Response from New York Times Public Editor in Tesla Versus NYT Model S Test Drive (Update)


NY Times Public Editor Responds to Broder's "Failed Test Drive.

NY Times Public Editor Responds to Broder’s “Failed Test Drive.

If a refresher is required in this hotly debated Tesla Motors/Elon Musk versus The New York Times/John Broder saga, then please refer to these previous posts here, here, here,  here and here (listed in oldest to newest order).

If not, then here’s the latest from the desk of The New York Times‘ Public Editor Margaret Sullivan, but first here’s the description of the exact duties and responsibilities of the Public Editor at The Times:

About The Public Editor

Margaret Sullivan is the fifth public editor appointed by The New York Times. She writes about the Times and its journalism in a frequent blog – the Public Editor’s Journal — and in a twice-monthly print column in the Sunday Review section. The public editor’s office also handles questions and comments from readers and investigates matters of journalistic integrity. The public editor works independently, outside of the reporting and editing structure of the newspaper; her opinions are her own.

With that in mind, here we present a few quotes from Sullivan’s recent article, titled “Problems With Precision and Judgment, but Not Integrity, in Tesla Test.”

“Unlike Mr. Musk, I don’t claim that Mr. Broder “faked” the story, but he certainly didn’t seem to employ the least bit of care or responsibility in fuel management (required of any vehicle, regardless of fuel type). One can only assume that Mr. Broder’s irresponsibility in fuel management was in hope that something beyond “inconvenience” would happen to make the story more interesting. (Otherwise, no one, including me, would have paid much attention to his article.)” (Note: Roger Wilson of Falls Church, Va., a Model S owner himself, submitted a letter to the NY Times.   This first quote comes directly from that letter.  The following quotes are the words of Sullivan.)

“…although I do not believe Mr. Broder hoped the drive would end badly. I am convinced that he took on the test drive in good faith, and told the story as he experienced it.”

“Did he use good judgment along the way? Not especially. In particular, decisions he made at a crucial juncture – when he recharged the Model S in Norwich, Conn., a stop forced by the unexpected loss of charge overnight – were certainly instrumental in this saga’s high-drama ending.”

“In addition, Mr. Broder left himself open to valid criticism by taking what seem to be casual and imprecise notes along the journey, unaware that his every move was being monitored. A little red notebook in the front seat is no match for digitally recorded driving logs, which Mr. Musk has used, in the most damaging (and sometimes quite misleading) ways possible, as he defended his vehicle’s reputation.”

“People will go on contesting these points – and insisting that they know what they prove — and that’s understandable. In the matter of the Tesla Model S and its now infamous test drive, there is still plenty to argue about and few conclusions that are unassailable.”

To our readers, we strongly suggest you read Sullivan’s entire post, which goes into much greater detail than we care to here.  Remember, this is not the NY Times‘ response, this is from the desk of the Public Editor, a person the Times says “works independently, outside of the reporting and editing structure of the newspaper” and reminds us that “her opinions are her own.”

Update: Musk Tweets that Sullivan’s article has restored his faith in the New York Times.

Musk Tweets in response to Sullivan's article.

Musk Tweets in response to Sullivan’s article.

Update 2: Tesla’s Elon Musk has responded in a blog post to Sullivan’s article.  Here’s a choice quote:

“We would like to thank Margaret Sullivan and The New York Times for looking into this matter and thoughtfully considering the public evidence, as well as additional evidence provided on background.”

“But, most of all, we would like to thank our customers, who rallied immediately to the defense of Tesla and the electric car revolution, sending hundreds of heartfelt letters of support to The New York Times in the space of a few days!”

via New York Times

Categories: Tesla

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22 Comments on "Response from New York Times Public Editor in Tesla Versus NYT Model S Test Drive (Update)"

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Damage control effort.

Musk just thanked her on twitter and said his faith in the NYT is restored. Sounds like this is over from the Tesla side.

It is in Tesla’s interest for this to be over as soon as possible (or never have happened in the first place). It is in the interest of the NYT to continue dragging Tesla through the mud as this is how they frankly make a living.

I have my own opinions also and from all this back and forth the reporter didn’t do anything all that wrong.

I’m a happy Tesla customer, but I find Musk’s response childish. But then I don’t care about Musk, I care about learning more about the Model S, and its been very educational to date.

“the reporter didn’t do anything all that wrong.”

Except he got a lot of numbers wrong. If this was a science paper, it would be rejected as a fraud.

Right now EVs (and even PHEVs) require a little bit of brains to get used to, and to get the most out of. I think Elon’s problem then is that he is so far, so deep into that electric vehicle mindset it baffles him that other people don’t think that way. Thats why he reacted the way he did – everything Broder didn’t do was painfully obvious to anyone who has spent more than a month or two with their own EV/PHEV. Really I think what Tesla would need to do is build that mindset into the software in the car. For example, if you’re driving along the highway and hit up a supercharger station, and the next supercharger station is 200 miles away, then automatically fill up to 100% instead of whatever the normal setting is. If its super cold out and 9PM, send a text message to the driver saying, “hey, I’m feeling a little cold, anyway you could plug me in for the night?” Based on what I’ve read though, Tesla is still behind on software quality, so adding these features is at the bottom of a very long list of other things they need to get… Read more »

IMHO, the EV mindset is not so complex. It’s just like a cell phone…

Battery drain varies based on usage. When the battery runs out, it stop working. It takes a while to charge, so you need to anticipate when/where that will happen next.

