GM Bankruptcy Speculation by the Media Hurts the Auto Industry

Predictions could spark a GM bankruptcy that otherwise wouldn't have occurred.

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By Bonnie Erbe, Thomas Jefferson Street blog.

I'm not one of those "blame the media" types. But there are certain times when a journalist's "need to tell" overpowers the "public's right to know." And poor old tottering GM is being hurt by some reporters' timeworn need to get the story first, even if not getting it right. 

WASHINGTON - (Dow Jones)- Sales of General Motors Corp. (GM) vehicles have already begun to dip because of speculation that the company is on the verge of bankruptcy, the company's chief executive told lawmakers Thursday.

"It is clear that the overhang of discussions of bankruptcy is affecting buyers," GM CEO Rick Wagoner told members of the Senate Banking Committee during a hearing. He said the signs of a sales decline emerged in the past 45 days.

Wagoner and other auto company executives insist that the stigma of a bankruptcy filing would scare away potential buyers fearful that car warranties wouldn't be honored. 

I first saw stories emerging on the Internet last night claiming sources were saying GM had to consider the option of bankruptcy as a last-ditch possibility for securing a bailout. That type of story should not be reported on the basis of one source. I'm not sure if the story is accurate. Regardless, journalists should be more careful when the reporting of a story itself could make news. In other words, predicting a possible bankruptcy could in itself scare away potential customers and create a bankruptcy that would not otherwise have occurred. GM's CEO has already told Congress that bankruptcy is not far away if Congress and the president do not act quickly. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said that "bankruptcy is not an option."

If GM does go bankrupt, journalists should let it happen and then report on it. They should not report on it prematurely and cause it to happen. That's worse than sloppy journalism. It hurts people, kills jobs, and creates economic havoc where it could have been avoided.