Peter Bhatia, the editor of the Detroit Free Press, writes Sunday about how Ford Motor Co. responded to reporter Phoebe Wall Howard‘s stories about its defective transmissions.
Bhatia writes, “Ford also took the extraordinary step of sending a top North America quality executive to the Flint home of a woman featured in a Free Press video. Surprised to discover that the woman invited Howard to her home, the engineer, noting that she had quoted his affidavit in the July story, squeezed Howard’s hand so hard while shaking it that her hand was swollen more than 24 hours later. An urgent-care physician diagnosed a soft-tissue injury and bandaged the hand.
“Sources set up special email accounts to correspond with Howard, telling her that their company communications were being monitored to spot contacts with her. A global communications staffer attacked us on social media. Ford insisted we were just doing the bidding of lawyers for car owners suing the company, when in fact we were consistently quoting from Ford’s own internal documents.
“With each new disclosure, we gave Ford the opportunity to respond in detail before we published. That at times led to tensions between the company and us. In the end, we allowed Ford the time it wanted to comment, sometimes delaying publication for days, though company spokespeople argued it was not enough.
“Howard continues to hear from distraught owners around the country — to date more than 400. Her final story of the year further documented their frustration. She also broke the news that the U.S. Department of Justice is investigating Ford’s conduct.”
Read more here.