Now, it was at this point in our press conference that we were going to field your questions. However, it appears we’ve run out of time, unfortunately. Please get a press release, and our public affairs office will be available to you between certain hours on certain days to be determined in the near future in all likelihood.

As you go to file your newspaper and radio stories, please keep in mind this is not a time to feel sorry for White Star Line, even acknowledging that we have suffered immeasurable losses due to this incident.

This is also not a time to get caught up in the hype surrounding this incident. It is not a time to just rush out and buy passage on one of our other ships, especially by calling Lancaster4-5000.

So how should we be feeling about all this? Well, this is a time to think about how lucky we are to be here. We’re safe. We’re dry. We’re warm—just as our passengers would have been had not the Carpathia been so clearly negligent, or had that iceberg not so recklessly rushed into the path of our innocent vessel.

Thank you, and have a pleasant day.


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Scott Roeben, 2000. All rights reserved.