BRADFORD WERNLE

Detroit auto critic will return to job after Chrysler 200 controversy

Bradford Wernle is a reporter for Automotive News.Bradford Wernle is a reporter for Automotive News.
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Some stories apparently do end happily. Scott Burgess, auto critic for The Detroit News, has accepted the newspaper’s apology and offer to take his job back.

“They apologized and I accepted it,” Burgess wrote in the paper today.

Last week, Burgess resigned in protest after the newspaper watered down the online version of his scathing review of the Chrysler 200 sedan in response to criticism from an advertiser, who happened to be a car dealer. Burgess called the car a “dog” and likened its profile to a “loggerhead turtle.”

Publisher Jon Wolman said changes to the online version were made in an effort to “dial down some unnecessarily tough wording,” but doing so after a complaint from an advertiser “raised the appearance of undue commercial influence.”

The review touched a nerve in Detroit, which had been basking in the glow of Chrysler’s “Born of Fire” Super Bowl commercial, featuring the 200. The spot introduced the slogan “Imported from Detroit,” evoking a surge of civic pride in the downtrodden city.

Some Detroit Chrysler dealers felt Burgess had taken excessive glee in trashing the car, which is actually a re-engineered version of the unloved Chrysler Sebring.

But it was The Detroit News that ended up with more egg on its face than the carmaker or its dealers. Burgess’ resignation became something of a cause célèbre in the blogosphere. The Jalopnik.com Web site led the charge with its feature titled “How The Detroit News sold its soul.” MSNBC pundit Rachel Maddow even mentioned it on her show.

Burgess resumes his duties Monday.

You can reach Bradford Wernle at bwernle@crain.com.

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