Patterico's Pontifications

4/8/2005

GM Pulls L.A. Times Advertising

Filed under: Dog Trainer — Patterico @ 10:40 am



Captain Ed reports that General Motors has decided to stop advertising in the Los Angeles Times due to the paper’s habit of getting facts wrong.

Accuracy and fairness: they matter — even to the bottom line.

Thanks to Ed for his kind mention of this blog’s coverage of the L.A. Times. Readers interested in that paper’s bias can get a representative sample of my coverage of the paper by clicking here.

For full coverage, consult my Dog Trainer category.

And a hearty “How’s it goin’, eh?” to the Captain’s new legion of Canadian readers!

UPDATE: Some say: this is pure petulance by GM over unfavorable articles. That may be; I understand that. But such a strategy might backfire at a paper with a strong reputation for accuracy. Apparently, GM isn’t concerned, which suggests to me that GM executives think readers will be receptive to the message that this paper is biased and inaccurate.

That, to me, is the true significance of this episode.

13 Responses to “GM Pulls L.A. Times Advertising”

  1. […] Patterico @ 2:06 pm I have updated my post about GM’s decision to pull its advertising from the Los Angeles […]

    Patterico's Pontifications » The Real Meaning of GM’s Decision to Pull Its LAT Advertising (0c6a63)

  2. Having lived for many years in the L.A. area and have had to put up with the Times evident bias, this is really great news. They finally have received the comeupance. You really do reap what you sow. To continue on with cliches, this may only be the first shoe dropping.

    Al Alexander (95d628)

  3. LAT bottom line started shrinking 40 years ago. It was a negative # many times from 1980 on. For what had been one of the most profitable newspapers in the world the first two thirds of the 20th century this is a dramatic turn around.
    But it was masterminded by a Comminist from Stanford and true Communists are against profit so it probably shows how brilliant he was.
    Times stafers can expect another round of layoffs. Either the third or fourth in 15 years I have lost count.

    Rod Stanton (9a109f)

  4. I’ve been in the newspaper business for 32 years and I’ve watched with great interest the relationship between news coverage and major advertisers.
    A few years ago, the San Jose Mercury-News ran a story on how to deal with pesky auto salesman. Local auto dealers got together and pulled their ads in protest. To make nice and get them back, the Merk ran a puff piece on what wonderful human beings auto salesman were. Later, the FTC found the dealers guilty of a restraint of trade and imposed sanctions aginst them.
    Here’ what I suspect happened today at the Times: Dan Neil, the Pulitizer-prize winning columnist who wrote the offending piece, was called in and told by editors they were investigating GM’s complaints. If there were errors, they would be corrected. But they told Neil they support him completely, he’s doing a great job and he should continue with what he’s doing and not pull punches.
    He probably left the meeting shaken, not believing a word of what he was told.
    I read today that the Times is facing the loss of $10 million a year in GM advertising. Neil has suddenly become a very expensive reporter.
    Later in the day, there were other meetings in which advertising executives expressed great dissatisfatction with Neil’s work. There were very long faces.
    In the near term, the Times will run some sort of prominently displayed correction, or a long article in the business section on what a great company GM is and what great cars they make.
    In the long term, one of two things will happen. Neil will move on to another job, or more likely, given what he’s being paid, the Times editors, recognizing his great talent, will decide he shouldn’t be confined to the auto beat and give him something else to do.
    I read the article, and frankly, he was right. GM is a lousy company. The stock traded around 30 in 1963 and trades around 30 today. My 84-year-old father bought a Saturn a few years ago, and it was a piece of junk. He had to sell it and buy a VW. It’s 1974 all over again. Gas prices go up and GM misses the boat completely.
    That said, if you look at the body of Neil’s work, he attacks the auto industry from the left, complaining about the lack of hyrids, pollution, etc. That’s why he won a Pulitzer.

    Ken Hoover (a52587)

  5. I read the column.

    I thought his comments on Lutz were simply out of scope of the column, ostensibly a review of the Pontiac G6. The comments about the car seemed pretty spot on, it IS underpowered and looks dull, unlike say the Chrysler 300. However Lutz is biased against domestic automakers and in favor of imports, particularly Japanese.

    I can’t recall ANY coverage of the Buick Regal (now discontinued) which was Consumer Reports most reliable car for 2003. Nor has he covered Caddy, or the Mercury Marauder, or the Ford Mustang, or other interesting and fun American cars. Meanwhile he’s been unable to say anything negative about Japanese imports, despite the well known issues with Mitsubishi, and Toyota’s nagging quality problems (as Japanese quality gurus leave the US production sites).

