Today I read a recent article from a North Carolina based news organization called News & Observer. The article contained a misleading quotation which was a blatant attempt to spin the news being reported and to confuse readers and consumers. Following is a letter that I sent to the editor in response.
To whom it may concern
I just read an article by John Murawski published on May 9, 2013 entitled 'Law would stop Tesla electric car sales in NC' and which is available at http://www.newsobserver.com/2013/05/09/2883125/law-would-stop-tesla-electric.html
. I was disappointed to see the following quote:
"'We care about the franchise system,' said Robert Glaser, president of the N.C. Automobile Dealers Association. 'The whole point of the retail system is to protect the consumer.'"
This is a blatant misrepresentation of the auto dealer association system. It doesn't even make sense assuming a modicum of critical analysis. The point of this association of dealers is to protect the interest of its member dealers, and generally these interests are diametrically opposed to those of consumers. Here's the primary, though not sole example of this: a dealership's goal is to extract the maximum amount of money from a consumer for a sale while a consumer's goal is to get the most while letting go of a minimum amount of money. Those are diametrically opposed goals. In general, dealership associations ardently pursue several anti-consumer policies. These pursuits are the primary reason for, for instance, the extreme lack of price transparency in the auto market. Price transparency is a pro-consumer feature vehemently opposed by dealership associations.
Even the proposal being reported on is extremely anti-consumer. Consumer Reports, an /actual/ consumer advocate organization, said of the Model S in their video review, "This car performs better than anything we've ever tested before. Let me repeat that. Not just the best electric car, but the best car. It does just about everything extremely well." The Automobile Dealers Association is trying to remove this vehicle from the market, not because it hurts consumers that it is available, much to the contrary, but rather because it hurts the Automobile Dealers Association.
Clearly The Automobile Dealers Association does not exist for the benefit of consumers. I believe that printing a quote like this that is clearly /intentionally/ misleading, and by any reasonable interpretation factually inaccurate hurts the journalistic credibility of your publication. It is common for journalistic organizations to claim that it is their responsibility to present both sides of every story. I would amend that. It is a journalistic organization's responsibility to give each side of a story an opportunity to give a reasonable interpretations of events being reported in a way that is not factually inaccurate. If one side of a story refuses to offer an interpretation that clears this low bar for publishability when given the opportunity, then it is the journalistic organization's responsibility not to publish that side's interpretations.