Journalists understand the severity of consequences if an article somehow breaches public accountability. Former CBC and current Al Jazeera editor Tony Burman once said, “Every news organization has only its credibility and reputation to rely on.”
However, Autoblog has encountered criticism lately after publishing an article where a writer received third party payment for their literary work. During September 2011, writer for Autoblog Jeff Glucker published an article promoting Nissan’s new marketing campaign for its Versa compact. However, it was later revealed that Glucker was also working for the agency running the campaign. Because Glucker did not notify Autoblog of his cash compensations from the PR firm before he wrote the article, Glucker was promptly fired.
More recently (last Thursday, January 12th, to be exact), Autoblog published an article on the Bonhams’ auction of cars and memorabilia that belonged to the late David E. Davis Jr. However, the finishing sentence of the article drew particular attention– “Go to the Bonhams site and start your bidding for a piece of history from the lifetime of a larger than life car connoisseur and story teller.”
Autoblog’s story caught the attention of the self-proclaimed integrity commission of automotive journalism, The Truth About Cars (TTAC). TTAC’s investigation revealed that the author of the article, Matt Davis, happens to be the son of David E. Davis. The assumption (yes, an assumption, but hardly unwarranted) is that the as the son (Matt Davis) would logically benefit from the proceeds of the auction of items belonging to the estate of his father.
TTAC investigated further, calling Bonhams to confirm whether Matt Davis was the owner of the auction items. Bonhams refused to comment as they were responsible of protecting the privacy and the identity of the seller.
TTAC then reached AOL Autos Editor-In-Chief David Kiley, who assured TTAC that Davis did not act or write with the intent of personal gain and did not bring the story to the editorial team, a key difference between Jeff Glucker’s incident. In fact, Autoblog requested and assigned Matt Davis for the piece due to the relationship. Kiley added, “We should have put the disclaimer on it when it was first published, but as soon as I saw it, I corrected that, and we are confident that Matt is not profiting from the auction.”
There are no indications that Matt Davis will be fired from Autoblog because of the Bonhams article.
[Source: The Truth About Cars]