• Mar 18, 2011
Scott Burgess on Autoline After Hours - Click above to watch video after the jump

The Detroit News has set about attempting to explain its side of a recent flap that caused the paper's auto critic, Scott Burgess, to leave the publication. During a recent recording of Autoline After Hours, Burgess said that he left the paper because of the motivations behind the editing of his review of the 2011 Chrysler 200.

Burgess said that on March 11, he was told that an advertiser with the paper had complained about certain language in the review and that he was to remove portions of the copy from a version of the article published online. Burgess did so, but said that he later regretted the move and resigned from the paper.

The Detroit News Editor and Publisher, Jonathan Wolman, meanwhile said that the changes to the copy in no way changed the overall conceit behind the Burgess review. Instead, it simply removed text that was "especially grating." Wolman said that the overall intent wasn't to make the piece softer on the 200, but was to make editing improvements. Wolman acknowledged that his publication had received a complaint from an advertiser about the article. The Detroit News has since republished the review in its original form. Click past the jump to watch Burgess explain things on Autoline After Hours.

[Sources: The Detroit News, Autoline After Hours]


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 34 Comments
      • 3 Years Ago
      The Detroit News should never have ran the article. They screwed up.
      The review was poorly written. Lazy journalism typical of the current crop of snarky writers picking the lowest hanging fruit. Had the car worn a Kia badge, or even been the Avenger version, it wouldn't have received the same level of ire. The Sebring has become the whipping boy, deserved or not, of blowhards, auto enthusiast poseurs, and commentator know it alls. It's the fat kid on the playground that the bullies all line up to take their shot at.
      The underpinnings of the car are the same as the Evo. The bones aren't the problem here. It's the perceived expectation of luxury along with the Eminem ad blitz. And the fact that it used to be the Sebring. Because it doesn't fit current auto journalist's narrative, the 200 doesn't get reviewed for what it is: a good bang for the buck vanilla sedan.

        • 3 Years Ago
        I don't think anybody would deny that it's a *decent* car but I think his article's point was that it's not a great car.
        • 3 Years Ago
        Funny,

        Most of the non reviewers that have driven the new 200 actually think its a decent car. Most everyone piling onto the negativity have:

        #1 never driven a 200
        #2 Driven a Sebring, thought it was crap, and assume this one is too
        #3 just plain bought into the "All Sebrings are piles of beetle dung" theory without ever having actually put a mile on one.

        For all of you haters out there. Just go test drive one. Please. You can honestly hate it all you want after that, but at least drive one and see what is for real first. Dont rely on what "everyone else" says. Form your own damn opinion.

        Danno

        • 3 Years Ago
        I'm sick of every car guy trying to be Jeremy Clarkson, too, but at the end of the day a review is really an editorial. Lots of the "reporting" is subjective and comes down to preference. If you don't like what one reviewer has to say or the style in which he says it, then you can read other reviews. To be fair, though, the consensus on this car is that it's bad. Even Fiat/Chrysler seems to be acting like this refresh was just so they could have a less embarrassing car in their lineup until its real replacement arrives.
      • 3 Years Ago
      I don't live anywhere near Detroit so I have no idea what kind of credibility the paper has within the local community but I do read their Auto section online.The theme of the Scott Burgess article was that bad cars let down people other than consumers. Workers, affiliated companies and even the communities that rely upon car production for their prosperity are put at risk by inferior products.

      I hope Mr. Burgess is back to work soon and I hope the Detroit News issues an unequivocal
      apology for their complete bungling of this entire matter. If not, Burgessgate will go on and on.

        • 3 Years Ago
        I called this a hit piece before the controversy, Burress focused on the 4 speed automatic fleet model transmission which 90+ of consumers aren't getting. They ought to fire this slob over dress code.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Ron White's really fallen on hard times.
      • 3 Years Ago
      So advertisers get to preview reviews before they are published?
        • 3 Years Ago
        IF YOU HAVEN'T DRIVEN A NEW CHRYSLER 200, THEN YOU CAN'T SAY IT'S NO GOOD!
        • 3 Years Ago
        Read them, ask for changes and so on...

