• Mar 19th 2011 at 12:25PM
  • 56
"I owe our readers an explanation and an apology for the lapse that raised questions about our credibility" writes Detroit News publisher Jonathan Wolman today in a response to the blowback caused by the paper's decision to weaken a review of the Chrysler 200 in response to advertiser demands. The decision to edit the online version of the review, which had already appeared in its original form in print, caused longtime auto reviewer Scott Burgess to resign rather than sacrifice his integrity. Burgess discussed the matter this week during a live appearance on Autoline After Hours and in a reader Q&A session at Jalopnik, which broke the story on Wednesday.
Wolman argues that Burgess was asked to "soften a few passages," but that "there was no effort to change Scott's verdict or his reasoning."

Why bother, then? The excuse that "our intent was to improve the piece by making these passages less grating" is an exceptionally thin attempt to cover the paper's backside. Nobody found it "grating" as the paper went to press, but suddenly, web readers are going to start bleeding from their eye sockets when Burgess rightly points out that while the Chrysler 200 is an improvement over the Sebring, that's all it is? This affair hasn't just "raised questions" about the paper's integrity; rather, it's all but ensured that The Detroit News will be viewed skeptically by many people going forward.

For his part, Scott Burgess states that he feels The Detroit News remains a source worthy of readers' trust. In a comment to Jalopnik readers, he says,

"I think nearly every print publication -- including The Detroit News -- are trustworthy. The reason this became a big deal is because it is so rare, it never happened before and it certainly won't happen again at the paper. In 15 plus years I had never had anything close to this happen to me. Journalists are a dogged group of people who work extremely hard, are typically underpaid and want to do the right thing.

In recent years, we've seen a lot of polarization of issues and I think that's been more of a threat from online the changing ways people consumer media. There are a lot more voices out there and papers shouldn't feel threatened by them, they should embrace them. I have always enjoyed the discussion, the debate, thoughtful response and evolution of ideas. There seems to less of that nowadays."

Advertisers must sell product, and it's natural for an auto dealership to complain about negative reviews of the wares it sells. It's also not a stretch to understand how a newspaper would pay attention to an unsatisfied car dealer, as automotive ads are one of the biggest sources of revenue to newspapers. Still, that doesn't get Wolman or The Detroit News off the hook, and a carefully-worded apology is too little, too late when the appropriate action would have been to back up the staff of "expert writers" the apology glowingly brags about.

[Source: The Detroit News]


I'm reporting this comment as:

Reported comments and users are reviewed by Autoblog staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week to determine whether they violate Community Guideline. Accounts are penalized for Community Guidelines violations and serious or repeated violations can lead to account termination.


    • 1 Second Ago
  • 56 Comments
      linuxaddict7
      • 4 Years Ago
      Detroit News lost all credibility by changing the content of the article and by firing the writer. If at all they have to fire, the editor should be fired.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @linuxaddict7
        Why don't you try reading. The writer QUIT HIS JOB.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @linuxaddict7
        Who the hell said anything about firing? Burgess resigned. Get your facts straight. Did you even read the articles about this? Why would I listen to anything you have to say, when you don't even have the most basic of facts about this straight?
      • 4 Years Ago
      This is why it is important to have at least some non-commercial journalist, like PBS or NPR.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Reprint the original article. Apology then accepted. IMHO, most cars in the 20-25k range tend to be less than average for good reason. Cheap transportation. Hell, Toyota built a name selling Corrolas and simlar reliable cars for a good price. Even the cars with great reliability tend to have less options, uncomfortable thin cloth seats and so on. It is what it is, not much point trying to fool people.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Editorial content and advertisements must be kept separate. No blurring of the lines or printing advertorials as editorials.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Mr. Roth, you imply in your post that it was a dealer that complained to the paper. Has this been confirmed? On Autoline After Hours, Mr. Burgess went out of his way to clarify that he had not been told it was a dealer (and imply that perhaps it was Chrysler corporate that had complained).
        • 4 Years Ago
        Wolman says it was a dealer that complained.
        • 4 Years Ago
        For anyone that believes the BS story that it was a Chrysler dealer and not Chrysler Corp that complained I have a bridge for sale.......

        The detroit based news sites have always been heavily biased towards D3 vehicles, so I'm not surprised this happened.
        • 4 Years Ago
        FT:
        Dealers place a lot of ads in newspapers. Corporate doesn't do so so much. Even when you see a corporate ad, it's often placed by the dealer.
      • 4 Years Ago
      it just seems like another fail from detroit.

      at least you guys are consistent...
      • 4 Years Ago
      any sane person knows Chrysler 200 is a crappy car, why the need for all this editorial bickering?
      • 4 Years Ago
      I have to admit, I'm left wondering how many other times they've tried to "soften" articles and we never heard about it because the writer(s) didn't make a big deal about it. Its hard to really trust them now....I don't know if that will change over time or not.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I agree, however I know quite a few import buyers who see the name "Detroit News" and automatically assume the paper is biased towards domestics and would not consider anything they had to say. This practically seals the deal for them no matter what the facts turn out to be. It is quite an unfortunate spot for the paper to be in, with no real way to repair the damage.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I hope AB will not let an advertiser influence their reviews.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Here we can sell first and second cars for best prize.If you are searching for a beautiful and attracting car then you will must see this.

      ----------------
      pauldavis
      cheap used cars
      • 4 Years Ago
      Wolman is a schmuck. And I know he understands the word.
      It's indeed rare for a local reviewer who doesn't just post a column pulled from a mfr's press release, with his byline. Burgess went "the extra mile" and got the business side of the paper to dump on him. This rag has no integrity, maybe hasn't had any in a while. And Wolman's still a schmuck.
      • 4 Years Ago
      If you want to see advertiser pandering at it's worst, check out Cigar Aficionado. Their top 25 list is notorious for bending over to their biggest advertisers. They make the detnews look like a saint in comparison.
    • Load More Comments
    Share This Photo X