The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Friday, April 08, 2005

GM pulls ads from LA Times in retaliation

A note for the files: a nice, clear-cut example of a classic:
General Motors Corp. has pulled all of its advertising from Tribune Co.'s Los Angeles Times for the foreseeable future, GM said yesterday.

The reason given by GM:
some factual errors and misrepresentations in the editorial coverage

The piece gives a couple of other examples:
Ford Motor Co. pulled ads from New Yorker magazine when the magazine failed to alert it about a June 1995 article containing a four-letter word. In response, the New Yorker set up a formal system to warn about 50 companies on a "sensitive advertiser list" about articles that might offend.

Is that list system still in operation, I wonder?

In 1954, GM threatened to cancel its advertising in The Wall Street Journal, and not speak to its reporters, if the Journal published a story revealing -- ahead of the company's schedule -- designs of forthcoming cars. The Journal published the information.

The purity of the GM/LAT case is perhaps equal to its rarity: the quid pro quo, the publicity, the acknowledgement of motive by the advertiser, the completeness of the withdrawal.

What one might call the nuclear option of advertiser power. For every such case there is - I suspect - a million less obvious, partial, hidden cases of advertiser (or potential advertiser) influence. And those cases that there are are of their very nature more insidious than GM's.

The reader never knows what deals have been made. And that's why nothing from the media can be taken on trust.

(Papers are making deals affecting the content of editorial content all the time, of course: with government at every level, with personalities, with academic institutions - the Columbia/New York Times case mentioned earlier.

Something for something makes the world go round...)


URLs to hand: a 1997 CJR piece on advertisers' influence on media content. And a 1997 page from the Institute for Alternative Journalism on 25 cases of corporate interference might have useful material.

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