Automaker 'Agrees to Disagree' With Newspaper's Editors

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NEW YORK ( -- General Motors Corp. has resumed corporate advertising in The Los Angeles Times after a four-month boycott sparked by a series of articles that were unflattering to the carmaker.
GM executives were displeased with the 'Los Angeles Times' news coverage of their products.

Pulled ads
The struggling automaker said in April it was pulling out of The Times, the country’s fourth-largest newspaper, citing growing complaints about GM-related coverage from its own executives and California dealers. A Times auto critic had just urged G.M. to replace CEO Rick Wagoner, although a January article carried the upbeat headline, “G.M.’s Recovery Still Revs Despite Fears of Stalling.”

With the boycott, the company joined a boomlet of advertisers-who-would-be-editors, including Morgan Stanley and BP, both of which have ordered publications to withhold their ads when negative articles are going to appear.

Impact not clear
Any impact from the boycott is not yet clear. GM, its regional dealer associations and individual dealers spent $61.5 million to advertise in The Times last year, of which $21 million came from GM corporate campaigns, according to TNS Media Intelligence.

Public relations professionals, who largely called the boycott a mistake, worried that their influence was waning. “A company that would expect these tactics to work is misguided,” wrote Julia Hood, editor in chief at P.R. Week, in an editorial. “An editor that would agree to them is compromised. A P.R. professional that does not help the C-suite understand why these practices are wrong is a fool.”

But the paper continued to receive advertising from individual dealers. Many observers predicted that GM could not neglect a paper so large for very long.

Holding meetings
The Times, which is part of the Tribune Co., and GM had been holding meetings to hash out their differences since the boycott began.

“GM and the L.A. Times have had productive discussions regarding our complaints,” said Brian Akre, a GM spokesman in Detroit. “While we have respectfully agreed to disagree on some of the issues, we sincerely believe The Times has a better understanding of our concerns and we appreciate its ongoing willingness to listen.”

"We had productive statements with GM, and while we didn’t need see a need to run a correction, we listened to their concerns," said Martha Goldstein, vice president of communications at The Times.

Yesterday's full-page ad
The Times yesterday printed a full-page ad for the 2006 Pontiac Solstice.

Mr. Akre said recent leadership changes at The Times played no role in the decision to resume advertising there. Editor John Carroll said July 20 that he was stepping down on Aug. 15, to be succeeded by managing editor Dean Baquet.

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