Letters to the editor: Return to sender

Brian Akre of GM PR writes an incredible post detailing the exchange GM had with The New York Times editorial page trying to get in a letter to the editor responding to Tom Friedman’s attack on the company. At the end of the day, they wouldn’t let GM call Friedman’s column “rubbish.” So now they go online with something that, though it doesn’t appear in the august pages of The Times, is far more damaging than one forbidden word. Here’s their email exchange. This is, of course, why it’s such rubbish to say that newspapers have always been conversational because they took letters.

They removed our invitation to Mr. Friedman to come to Detroit to learn the facts about what GM’s doing to reduce our nation’s oil consumption. They removed a sentence in which Steve said falsely accusing GM of “buying votes” in Congress was irresponsible. We didn’t like those edits, but the rest of the letter was left largely intact, with one exception.
Our letter opened with a paragraph that accurately summarized the most bizarre elements of Mr. Friedman’s attack, then reacted with this one-word sentence: “Rubbish.”

That word accurately portrays how we felt about the column. Personally, I felt a stronger word referring to male bovine excrement would have been more appropriate, but my boss tends to express himself more politely than I in these situations.

The Times suggested “rubbish” be changed first to, “We beg to differ.” We objected. The Times then suggested it be changed to, “Not so.” We stood our ground. In the end, the Times refused to let us call the column “rubbish.”

Why? “It’s not the tone we use in Letters,” wrote Mary Drohan, a letters editor.

What rubbish.

How arrogant.

: This via InOpinion, which finds the rubbish on rubbish.