Friday, April 15, 2005

FitzSimmons Says No Factual Errors Have Been Found In Times Stories or Columns on GM

The Tribune CEO, Dennis FitzSimmons, is quoted in Editor and Publisher as saying that no errors have been found in Los Angeles Times stories or columns about General Motors.

But as quiet talks go on between the Times and GM over GM's pulling of ads from the Times, no one has yet defended the tone of Dan Neil's celebrated column last week calling for the ouster of GM chairman and chief executive Rick Wagoner and saying the company has sunk into a morass.

That column was shrill, let's face it, and, although it has not been cited as the only reason for GM's decision to suspend advertising in the Times, I suspect that after GM has been allowed to vent and the Times looks into its coverage of GM, Neil may be advised to tone it down a little and GM will come back with its ads.

As the New York Times remarks in a lengthy article this morning, April 15, on the troubles at both GM and Ford, GM has taken its ads out of the largest newspaper in Southern California, which constitutes its weakest market. My guess is that won't last.

Although, as usual, the New York Times article, by Danny Hakim, was sober, not nearly so flashy as Neil's commentary, the fact was this was a very negative article on the big auto companies. Reference is made to their entrenched bureaucracies, dull cars, and union contract problems. Basically, the New York Times is saying what Neil did in a somewhat nicer way.

General Motors has to realize by this time it's in trouble, and its trouble is not simply that the Los Angeles Times and New York Times have been running critical reports.

This is a company that has been losing market share, because its cars aren't as appealing, it hasn't emphasized new technology, such as the hybrids, enough, and it seems stodgy to the people most interested in cars and trucks. Ford, of course, has the same problems.

The Japanese are selling more and more vehicles, because many American consumers are discerning enough to recognize a better deal when he or she sees one. So the bottom line is that GM and Ford have got to change. Chrysler, as the New York Times remarks in its article this morning, has changed and is doing better with some new products, although the NYT doesn't mention that Chrysler is mainly a German company these days. In other words, the Chrysler experience simply fortifies the notion that Americans aren't successfully competing with either the Japanese or Europeans at present.

FitzSimmons, by the way, seemed to indicate to the analysts that L.A. Times circulation will dip sharply again in figures to be announced next month, although if those figures are annual ones, then much of the decrease may already have been publicly disclosed.

Maybe, as is stated, Times telemarketing has been below par. But I don't think the move to the left on the hapless editorial page is helping either, and neither is the Times pulling back on its circulation areas, relying ever more on a metropolitan area whose changing demographics are not helpful to the success of the mainstream press.

Quite simply, to keep up circulation in the age of the Internet, big papers like the L.A. Times have to become more national in sales. The New York Times and Wall Street Journal have been doing that. By sharply paring back its national edition, the L.A. Times has been going in the opposite direction.

It may be the new publisher will change things. Everyone is waiting to see.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

If the new Publisher just fires John Carroll, I'll re-enter my subscription.

I am so tired of "moral equivalency" and reading that the PLO and Hezbollah are "freedom fighters" and "militants".

They are nothing more than cold-blooded intentional murderers of women and children, terrorists the same as in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Call them by their proper names and I'll resubscribe, Michael Kinsley's limp wrist notwithstanding.

4/15/2005 5:01 PM  
Blogger Matt Weinstock said...

Dan Neil writes like a girl. He shouldn'd have been so bitchy in his criticism of the bumbling GM. They finally have the message and are trying to make a better product. An American product, by the way.


4/18/2005 11:44 AM  
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