GM speaks about Times

On the General Motors company blog, VP of communications Gary Grates says he won't detail any grievances against the L.A Times while the paper "has an ombudsman who is investigating the issues we raised." But he defends GM's decision to yank its ads.

Since this became a news story last week, we have declined to participate in a public airing of our complaint out of respect to the Times....We feel that we should let the Times consider our complaint and announce its conclusions before we comment further.

[fast forward]

In fact, our discussions with the Times have been respectful and professional. We have been very frank in our criticism, and the Times editors so far have taken our complaint seriously, which we appreciate.

We knew going into this that our action would be portrayed negatively. GM has been attacked relentlessly in the past week as being “thin skinned.” But think about that for a moment: GM has been particularly “newsworthy” in the last month. During that time, many have weighed in on our challenges and our products, and by any measure, much of the commentary has been negative. If ceasing our advertising in the Los Angeles Times were simply a symptom of our alleged “thin skin,” then why focus solely on the Times, a newspaper that covers GM and Detroit minimally?

In fact, GM is not averse to fair criticism, and we appreciate the role journalists play in our society. We advertise in hundreds of venues and media, and by and large, we consider the coverage of our company fair, balanced and thorough. We deal personally each day with hundreds of journalists from a wide range of media around the world, and we feel most of them take their job seriously and do their best to be fair. We expect critics to point out where we have done well with our products and where, in their opinion, we could do better. We often learn a lot from such criticism and take it to heart.

When we disagree, we prefer to take it up privately with the publication, as we did with the Times. We are not so naďve to expect that the media should only write positive things about GM or any other company, as some have opined.

We were one of the first companies to establish a blog where our executives could express their opinions in their own words, unfiltered by anyone else, and hear back directly from enthusiasts and others interested in what we do. Bob Lutz has stated repeatedly in this forum that criticism is welcome, and we’ve published a good amount of it, along with the praise.

But neither do we think that any business should remain mute when it sincerely believes it has been treated unfairly or attacked by reporting that is unsupported by facts and unrelated to reality. It is extremely rare that we take the kind of action we did with the Times, but it is fully within our right to spend our advertising dollars where we see fit.

Also today, Forbes magazine columnist Jerry Flint calls GM dumb but also faults the LAT column by Dan Neil that set all this off: "I take no backseat to anyone in criticizing General Motors' managers. But Dan, your attack was mean-spirited and off-base.

(Via Romenesko and FishbowlLA)

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