Perhaps the author’s cell phone runs on butane. 😉

Exactly – I agree with Open-Mind completely. I mean,
the guy is getting into AN ELECTRIC CAR ( Hello? ) to evaluate
it and it’s charging infrastructure – and he cannot charge
adequately with onscreen data and help at the end of a button-
push? COME ON Anthony! – may be getting a bit theoretical, eh?

Elon intimidates people – he sent a spaceship to the ISS! Elon
is right to shoot back when anyone in media sets forth to
smear his creations. Elon may or may not have been too
strong or accusatory with a couple comments, but I’m very
glad we all have such a strong proponent of EVs and a new
way to drive, aren’t you?

Believe me – there are enough EV opponents out there that a
ballsy guy with a revolutionary product who isn’t afraid
to defend it is what our world needs. Tesla can and will
for some time, be susceptible to a Fisker-type flop if
even one thing goes wrong – it’s a very tentative time for
EVs and Tesla – THE ONE , in my opinion, that’s the
IN-YOUR-FACE product to the establishment.

Volt is like “EV-light” even though it too is revolutionary.
Tesla is a bold product that just takes gasoline-fired
cars to the mat and dares them to compare.

James, I wish this website had up-down thumbs. Then I would want to give you +10!

^^^ +1

The analogy with the cell phone is pretty good, especially for the early adopters who were (or are still?) “trained” to seek the nearest power outlet because of low battery alerts. Does this sound familiar?

Keep in mind that still not everybody has a cell phone nowadays, although it has become a very common accessory. EV cars will go through the same spiel.

Yeah, that’s the same comparison I made last week. Like the guy has never dealt with a battery before.
“Also, I wonder how Broder tests cell phone chargers? Does he not fully charge, never charge overnight, and just leave it out in the cold to then say “This cell phone sucks?””

I stick by my original assessment.. motive = trying to create news.

Didn’t mean to copy your cell phone material. Maybe brilliant minds think alike. 😉

This is bringing free publicity to Tesla’s Super chargers….


This would be the NYT apology letter, admitting their wrong. Since it is the NYT that prints the paper, and the NYT that pays for and manages the website they post their ‘stories’ on. And the NYT that is paying this person to write the apology/article.

Tesla does not have to worry about buying advertising with NYT, as they got more publicity from this conflict than any ad could.

Congrats Tesla!

Agree completely.

With Musk’s public NYT blessing, this is also a win for them … they can save-face and avoid litigation with one simple letter.

National Geographic HD – Tesla Model S :

From Margaret Sullivan’s article:

{ without the controvesial findings } ~”( Otherwise I doubt anyone, including me, would have paid much attention to this article ) ”

I disagree, Ms.Sullivan – The Tesla Model S is a groundbreaking car and everyone
who drives – especially car enthusiasts ARE VERY INTERESTED in this
electric car.

When there are innumerable cars out there being sold every day going on
the brand name – ( are you hearing me Audi, Mercedes, BMW,
Porsche Lexus…? ) and a heretofore practically unknowd American
company kicks thier butts so badly with Model S – I think
a lot of people stand up and take notice. Add the fact that huge
oil entities and politicians with oil-stained pockets are literally
afraid this technology will make it – I heartily feel more people take
an avid interest in this car than ( obviously ) non-car-person Sullivan

Just a note, but one of the quotes from the article is actually from a response by Roger Wilson of Falls Church, Va., not Sullivan herself.

This one:
“Unlike Mr. Musk, I don’t claim that Mr. Broder “faked” the story, but he certainly didn’t seem to employ the least bit of care or responsibility in fuel management (required of any vehicle, regardless of fuel type). One can only assume that Mr. Broder’s irresponsibility in fuel management was in hope that something beyond “inconvenience” would happen to make the story more interesting. (Otherwise, no one, including me, would have paid much attention to his article.)”

If true-as the link no longer works for me- then this article will be edited.

@ kdawg

Fixed…Apologize for the slight error/oversight… Thanks

I’m starting to think that Elon Musk received the preliminary article from Broder (before it went to press) and decided to roll the dice knowing how much exposure he would get from a back and forth. Especially since Elon had all the data to back him up in the end. Again, I state that Elon WANTED this story to be controversial. Why the hell else would he release the car to Broder (of questionable motive) for a test drive in 10 degree weather!?! ‘ Why wouldn’t they set the car to charge at “max charge” instead of “norm”? I’m not normally a conspiracy theory guy, but the shoe really fits here. I’m quite certain Elon took the gamble.. and came out good in the end. So, if you guys question my motive know this: -I think an 85kw is somewhat nuts, just as nuts as road tripping in this car. 40kw best. -I like Tesla, dislike Musk, respect the Model S. -I like the Volt, like the battery mgt, hate the T-shape(4 seat) battery. Love Dan Akerson -I dislike the looks and battery of the leaf, but like and respect Carlos Ghosn -have little faith in Ford as of yet,… Read more »

I disagree.

If he received a version before it went to press, it is of no account unless he had the power to veto it. There is no way Broder would have required Musk’s permission to publish.

Yes, they took a chance giving the car to Broder, but did not know ahead of time how he would treat it.

They did set the car to max charge. Broder re-set it to standard.