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Pulp Friction

In a full-page New York Times ad, development opponents go to press with their case

By Michael Learmonth

WHERE LETTER-WRITING CAMPAIGNS FAILED, perhaps two of the world's most influential newspapers will succeed. "Sometimes you need a two-by-four to get a mule's attention," said William L. Rukeyser of the Bay Area Audubon Society. "Then you can explain what you want."

In this case, the mule is Mr. Kumagai Taichiro, president of Kumagai Gumi Company, an $8 billion Tokyo-based multinational corporation that wants to build on Bair Island. The two-by-four is a $3,720.19 full-page advertisement that ran last week in the western edition of The New York Times, urging Mr. Kumagai to sell the land to allow it to become part of the San Francisco Bay Wildlife Refuge.

The western edition of the Times also circulates in Japan. The next day, Japan's Yomiuri Shimbun, the world's largest newspaper with a circulation of more than 10 million, printed a story about Bair Island on the front page of its English-language version, The Daily Yomiuri.

"We had a lot of people who study Japanese corporate culture help us get inside the mentality of someone like Mr. Kumagai," said Rukeyser, who created the ad with the help of the Palo Alto­based Citizens Committee to Complete the Refuge and the San Francisco­based Public Media Center.

Rukeyser thinks Japanese CEOs are sensitive to the reputation of Japanese companies in the United States. The sexual harassment suit against Mitsubishi Motors in Illinois was terrible PR for multinationals. Rukeyser hopes if Kumagai isn't convinced by an appeal to the best in him, perhaps his golf partners will turn the screws on the greens next Saturday: "Hey, why are you embarrassing us with that flap in California?"

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From the October 17-23, 1996 issue of Metro

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