OLD Media Moves

Media partly to blame for auto industry woes

May 15, 2009

Don Pittis, a senior producer at CBC News Business in Canada, argues Friday that the media needed to have been harder on covering the auto industry in the past.

Pittis writes, “Canadian reporters have no trouble asking why, if everything was so above board, former prime minister Brian Mulroney didn’t just ask for a cheque instead of an envelope stuffed with cash. They have no trouble asking why an MP’s care giver may have been made to wash cars and shovel driveways. That’s just good critical journalism. We know that saying only good things about politicians might seem kind in the short run, but we also know it’s not good for anyone in the long run.

“The same discipline is essential when we report on businesses. In business journalism there is sometimes a temptation to bury the bad news. It may have seemed kind to the car companies to put the profitable SUVs in the editorial spotlight and refer to people who wanted efficient cars as ‘enviro-weenies.’ Yes, the land barges were profitable and smaller cars lower margin. But as Scotiabank economist and auto industry watcher Carlos Gomes said to me presciently a few years ago, ‘better low margin than no margin.’

“As we watch General Motors perform its slow-motion tumble down the cliff-side it is interesting to ponder what could have been done differently. If GM and Chrysler had been bullied by years of honest critical journalism into giving us the reliable, fuel efficient cars that most of us seem to want, maybe they, not Toyota and its ilk, would be, technological leaders with the kind of cars consumer really want, ready to ride out this automotive storm.”

Read more here.

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