Thursday, March 17, 2011

Detroit News auto critic quits after paper waters down criticism of Chrysler 200



By GARY BAUMGARTEN

The Chrysler 200, you know, the car that was introduced as part of an amazing music video commercial featuring Eminem during the Super Bowl as "imported from Detroit" is a "dog."

At least that's what Detroit News (ex) auto critic Scott Burgess wrote.

The story made it into the print editions. But was watered down online after a car dealer complained, says Crain's Detroit Business.

Crain's says Burgess reportedly quit in protest. The paper later acknowledged the decision to dilute his scathing review was a "mistake."

This is not the Detroit News I used to work for.

I remember when I was an aspiring reporter taking a journalism class from a Detroit News editor at the University of Detroit. The professor was so proud that the News never collapsed from pressure from advertisers.

He told a story about an horrific accident in the old - now demolished - downtown Detroit Hudson's store. The story went something like this:

A glass pane to one of the elevators was missing. Had been for awhile but the lift remained in use.

According to this professor, a guy impatiently waiting for the notoriously slow elevators stuck his head through the opening to check on its arrival and literally lost his head.

The paper reported that Hudson's - a major advertiser at the time - hadn't acted when the missing pain was reported. Hudson's demanded a retraction or it would pull its advertising, the professor said. The paper refused.

As the story went, the ads were pulled. Several days later, when the store's sales dipped, Hudson's came running back, demanding its coveted prime advertising space on page 3. Hudson's refused, saying the spot had already been sold to a competitor.

I don't know if the story was true, but, heck, it came from a college professor who was in a position to know. True or not, it spoke to the integrity of the paper.

I don't know if the 200 is a "dog" or not. I've never driven one. But I do agree with the paper. It made a mistake.

If you can't trust that the people who are critiquing products or music or films aren't being influenced by advertisers, you lose faith in the media outlet.

The News should beg Burgess to return. Apologize to him. And offer him a raise.

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