    If Neil was running a column on the Business Section on GM as a whole, his comments about Lutz would have been appropriate. It just didn’t belong in a review on the car, it seemed like a jeremiad. Notably, GM pulled their ads the same day the column ran.

    [Yeah . . . I’d rather believe that it has to do with their favoritism towards John Kerry, Proposition 66, and every other liberal cause under the sun — but it probably has more to do with coverage of GM than anything, huh?

    Still satisfying to see. — Patterico]

    Jim Rockford (628e3c)

  6. The L.A. Times just no different then the rest of the left-wing news media its just so full of liars and now it looks like the smell A Times has lost a major sponsor kind of like what GM was threatening to do with NBC back when NBCs program DATELINE ran a false story about GM trucks

    night heron (4a946f)

  7. It would be useful if you and the Captain had some notion of what you are talking about. [And we do. Sounds like you didn’t read Captain Ed’s post, which I linked to. — Patterico] GM canned the Times because it accurately judged the performance of some new Pontiac. Easy one there, as all Pontiacs are crap, and even GM would acknowledge Pontiac is the low end of its line.

    More to the point, GM is whining because LAT, again accurately, pointed out the disastrous state of the company’s finances. Its bonds are junk, its debt is strangling, and were it not for units (GMAC, mostly) unrelated to the making of cars, it would be flat bust. Good time to buy the stock though.

    amos (1ebc80)

  8. This seems like a case in which there are no heroes, and everybody loses.

    Neil made some valid points about GM and its products — but what was ostensibly a car review turned into a mean-spirited rant against the company’s top management, calling for heads to roll.

    I’m regularly aggravated by the liberal slant in the LA Times’ news columns. But those who applaud GM’s tactic should ask themselves if they would feel the same way if the company did the same thing to a publication whose editorial leanings were more to their liking.

    What if McDonald’s or Pizza Hut pulled pulled their ads because they’re fed up with all those articles about the obesity epidemic and dangers of high-fat foods?

    If people bought based on newspaper opinion columns, both GM and McDonald’s would have gone out of business long ago. Walmart would be struggling to survive.

    Fact is, people buy what they like. Most companies are smart enough to know this. GM is not. Could this by why the company is floundering?

    Dennis Mosher (be08d7)

  9. I pay someone for a service. That someone, in the course of their business, has someone on their payroll to kick me in the nuts on a regular basis.

    Now unless it’s a brothel with a resident dominatrix, why am I wrong to stop paying for the service?

    Pappy (6204cc)

  10. Reply to Pappy:

    If you were warned in advance you might be kicked in the nuts, and you said you would accept that risk, you’d have no basis to complain.

    I sell advertising. Advertisers know the rules going in. Newspapers have movie reviewers, restaurant reviewers, book reviewers, music reviewers, etc. You are paying for ad space, nothing more. Guaranteed positive reviews in the paper are not part of the deal.

    If GM wants good press, they might consider trying to make better products. Just a thought.

    It is not “wrong” for GM to pull its advertising, it’s just stupid.

    Why is it stupid? Because of this flap, many more people have now read a savagely negative review of a GM product. Were it not for this dust up, the original article would have been long forgotton by now.

    So, if I read a POSITIVE review of a GM car in next week’s paper, what am I supposed to believe?

    Dennis Mosher (be08d7)

  11. I can’t imagine that a company the size of GM would pull advertising for partisan political reasons. They have to sell cars to both Democrats and Republicans to stay in business. As Dennis said, GM can pull it’s advertising for any reason it wants, and they probably did so because they don’t like their coverage in the LAT.

    The real question here is what will the Times do about it? Will the editorial dept stand up to the advertising dept? I’d guess not. But undue advertiser influence of advertiser-supported news is a controversy as old as advertiser-supported news itself. This certainly isn’t unique to the LA Times.

    Whenever we see or read anything from any source, we ought to bear in mind who’s paying the piper, and what their agenda might be. Hell, even blogs are subject to this influence. It’s just another reason why there’s no such thing as objectivity.

    Brian O'Connell (858f0c)

  12. Has anybody considered the idea that GM was actually just trying to save some money on advertising, and decided that the ads in the LA Times were not only horrendously expensive, but a bad return on value?

    I think you have it right, Patterico… the facinating thing is that they understood that they could do it with the support of the public if they took cover behind the LA Times’ reputation! It emphasizes exactly how bad that reputation has become.

    Mr. Michael (2323b2)

  13. LA Times takes a big drop
    The Liberal Always Times seems to be falling out of favor with readers. The circulation took a huge drop over the past year dropping 6.5 percent of its readers despite the fact that the economy and population growth are strong…

    The Blue State Conservatives (d881ce)


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