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 |  Jan 17 2012, 6:10 PM

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]

 |  Mar 24 2011, 8:46 AM

Scott Burgess’ story of journalistic integrity has come to a satisfying conclusion with The Detroit News auto critic returning to his position at the paper after a tumultuous week.

Burgess resigned his position a week ago when the paper bowed to threats by an advertiser and subsequently edited some of the writers work in its online edition. While it didn’t change the overall theme of the piece, the edited review of his Chrysler 200 Convertible review was significantly less impactful.

In a memo sent to his colleagues at the paper, Burgess writes that, “the reason for me to come back has everything to do with all of you. The Detroit News is filled with world caliber reporters in every department. And the strength of your character and commitment to journalism has shined — in all of the notes I received, the phone calls and overwhelming support not simply by saying nice things to me, but speaking your mind, worries and concerns. The Detroit News is not a building or even a newspaper, it’s a group of people I am proud to call my colleagues and friends.”

Score one for integrity.

[Source: Jalopnik]

 |  Mar 21 2011, 11:37 AM

In a move to combat criticism and attempt to win back credibility, The Detroit News publisher Jonathan Wolman has issued an explanatory apology over issues of censorship that lead to the resignation of the paper’s auto critic.

Last week Scott Burgess left the paper after an online version of his review of the Chrysler 200 was edited to remove some of the more sensationalistic copy. The paper even admitted that the move was in response to a complaint by a local dealer that advertises with The Detroit News.

Citing credibility as the most important aspect of delivering the news, Wolman comments that, “As publisher and editor, I want to apologize to our readers and of course to Scott. Once the review was published we should have maintained the wording in all our formats and avoided any sense that we were acting at the influence of any interest aside from our readers’ interest.”

He goes on to state that, “our readers must be certain they have the author’s unvarnished opinion, free of any commercial or outside consideration. That’s our ongoing commitment.”

For our part, we applaud Wolman for coming clean – even if he’s only now doing no less that we would ever expect.

 |  Mar 18 2011, 8:25 AM

Censorship has been confirmed as the reason behind why Scott Burgess, Auto Critic for The Detroit News resigned from his position at the paper.

News of the paper’s handling of Burgess’ Chrysler 200 review and his subsequent letter of resignation broke yesterday, but the industry veteran would not confirm the specific reason for his decision to leave what he referred to in his own words as “the best job I ever held.” Burgess set the record straight last night, however, appearing on the Autoline After Hours webcast, commenting that, “I quit because of the motivation behind the editing.”

The ‘editing’ essentially amounted to a censorship of ideas, with the paper cutting several sentences from the online version of the story after a complaint from an advertiser. While the general theme of the piece was kept intact, the harshest critiques were left out, including a conclusion that, “The only thing this 200 proves is that good enough is never going to be good enough.”

Since Burgess resigned, the paper has admitted mishandling the situation and has since updated the online version of the story to the original.

[Source: The Detroit News]

 |  Mar 17 2011, 9:51 AM

Scott Burgess, Auto Critic for ‘The Detroit News’ has resigned from his position at the paper, reportedly due to a decision by editors to censor his latest review. The article in question is a piece on the new Chrysler 200, in which changes to the online version of the story significantly reduce the impact of the piece.

Those changes were made after a dealer complained about the review, admits Sue Carney, Business Editor for the outlet, commenting that, “The changes were made to address the journalism of the piece, not the angst of a car dealer.”

The print edition could obviously not be changed after the fact, but Carney admits, “the online environment offered the flexibility to rework language that should have been caught in the editing process.”

Language removed from the online version includes statements such as, “Regrettably, the 200 is still a dog.” Another gem is that, “If this is the best vehicle Detroit exports, then Glenn Beck is right.” And finally, the censored conclusion: “It’s vastly improved, but that’s only because it was so horrendous before. Hopefully, this car is a placeholder until the real redesigned 200 arrives – eventually. The only thing this 200 proves is that good enough is never going to be good enough.”

Burgess, for his part, will not give the reason for his resignation, but did tell Jalopnik that, “It’s the best job I ever held.”

[Source: Jalopnik]