General Motors PR VP Fails To Get Rebuttal To Friedman Published in NYT, Finds ‘Rubbish’ Banned

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Brian Akre, a rep for General Motors, says he’s spent the last week trying to get a letter from GM corporate communications VP Steven Harris — in response to an op-ed piece by Thomas Friedman which likened GM to a “crack dealer” in its dealings of SUVs to Americans — published in the New York Times. He failed.

Writes Akre on GM’s FYI blog:

You’d think it would be relatively easy to get a letter from a GM vice president published in the Times after GM’s reputation was so unfairly questioned. Just a matter of simple journalistic fairness, right? You’d also think that the newspaper’s editing of letters would be minimal — to fix grammar, remove any profane language, that sort of thing. Not so. Even for me, who worked for nearly 20 years as a reporter and editor, this was an enlightening experience.

Akre says that after submitting a 490-word letter, the Times would only consider 175. After upping its offer to 200 words, “then came the editing.”

The Times suggested “rubbish” be changed first to, “We beg to differ.” We objected. The Times then suggested it be changed to, “Not so.” We stood our ground. In the end, the Times refused to let us call the column “rubbish.” Why? “It’s not the tone we use in Letters,” wrote Mary Drohan, a letters editor.

Both versions, as well as their e-mail exchange, courtesy of the GM blog.

490-word GM response to Friedman [GM FYI Blog]
200-word GM response to Friedman [GM FYI Blog]
E-mail exchange between NYT and GM [GM FYI Blog]
Hyperbole and Defamation in The New York Times [GM FYI Blog]