How honest should an auto writer be?


So, an interesting thing happened yesterday in the auto writing world. One of my colleagues in Detroit quit because the editors at his paper told him to tone down a review of the all-new Chrysler 200. At least that's what we think happened. Neither the paper nor the journalist are commenting.

But it didn't stop Jalopnik from running with a story titled: How the Detroit News sold its soul.
Whether the writer quit because of this or something completely unrelated, I think this whole issue brings up a valid point: How honest should an auto writer be? Seriously. I want you to tell me.
I posted this to my blog fan page, and the Midwest Automotive Media Association fan page ... but few of my fans and auto friends wanted to comment. I don't know if they don't have an opinion or they fear the wrath of potential advertisers. But I figured I'd throw it out to you: People who buy cars. 
Whaddayah think? Is it OK to call a car a dog? Or should auto writers stop short and simply say: Toyota Camry is better.
BTW -- that Jalopnik article is an interesting read because they actually show you the original article with the portions that were edited out. Worth a look-see. Jalopnik also released today a story with the much-belated response from the Detroit News. 


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  • I think you need to be honest. If it's a dog say so but explain why. As long as the writer has valid points or comparison points on why the car blows, I'd want to know. You drive a lot more cars then I ever will and get to notice stuff I might not until a few months in to owning.

  • How angry should an auto writer be? I've got two competing biases here: I'm an editor, which means I try to make sure writers have their facts straight and their opinions grounded. And I'm still smarting over the crappy 4-cylinder Taurus I bought ages ago, which means a subpar engine will push my buttons. So I want my reviewer to show some balance but level with me on the important stuff. I think I may have wanted a tougher review: If you're going to call a dog a dog, demolish arguments to the contrary. To my view the reviewer didn't get there, and the editor didn't show up to save the writer's ass.

  • I think you have the right to give your opnion on any car you drive. You just need to explain why you feel this way. Sometimes it is the position of the cup holders that drive you crazy, something that small can really turn you off on a car. Some cars are dogs and you know it right away, just explain why you think they are. Others may disagree but they are intitled to their opnion too.

  • Didn't WSJ autos writer, Dan Neil, win a Pulitzer Prize just a few years ago for calling out the Pontiac G6 (revised Grand Am) and GM, while writing for the Tribune Co.s owned LA Times? No retraction issued by Neil even though GM demanded one under the threat of pulling all its Trib advertising.

    The result: GM cleaned house, Pontiac (and Saturn) were deep sixed.

    Oh, how times in the industry have changed.

  • in a weird quirk of fate, i actually get to drive the chrysler 200 next week. so, i'll see for myself what the car is like. on twitter, facebook and this blog post, the overwhelming response from people was to be honest. however, i do think there's a way to be honest, and there's a way to be vindictive. hmmm ... with that in mind, i guess i need to take another look-see at my chevrolet cruze review before i send it over to

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