LAT’s Gum Shoe Journalism and the Toyota Recall

This is a credit where credit is due story. Basically, Ralph Vartabedian and Ken Bensinger wrote a piece for the LAT in November last year titled “Runaway Toyota cases ignored.” They reported that there have been 19 deaths and scores of injuries due to Toyotas seeming to accelerate on their own. After it was published Irv Miller VP of Environmental & Public Affairs for Toyota wrote:

Today the Los Angeles Times published an article that wrongly and unfairly attacks Toyota’s integrity and reputation.

While outraged by the Times’ attack, we were not totally surprised. The tone of the article was foreshadowed by the phrasing of a lengthy list of detailed questions that the Times emailed to us recently. The questions were couched in accusatory terms.

Despite the tone, we answered each of the many questions and sent them to the Times. Needless to say, we were disappointed by the article that appeared today, and in particular by the fact that so little of our response to the questions appeared in the article and much of what was used was distorted.

Toyota has a well-earned reputation for integrity and we will vigorously defend it.


As CJR’s Dean Starkman points out the LAT stuck to their guns under fire. Then as NYTPicker points out, NYT suddenly started paying attention to the scoop, never noting the champion of the story was from the other coast and some other newspaper.

The media gets criticized for when they get it wrong, but rarely when they get it right. There’s no hyperbole in saying this investigative (read: expensive) piece saved lives. Great work Vartabedian and Bensinger.

Also, just because the NYT pretends they’re an island with no counterparts, doesn’t mean its true.

Our thanks to our tipster for this story.