Tuesday, March 30, 2010

NYT Tokyo-Based Business Reporter Hiroko Tabuchi Tweets Her Verdict: "Toyota Sucks!"

In a wild and entertaining series of tweets yesterday, NYT Tokyo-based business reporter Hiroko Tabuchi -- whose beat includes the unfolding scandal around the recent Toyota recall -- unleashed her frustration with the company she's covering.

Tabuchi was apparently at a press conference yesterday with the company's president, Akio Toyoda, when she let loose a Twitter tirade against the company for various abuses.

Here follows a selection of tweets from the reporter, which become progressively more agitated with Toyota's handling of certain issues, including her coffee:

• With less than 3 hours sleep, managed to haul myself onto 6 am shinkansen for #Toyota event in Nagoya. We love you Mr. Toyoda!

• ToyotaMan: We're gonna confiscate your mobile phones once we get off the bus. And you must wear our (butt-ugly) yellow Toyota hats. Whaa..?

• Me: Since we're just sitting here waiting to depart, can I go get a coffee? ToyotaMan: No. Me: I'll be back in just a minute. ToyotaMan: No.

• Back! Toyota coffee machine just recalled my coffee, said it failed a taste check so it wd make another cup. I'm dead serious, place is nuts

• Akio Toyoda took very few questions, ignored reporters incl me who tried to ask a follow-up. I'm sorry, but Toyota sucks.

Didn't the NYT send out some guidelines a while back about social media? Oh, yes. Here's part of what it said, as quoted by the "Save The Media" website in May of 2009:

Be careful not to write anything on a blog or a personal Web page that you could not write in The Times — don’t editorialize, for instance, if you work for the News Department. Anything you post online can and might be publicly disseminated, and can be twisted to be used against you by those who wish you or The Times ill — whether it’s text, photographs, or video.

We hope Twitter doesn't qualify, because we really love Tabuchi's refreshingly honest and amusing take on Toyota. They deserve her disgust. We just became followers!


Anonymous said...

Hmmm, sorry, not for me. That's not the cold-eyed impartiality I want from my New York Times reporters.

Imagine her beat is anything but (largely irrelevant to Americans except in an abstract way) Japan, and in this specific instance Japanese business.

Imagine she's tweeting:

"Good to finally see Chechnya get some payback! You go, girls!"
or "The Pope is a nasty piece of work."
or "Dukakis on a tank! LOL!"

The news is the news, and "don't editorialize if you work in the News Department" seems to me to be nearly the most fundamental rule of reporting (behind only, perhaps, save your work frequently, especially in countries with dodgy electricity supply).

Anonymous said...

Hey NYTPicker: Is it true that you guys are funded by affiliates of Rupert Murdoch? I've been hearing rumors about this for a while now, and it would certainly help me understand why you remain anonymous. If it's not true, perhaps you should start a site devoted to The Wall Street Journal. Now that the Murdoch-owned WSJ is going directly after Times readers, it would be interesting to see someone scrutinize them as much as they do the Times.

Roberto said...

My guess is, Anonymous#2, that nytpicker, like 99% of blogs, is not funded at all.

And that the New York Times rather than the WSJ is its subject because, well, who really cares about the Journal? The Journal is a business tool, a good and well-written (except the unreadable editorial pages) one, but not New York's newspaper. [The paper's efforts to broaden its readership base beyond the financial and executive business communities are a relatively recent phenomenon.]

And if the founders of nytpicker are like me, they are (more than) a bit sad to see the ship foundering, (more than) a bit sad to see budget cuts making an impact on editorial quality, and are using this blog as a way to highlight some of the slippage that would otherwise very likely go unnoticed, in the hope the Times's owners and managers will bear in mind that readers care. A lot.

jake.adelstein said...

I'm not exactly unbiased because I know Ms. Tabuchi and think she's an excellent writer, but you know what, I agree. It's not a statement of opinion--it's a statement of fact. Toyota sucks. They suck in how they've handled this mess, they suck in paying attention to the welfare of their customers, and they suck in how they handle the press.
Three months before this public relations fiasco the subscription based Japanese magazine, Sentaku, had a scathing article about how Toyota was alienating the Japanese press--and that's hard to do.
They may not fire their regular employees but their contract labors have been treated like slaves or serfs for many years now.
I don't believe that karma exists in the universe, but recent events make me think that maybe it does. The autocratic attitude and craziness of the company come through in her blog in the best of all possible ways.
One of the saddest trends in modern journalism is a lack of honesty. We all know the tea-baggers are crazy but to actually say it is considered highly inappropriate.
Toyota sucks. Let's hope they learn something and become less unsucky.