        Really want a headache? In some industries, the manufacturers write the reviews...
      • 3 Years Ago
      1. They made changes to the article because a Chrysler advertiser complained.
      2. They removed the line: "Regrettably, the 200 is still a dog."
      3. They removed the line: "It's vastly improved, but that's only because it was so horrendous before."
      4. They removed the line: "The only thing this 200 proves is that good enough is never going to be good enough."
      5. They're telling us that the intent of making changes to the original article wasn't to soften the 200.

      One of these things is not like the other...
      • 3 Years Ago
      Wow. Journalism at its finest.

      So nothing's new here. Be critical of the Big 3 in Detroit, and you'll be put in your place. Didn't this kind of thinking get them into trouble in the first place?

      The Detroit News is probably not too pleased with the way this turned out -- as coverage of Burgess' resignation has probably already surpassed what his original review would have generated.

      Everyone knows the 200 is really only competitive with the POS it used to be. Even Autoblog's own review of the car went light on the criticisms. We should call a car crap when it's crap! That's the only way better vehicles get made.
        • 3 Years Ago
        Whoops, to clarify, I meant "this was print" meaning how it got approved for print yet was changed online.
        • 3 Years Ago
        I read the comparison over at Jalopnik that showed exactly what was taken out or edited. Frankly, I think the newspaper's actions were reasonable. Most of what was taken out seemed to be more of gleeful potshots than evenhanded review.

        Example:
        "But no number of LEDs can hide a profile that looks like a loggerhead turtle. If this car came in tortoise shell, the EPA would have to put it on the endangered sedan list to prevent trappers and automotive enthusiasts from rightfully shooting it into extinction."

        This sentence was written to be a witty zinger rather than educate the consumer. I think potential customers can decide whether or not they like the profile without the reviewer telling them it should be shot. Really the editor should have removed it before it ever went to print.

        After the modifications, it is still clear that Burgess was disappointed by the car. The following comments are still included:

        "But the problem the 200 faces is that the competition has moved well past it in design and performance. Chrysler wants to eventually drive its luxury heritage home again, but this 200 won't help the brand sputter out of the parking lot."

        "Too harsh? Far from it. In fact, the Chrysler 200 makes me angry."

        "If you compare the 200 to any of the mainstream midsize competition - not the luxury brands it is purported to go up against - all of them outshine the 200."

        "Car buyers in the midsize category prefer a good four-cylinder engine. The 200 doesn't have one."

        "But Chrysler couldn't swap out the first-generation UConnect system, which still is awkward to use and just a poor infotainment system. "

        "It performs better when compared to itself, but doesn't perform as well as any of its competition. That's a losing proposition."

        It is still crystal clear that this is a negative review, that the car hasn't caught up to the market, that the reviewer is disappointed in it. However, now it doesn't sound like the author is enjoying putting it through the wringer.
        • 3 Years Ago
        I fail to see why droids1 is being downranked for his comment. Did anyone read the link and if so, please explain?
        • 3 Years Ago
        Er drolds1, almost all advertisers make that threat to pull ads, that's very normal. I'm sure Chrysler made the same threat against Detroit News, and Detroit News buckled.

        There's nothing wrong with an advertiser threatening to pull ads because of journalistic coverage (tasteless to be sure, but a somewhat common practice). Why do you think an advertiser should be obligated to spend ad dollars in that local Atlanta station? Toyota can spend their money whereever they want, ditto for Chrysler. It's what publishers do in face of that threat that matters.

        Where things get dirty is when editorial changes their review out of fear/threat of getting ad dollars pulled. That means the editorial is "tainted," so to speak. The editorial ceases to become impartial, and becomes untrustworthy. Detroit News can spin this all they want, the bottom line is that it only looks like they changed it because of Chrysler's complaints.

