Tesla now has a reputation as being unusually aggressive in defending its position. Which has to be making media institutions wonder why on earth they would bother to review this ?
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.
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 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.
For many (at least among us here), this is a positive reputation. They defended themselves immediately, directly and with hard data. I don't remember ever seeing something like this before.
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.
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.
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.
And a broader look at how journalists handle criticism: http://www.pbs.org/idealab/2010/06/why-cant-journalists-hand... but also http://www.pbs.org/idealab/2011/04/theres-no-problem-newsroo...
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.
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).
Thanks for taking the time to respond.