Three Auto State Senators “Said in a Statement”

For an example of just how crappy the reporting on a potential auto bridge is, check out this NYT article. Its title announces "Republicans Divided on Aid to Automakers." Yet the part of the article that purportedly tells that story consists solely of statements of the four most invested Republican Senators on the issue.

Kit Bond (who co-sponsored past efforts with Carl Levin):

“I’m glad the Democratic leadership has embraced the principles of the Bond-Levin bill to hold auto companies accountable, protect taxpayers and save millions of American jobs as we head into the holiday season,” Mr. Bond said in a statement.

Bob Corker: 

“Based on the outline we’ve seen so far, we are disappointed,” Mr. Corker said in a statement. He reiterated his demands that the automakers make aggressive efforts to cut labor costs and reduce their overall debt obligations before receiving any aid.

“These are the same types of conditions a bankruptcy judge might require to ensure that these companies become viable and sustainable into the future,” Mr. Corker said. “And if they will agree to these terms, then we have something to talk about.”

Mitch McConnell:

“I look forward to reviewing the legislation being drafted to address the difficulties in our auto markets,” Mr. McConnell said in a statement. “As we consider this legislation, our first priority must be to protect the hard-earned money of the American taxpayer.”

And a gratuitous inclusion of Richard Shelby, though he apparently hasn’t issued any new statement, but somehow gets included, based on no apparently new reporting:

The senior Republican on the banking committee, Senator Richard C. Shelby of Alabama, has said he will oppose any taxpayer-financed bailout for the auto industry, and other fiscal hawks are likely to join him in opposing the measure.

This is what counts as reporting these days for the NYT. Three official statements probably gleaned from press releases, thereby letting those most invested in this debate stand in for those who will determine its outcome.

In spite of the fact that every single Republican listed (along with Carl Levin) is an auto state Senator of one sort or another, David Herszenhorn doesn’t apparently consider that information to be noteworthy (indeed, he attributes Shelby’s opposition to any bailout to fiscal conservatism, not anti-union ideology and home state self-interest). And, more importantly, Herszenhorn reports that as the entire state of the debate: one American manufacturer state Senator sponsoring legislation, two foreign manufacturer state Senators opposing it, a fourth who lives in a mixed auto manufacturer state taking a middle ground. This, in spite of the fact that the legislation will be decided (first) by whether McConnell invests his leadership to make this happen, and more importantly, by whether the remaining 44 Republican Senators–most of whom don’t have significant manufacturing facilities in their state–stage a filibuster (and, for that matter, whether Dodd gets Democratic skeptics like Jon Tester on board).

The only real discussion of the state of what a Senate vote would involves is the observation that Obama has already resigned, and that it "is also unlikely" that Biden and Hillary would vote. Though apparently, the NYT’s reporter didn’t even bother to contact New York’s own junior Senator about that assertion, since her spokesperson has stated clearly that she would vote.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, the soon-to-be secretary of state, is expected to be on the Senate floor next week and intends to cast votes if they are called, her spokesman Philippe Reines said today.

Clinton had always planned on being in Washington for the lame duck session and she hasn’t changed those plans, Reines said. [my emphasis]

Maybe Reines didn’t issue a formal statement, because that seems to be the only thing Herszenhorn consulted for this story.

Hey Herszenhorn! You want to do some actual reporting on this? You might want to talk to Bob Bennett and Liddy Dole, both Banking Committee members and both fairly engaged–as mostly uninterested participants–in this debate; Bennett, in particular, has said some nuanced things about a bailout. You might want to talk to Arlen Specter, who has supported a bailout even though his state has much less invested in this than the four Senators cited. You might want to talk to Senators Collins, Snowe, Coleman, Lugar, Murkowski, Martinez, and Smith–are those Senators divided (and are they voting)? Because they’re the ones that matter at this point, not Bond or Shelby or Corker.

Thus far you have written a story that should be titled, "Auto State Senators Represent the Interests of Their States." You might want to find out what other Senators think, before you let the auto state Senators (including Levin and Bond) stand in for the rest of their colleagues.

15 replies
  1. scribe says:

    Re the quality of the reportage: They’re just showing their eager willingness to welcome Murdoch as their new overlord. When they start writing in not-complete sentences, you’ll know the deal has been reached.

  2. AZ Matt says:

    I wouldn’t buy a used car from any of those Rethugs. The reporting can be considered mis-leading advertizing for the Rethug Junker Cars double-dealership.

  3. SaltinWound says:

    I’m curious what will happen when the bailout moves on to deal with state budget deficits. Why should I contribute a penny to Alabama and Kentucky tax incentives that take jobs from my state?

  4. PJEvans says:

    Why would anyone consider the NYT as reliable on anything? They clearly can’t see any part of the country outside of NY and DC.

  5. MadDog says:

    Hey Herszenhorn! You want to do some actual reporting on this?

    Sheesh EW, give Davey a break! It’s the weekend. Nobody works the weekend. /snark

    Seriously, I totally agree! Davey mailed this one in.

  6. rosalind says:

    (posted my comment on the wrong thread – reposting here)

    a good article in the LA Times focusing on GM’s intertwined foreign & domestic car production.

    The president of GM’s Colombia unit, Santiago Chamorro, worries that news of problems in the U.S. could scare away car buyers in South America. “Bankruptcy is not in the interests of our employees, shareholders, suppliers or clients,” he said.


  7. Neil says:

    Herszenhorn mails it in.

    It’s a sad state of affairs if that effort is good enough for his editor. I wonder what the public editor would have say, or the publisher, about your review and editorial suggestions.

    $34 Billion seems big enough to be on their radar. The state of the economy is certainly in the news these days. Maybe all the good political/business reporters are tied up.

    I’ll be interested to read their next piece on the subject. I don’t expect much more. Resistence to ideas born in the Internet by DFH is great.

  8. emptywheel says:

    Thanks for posting that rosalind.

    That’s what I’ve been saying for a while: GM is very successful overseas, where it operates on par in terms of labor costs with its competitors. And its China success alone made it profitable in some of the last 10 years. (Though, note the article is inaccurate when it says GM made almost no cars in China 5 years ago; it has been building and selling cars in China much longer than that and was already in a very strong position in 2003).

    • rosalind says:

      given the current tattered state of the LA Times, what’s sad is how excited i got reading the article and realizing it didn’t actually suck.

      • bmaz says:

        Seeing Otis Chandler’s baby go down in flames is very painful for many of us. And the rate of acceleration in the decline over the last two years or so is just mind boggling.

        • rosalind says:

          i stopped reading the print version months ago, and the online layout is a horror, impossible to navigate.

          i attended a forum on the future of the paper recently that included the new editor. his responses did not give hope that the paper will be able to adapt not die.

          if zell carries through on his threat to sell off the iconic downtown building, i vote with the panelist who felt a non-profit Pro Publica type organization should take the reins of the remains and evolve, perchance to thrive.

          • bmaz says:

            Yep, their online effort is pathetic. The content is there, you will just never find it due to their lame presentation. My 13 year old daughter could walk in and do a better job. Just horrid. Otis took pride in Times Mirror, and it showed. In the 80s and much, if not all, of the 90s, it was second only to the NYT. Just a fabulous paper.

            • rosalind says:

              the acceleration continues – from laobserved:

              Mark Lacter has been following the afternoon’s developments on Sam Zell preparing to seek bankruptcy protection as soon as this week, if he can’t renegotiate the loans…


Comments are closed.