        It's especially inexcusable because this was print. Unlike online, print gets copy-edited and read over thoroughly--with online if there's a mistake the editor can just go back and fix the typo. With print, once it's printed, it's printed--it can't be changed. So they had to have saw the language and tone beforehand and accepted it. Only when Chrysler made a stink did they alter the review.
        • 3 Years Ago
        @drolds1,

        I get your point. Journalists are supposed to preserve integrity and report the facts on the most relevant stories. But the inherent ethical conflict between needing advertising dollars and viewership does create gray areas.

        But I don't think your Toyota example is comparing apples to apples. That Atlanta affiliate didn't just write a couple of honest negative reviews of Toyota vehicles. They completlely ran away with the story (no pun intended) with unconfirmed reports and shaky facts and pandered to consumer fears, which they helped create. Toyota completely has a right to say at a certain point "I will not fund this with my advertising dollars" in the same way that a left-leaning company or organization may choose not to advertise on Fox News.
        • 3 Years Ago
        @axio -- unlike the rest of those bitching and whining and idolizing their brands that were not mentioned, you brought facts. Appreciated, thanks.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Below the video it should say "Video not streaming by UStream"
      • 3 Years Ago
      It's hilarious that this is being made out to be about journalistic integrity. The review was purposely stylistically rude to dumb down and conform to a current fashion. Scott is no Glen Beck and that's a really good thing, he shouldn't try to be. The review was softened, big deal. The main points still came through loud and clear, the car sucks compared to the competition, so HONESTLY where was the integrity compromised? What is really shocking is how different Scott appears from his long running picture. Is failing to update that a failure of journalistic integrity too?
      • 3 Years Ago
      Heh. The real reason he resigned was because he couldn't fit his fat butt in the Chrysler 200 and said so. Chrysler was understandably miffed.

      That being said, his review was one of the most honest car reviews since the Aztec was universally panned, except maybe the Chevrolet Vega one year after introduction (for those who don't remember, it rusted while you watched!).
        • 3 Years Ago
        Did you read the article? It has been made quite clear already that Chrysler had nothing to do with this. It was a local dealer that advertises in the Detroit News that was "miffed."
      • 3 Years Ago
      Hooray for corporate meddling and influence peddling. So much for the "free press."

      The fact that the company that complained was actually NOT Chrysler, and rather some dealership (supposedly) is even more jarring... some sleazeball local dealership has that much sway that they can get changes made to reviews is beyond disturbing. If some 2-bit dealership can do this to an auto review, just imagine the pull that billion dollar corporations have on national news.
        • 3 Years Ago
        Dealership advertising is a big revenue stream for newspapers, and all newspapers are having financial problems. So I understand the temptation for the editors, but they shouldn't have caved.
      • 3 Years Ago
      The Chrysler 200 is a wonderful car that is a huge improvement over the already excellent Sebring, BUY ONE NOW!!!!!!!

      *Note:This comment may have been modified from it's original form by Chrysler, Inc.
      The original comment stated: "The 200 isn't that good at all and is no more than a rebadge from the Sebring"
      • 3 Years Ago
      So they confirmed his story about the advertiser having complaints about the article and reasoning behind the changes. So much for journalistic integrity.
        • 3 Years Ago
        After reading the before and after: I agree the spirit of the article didn't change. The article, in its original form, was poorly written and the editing was an improvement.

        But I respect Scott's conviction.
        • 3 Years Ago
        This is another example of corporate owned media showing that its allegiance is with to the dollar and not the truth, but by all means, let's kill funding for public media and keep giving these lying propagandists enormous tax breaks.
        • 3 Years Ago
        If you want a total lack of journalistic integrity and fawning/slobbering over the company paying the big share, go to Fox's nascar reporting and that of speed. I guess that is your cup of soup.
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