Anonymous said...

It was a funny series of tweets and it happens to be true. Five points for honesty, five points for wit and brevity. A perfect ten.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, but this Ms. Tabuchi sucks.

Do journalists not have standards anymore? She is not a blogger or a columnist. She is a reporter for our country's supposed newspaper of record. I could care less about Toyota, but telling the world they "suck" for not answering her questions is childish, unprofessional and frankly really stupid. Her credibility is shot. And she is clearly in violation of her employer's social media guidelines.

Let's hope she stays in Japan, which as the first commenter noted, doesn't really matter.

Anonymous said...

"Her credibility is shot". Are you insane? She's certainly
more credible than Toyota and If you read the entire sequence it's not just as simple as a journo being frustrated by not having her question asked.
The sequence gives a fascinating look at the corporate culture of Toyota.
Ask any of the many people having their cars recalled after Toyota knew of the problems for some time but did nothing,"Does Toyota suck?"
what do you think they would say?
She certainly has more credibility than someone who posts anonymously (says the anonymous poster #7)
I wish the NYT had more reporters like her.
If someone had had the guts to write at the time, "bush's plans and justification for invading Iraq suck!" --great loss of life and money might have been avoided.
I'm sorry previous poster: it is you who suck. :p

Anonymous said...

Hiroko Tabuchi has got more relevant experience and education than her stateside twaddle blog critics could ever hope to have on this subject or Japan in general. But feel free to blast away and enjoy the lame state of the past decade's business-as-usual lapdog media.

R. Silverman said...

Wait, is this the same NYT reporter who was tweeting about being naked recently?


Clearly, she's not worried about credibility.

Anonymous said...

at the end of the day, it doesn't matter what any of us thinks. she works for the new york times, not herself. every news agency has social media guidelines for their reporters, which dictate what they can and cannot say online (even on a personal account).

Unknown said...

@R.Silverman--what does a personal tweet unrelated to a news story have to do with credibility? If a journalist blogs about their personal life--are they automatically discredited? Should they be robots. That was a cheap shot. And sort of sexist to boot.
So what--she didn't write that she walking around the room nude, only that since no one could see into the room, that that would be possible. In short, it was a joke.
Do journalists also lose credibility for telling jokes?
Why do you even bother reading Valley Wag which treats journalists as celebrities? They aren't the story.
Let's take the problematic line: "Toyota sucks."
What does "suck" mean in this sentence? Webster's defines it as
: slang: to be objectionable or inadequate.
So would we be having a tissy fit if she had tweeted: "Toyota is objectionable." Or "Toyota is inadequate". Or even, god forbid,
"Toyota is inadequate and objectionable."
Her choice of words might have been better, the observation is not incorrect. Many customers and consumer and government officials in the US and in Japan find Toyota's performance as a company, to be objectionable and inadequate. They haven't done enough to safety check their cars and they have been very slow to recall them even after receiving credible reports of trouble.
I'll let you look up the word "objectionable".
The reporting, albeit in twitter form, was illuminating about the way Toyota handles the media and people: highhandedly and rudely.
I don't see any violations of the NYT rules on social media, unless "suck" is a bad, bad, bad word.
Toyota is inadequate and objectionable. Any objections to that statement?

Anonymous said...

i think she's compromised her objectivity and shown questionable judgment, opening herself up to questions about fairness and balance. i'd be curious to see whether the times lets her continue covering toyota.

Anonymous said...

Any reporter who puts her self-righteous indignation on the record is a fool of the first magnitude. The acquiescence of her editors only serves to reinforce the problem.

Anonymous said...

On top of deceptive corporate cover ups I take GREAT offense at the commercials that show causation workers in the commercials that are designed
to cover up the fact that the problems in toyota vehicles were caused by designs crafted by technicians in japan!!

Not said...

This native japanese woman, writing for one of the Unoted States' most influentail papers, must be just bathing in this controversy!

She certainly doesn't write anything like the average Japanese journalist, but it does seem - guessing from a recent article on the new Tokyo Shangri-la Hotel, that she does accept offers of...what are they called? ... junkets. Or did she pay for the hotel and meals there - all of that!! by herself?? I would like to know. I'd heard NYT staff aren't suppose to accept comp stays and comp meals in exchange for publicity.

As the japanese like to say: huuuuuuhnnnnnnnnn.