Journalism or advocacy?

By The Madison County Record | Apr 30, 2006

To The Editor:

The opinion piece published in the April 23 Record under the headline "Matoesian raises auto prices" and the April 20 Ann Knef article about asbestos greed (based on an earlier report from that great defender of the little guy, the Wall Street Journal), both begin with faulty premises and get worse from there.

They exemplify the real culprit in our litigious society: the reluctance of corporations to take responsibility for the harm they cause ordinary, law-abiding citizens.

It is strange how the Republican Party was once the party of personal responsibility, but has no interest in promoting corporate responsibility.

Knef's asbestos piece begins: "For decades asbestos litigation has clogged the nation's courts, bankrupted American companies and lined the pockets of plaintiff's attorneys."

Nowhere in the remainder of the article does it mention that, long before those decades of litigation, American companies knowingly clogged the lungs of their employees with cancer while lining their own pockets.

The Matoesian piece, referring to the $43 million Jablonski verdict against Ford Motor Co., begins:

"One year ago, a Madison County jury slapped Ford with a $43 million verdict because its 1993 Lincoln Town Car 'negligently' couldn't withstand a direct hit, rear-end collision at 60 miles-per-hour."

It is irresponsible journalism -- no, irresponsible advocacy; journalism is objective -- in both cases for the Record to try to deflect blame from the real culprits.

Obviously, companies like Dow Corning and A.O. Smith profited by knowingly exposing their employees to these carcinogens. But the Record continues to blame "greedy trial lawyers" (who try to get justice for their sick clients) and their evil cohorts, the judges of Madison County, when the companies have only themselves to blame for their current predicament.

Similarly, Ford Motor Co. has an obligation to place a safe product on the market. It failed to do so and a jury awarded compensation to the widow of a tragic accident victim.

Of course Ford must raise auto prices to recoup its losses. But to blame Judge Matoesian for Ford's negligence is ludicrous.

The sad thing is, many people will read these articles and take them for gospel truth. Just as American consumers trust the companies that provide the products they buy, Americans also believe that newspapers have an obligation to reveal truth.

Many times, in both cases, that faith is ill placed.

Bob Slate
Decatur, Ala.

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