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In the Midst of a Crisis, They’re There for Us.

Hopefully, They Could be ‘There’ for Newsprint

The TV advertising is hitting hard and fast among seemingly all networks: the automotive OEMs are there for us, whether giving you a deal on the interest rate, delayed payments after the purchase or, in the event of a Coronavirus-induced layoff, six months with no payments on your new Hyundai loan. Even more substantive, of course, are those manufacturers modifying plants in order to meet the needs of infected patients and the oh-so-vulnerable medical community; these are initiatives taken by FCA, Ford, GM and, in an update provided this past Friday, Toyota. 

As Toyota put it in their communication to the media, its efforts include providing ‘essential supplies, emergency relief and on-going support to many local organizations and non-profits’. And these efforts will include monetary donations (no one has more cash than Toyota!) and ‘in-kind’ donations. The Toyota effort also encompasses converting several North American facilities to fabricate face shields while working with medical device companies to accelerate the manufacture of ventilators and respirators. (And no one manufacturers faster than Toyota!)

All of that, of course, is both timely and good. But in watching the ads and reading the releases, I’m struck by the one disconnect between the support of communities and the subsequent reporting of the conditions within those communities. In my estimation, damn little of those monies are going to local newspapers, sources we’re relying on more than ever for updates on this crisis.

Already a rapidly shrinking industry, local newspapers remain at the forefront in the reporting of local conditions. As much as Norah O’Donnell (CBS), David Muir (ABC) and Lester Holt (NBC) would enjoy coming into every medium-sized city to provide a focused update directly to those communities, it isn’t practical, especially within the limits of a 21-minute newscast. And your local TV newscast doesn’t have the time, wherewithal or inclination for the in-depth reporting these topics often demand. It is left, instead, to newspaper staffs to report on local conditions and supply updates on any local solutions.

The nation’s newspapers are doing this, of course, after years of declining ad revenue and the subsequent contraction of their news staffs. And with retail businesses and restaurants effectively shuttered for the duration, advertising is further diminished when stores are not open and those regarded as essential businesses see little or no need to market to those that would be shopping for necessities, anyway. 

In my view, it would behoove all companies touting their interest in ‘community’ to put at least a portion of their money where the mouthpieces are, into the newsprint that disseminates important info and perspective at this more critical time. It’s good for the automotive OEMs to pledge community support. Now, if they’d just throw a little of that support (i.e., advertising dollars) to those news outlets working at the intersections of rumor and reporting, consistency and chaos. Those ad dollars could be a lifesaver, not only to area readers but to the outlets themselves.

David Boldt

Boldt, a contributor to outlets such as, Kelley Blue Book and Autoblog, brings to his laptop some forty years of experience in automotive retail, journalism and public relations. He is a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association, Chicago's Midwest Automotive Media Association and L.A.'s Motor Press Guild. David is the Managing Editor of txGarage and the automotive contributor to Dallas' Katy Trail Weekly.

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