Holmes Report Blog

The Holmes Report blog focuses on news and issues of interest to public relations professionals. Our main site can be found at www.holmesreport.com.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

GM Reports on NYT Arrogance: General Motors makes smart use of its FYI blog to vent its frustration with a haughty and unresponsive New York Times.

GM’s communications chief Steve Harris submitted a letter to the editor in the wake of a column by Friedman that began by asking the (presumably) rhetorical question: “Is there a company more dangerous to America’s future than General Motors?”

While casual Times readers were surprised and delighted that Friedman managed to get through an entire column without even once plugging his latest book—the inane and mind-numbingly superficial The World is Flat—GM was a little upset that Friedman had accused the company of supporting terrorists, buying votes in Congress and being a corporate “crack dealer.”

The company responded with a letter to the editor, and this post is GM corporate communications exec Brian Akre’s story of trying to get that letter published by the Times. “Now, you’d think it would be relatively easy to get a letter from a GM vice president published in the Times after GM’s reputation was so unfairly questioned. Just a matter of simple journalistic fairness, right? You’d also think that the newspaper’s editing of letters would be minimal…. Not so. Even for me, who worked for nearly 20 years as a reporter and editor, this was an enlightening experience.”

Unlike some of those who commented on the blog post, I don’t attribute the Times’ attitude to its political leanings; I attribute it to the kind of arrogance that is endemic in mainstream media. There’s a lack of accountability in journalism that is a vestige of the days before the Internet, when reporters and editors were a special select breed, their work conducted behind closed doors, with few checks and balances.

In those days, someone who ran up against this wall of arrogance could tell a few close friends about his experience. But in the age of transparency, Harris and Akre can tell anyone who’s interested, via their blog.

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