Publisher: We Made A “Humbling Mistake”

DETROIT (WWJ) – An apology from the Detroit News?  The editor and publisher of the paper has written a front-page apology over the newspaper’s decision to change sections of a critical review of the Chrysler 200 after an advertiser complained.

“Indeed, I owe our readers an explanation and an apology for the lapse that raised questions about our credibility,” begins Jonathan Wolman, Editor and Publisher of The Detroit News.

Wolman says former critic Scott Burgess was asked to change several passages of his review of the car promoted in a popular Super Bowl television ad featuring rapper Eminem. Wolman says that happened after an advertiser complained about “acerbic and disrespectful” material.

“While our intent was to improve the piece by making these passages less grating, our decision to make these changes after fielding an advertiser’s complaint was a humbling mistake. As publisher and editor, I want to apologize to our readers and of course to Scott (auto reviewer, Scott Burgess). Once the review was published we should have maintained the wording in all our formats and avoided any sense that we were acting at the influence of any interest aside from our readers’ interest,” writes Wolman in The Detroit News story.

When the story broke, we talked with Katie Kerwin, editor of Autobeat Daily:  

“The idea that you can’t say that is ludicrous, and the idea that any editor would think of changing something under pressure from an advertiser is disgusting from a journalist perspective,” says Kerwin.

“The fact that someone would say “I resign” rather than having that done, is an act of integrity,” adds Kerwin.

Burgess says he resigned Wednesday after meeting with Wolman.

The original review appeared in the newspaper’s March 10 print edition and changes were made to the online version.


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