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Is the News Underreporting Auto Safety Recalls?

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We have talked about auto safety recalls in the past, both about auto manufacturers selling dangerous products and how you should respond to a recall issued during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Of course, to appropriately respond to a safety recall, you have to know the recall is happening in the first place. Many safety defects may not even lead to a recall if they are not discovered and reported. We rely, in part, on news organizations to report safety defects and safety recalls both to inform consumers about recalls and to encourage investigations and safety recalls to happen in the first place. Unfortunately, a recent study suggested that some news organizations may be underreporting about safety defects and recalls that concern auto manufacturers who buy ad space with their news outlet. The study is a reminder of how important it can be to keep up to date on your car’s safety status and to speak with a knowledgeable California lemon law attorney if you believe you’ve been sold a lemon, if your car appears defective, or if you have any California auto fraud issues.

Study finds news reports auto safety recalls less when manufacturers advertise more

A new study conducted by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, Loyola Marymount University, Brown University, and the Barcelona Graduate School of Economics (GSE) sought to analyze the relationship between media outlets’ reporting of auto safety recalls and the advertisements that manufacturers buy with those outlets. The results of the study are published in Management Science. The study found that newspapers do, in fact, provide less coverage of recalls issued by manufacturers that advertise more regularly with those publications than they do of manufacturers that do not advertise with them as much. Even more frightening, the trend was more pronounced when the recalls involved more severe safety defects.

The study reviewed U.S. newspapers and news coverage of auto manufacturer recalls from 2000 through 2014. The study looked at recalls issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), focusing on recalls concerning the nine largest auto manufacturers in the U.S. They compared the number of news articles about recalls published over the period studied by 115 news outlets, both national and local, to the monthly advertising spend in these newspapers by those manufacturers. They made sure to account for geographic distribution and analyzed by brand.

The general finding was that newspapers were less likely to report about auto safety recalls if the targeted manufacturer had bought more advertisements with their newspaper over the prior two years. They were less likely to publish any articles about the recalls, and if they did, they published fewer. The bias was strongest among local newspapers who had ads purchased by local car dealers, and the effect was greater for recalls that involved a large number of vehicles and more serious safety defects.

The study theorized that the increase in online car sales through venues like Craigslist has reduced ad revenue for papers from local dealers and classifieds, resulting in papers relying more on corporate sponsors who exercise more influence over the content published in the paper. The researchers suggest the government should regulate media bias influenced by advertisement sponsors in order to ensure consumers get full, accurate, safe information about the products they purchase.

If you purchased a defective vehicle or have been the victim of fraud when buying a car in California, find out if you have a right to compensation by contacting the seasoned and trial-ready California lemon law and auto fraud lawyer Nick Nita for a free consultation, in Los Angeles at 213-232-5055, or statewide at 877-921-5256.

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