> But long term I would be very curious to see why anyone would review it knowing that any inaccuracies could result in a PR storm.
I should sincerely hope that future reviews would be devoid of under/over-reporting of numbers by 7 or 15%, all consistently in a single direction of bias, and combined with a lot of WTF decisions which cause people to wonder.
I, too, am sincerely curious to see if media outlets will shy away from empirically based reviews, because they'll need to be done competently.
I'm probably in the minority here, but I feel like the biggest failure in all of this wasn't Musk's response, or the incompetence of the NYT's reporter, but the "support" Broder received over the phone.
The extraordinary event in the original NYT article was that the car "died" during Broder's review. We can debate all we want about the smaller facts in the article, but if the car didn't die during the review, we probably wouldn't even be discussing the article today.
To me, the most glaring issue that came out of the article wasn't a problem with the car. It was clear to me as the reader that Broder was trying to push the mileage limits of the car. But I personally think the car would not have died if the people on the other side of the phone had simply given better advice.
At the very least, Musk should consider retraining (or replacing) the people he allows on the other side of support calls with members of the media. It's better to give inconvenient advice (i.e. "charge it a little longer just to be safe") than give advice that risks getting the driver stranded.
The key decision the reporter made, and that NYT ombudsman acknowledges was bad judgment, was to quit charging early in Norwich without being given the go ahead by Tesla.
The reporter changed his wording on that between the original article and his later rebuttal. He originally said Tesla told him it was okay to unplug and go. Later he reworded that they'd told him it should be okay to charge for an hour and go. He then charged for less than an hour, saw it hadn't given as much fuel as he needed, and unplugged early anyway and without checking with them.
As the NYT ombudsman quote, the journo hadn't even bothered to follow the owner's manual. His behavior was disingenuous at best, even if not pro-oil link baiting at worst.
If Tesla does what other automakers do - i.e., provide expenses paid review junkets where you get to drive a fast car on a private track at high speeds - I think a lot of automotive writers would take that opportunity.
Strange reaction from Musk. He seemed awfully quick to jump fully onboard with a rather pallid response from the NYT's Public Editor (a position somewhat analogous to the head of PR in a corporate).
While there could be many reasons, two more probable IMHO could be:
1) The "out" he was looking for: absolution for a somewhat strong initial overreaction.
2) He's simply being naive, and not reading between the lines.
Err, a public editor is not at all like a PR person. They may have some loyalty to the company they work for, but they work independently of the newsroom and in fact reporters tend to distrust them or consider them a nuisance. At worst, it's soft PR, but at best, it's a true ombudsman position.
>"They may have some loyalty to the company they work for, but they work independently of the newsroom and in fact reporters tend to distrust them or consider them a nuisance."
Do you have anything evidence for that claim? Either first hand experience or perhaps a citation?
I will concede they are not directly PR people, but yet the role of "Public Editor" was created in the wake of an ethics scandal and PR tsunami at the NYT. The position is also on the payroll of the NYT.
Occam's Razor would indicate we should follow the incentives.
Keeping an open mind as always, but I don't think there is good cause, a priori for the belief that the "Public Editor" is working tirelessly for the good of the people.
The fact that they work independently of the newsroom and sometimes even independently of the company (as a contractor) is simply the nature of the public editor / ombudsman and how it is set up at pretty much every newspaper that has one.
Re: how the public editor at the Times is perceived: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/13/opinion/13pubed.html?_r=0. The money quote: "A writer shaken by a conclusion I was reaching told me, if you say that, I'll have to kill myself." I would hope your company's PR person wouldn't make you feel like that.
You can't really avoid having the public editor on the payroll of the organization he or she works for, unless some wealthy donor is prepared to step in and pay for one. That means we always have to be sceptical of where their loyalties lie and their independence, but it doesn't mean they don't have any.
Also, the New York Times is one of the only papers in the world that tracks errors internally, so they can easily see which of their journalists are playing fast and loose, and will let them go if necessary.
Is it perfect? Obviously not. Are journalists and editors generally really bad at owning up to their mistakes? Yep. But an ombudsman is an attempt to do something about that, not an extension of that culture.
Kudos. It appears you've made a compelling case and I found those links to be interesting reading.
Of course we should still keep a close watch on the future to see how true it remains to the historical record and theory. But in the meantime, I'll be be updating my model, and nudging the needle, a little further toward the left. (if 'for the people' is left, and 'for the company' is to the right, on a 1 dimensional axis).
I can understand this and he's just picking his battles wisely. There's a difference between defending your company and being a battleaxe, and he's not crossing that line. Appearing to be unnecessarily combative would backfire.