Sunday, January 31, 2010


On Friday, Toyota Chief Executive Akio Toyoda made his first public comments about the recall. At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, he told Japanese broadcaster NHK: "I am very sorry that we are making our customers feel concerned."

"People can feel safe driving in the current situation," he added. "Please trust that we are responding so it will be even safer."

He was seen driving off in a black Audi, according to ABC News.
New gas pedals on way to dealers, Toyota says
Whether it was intended to or not, the last line seems to have given at least one person the impression that Mr. Toyoda wasn't as confident in his company's cars as his words may have suggested. And I could see how you would get to that. After all, wouldn't one expect the head of Toyota to drive (or be driven around in) Toyota or Lexus vehicles? Of course you would. If, that is, he were in Japan or the United States. If you've never been to Europe or Japan, you might be surprised to find that the automotive market is dominated by domestic producers in a way that simply isn't true of the United States. You can spend two weeks in London or Tokyo and count the number of American-branded cars you see on your fingers. The United States is remarkable, at least in my experience in being a nation with a large domestic auto industry that still imports large numbers of cars. Given that Switzerland is bordered by France, Germany and Italy, all of whom have strong domestic automakers, it's not the least bit surprising that Toyotas would be pretty thin on the ground, even if the head of the company is in town. But, if you think of the auto market everywhere as being similar to that of the United States, you'd never realize that, and might instead conclude that an auto-executive seen in another brand is snubbing his own company.

Which is where another really important part of journalism comes into play - context, or the lack thereof. News is more than just information, or a recitation of facts. Those facts fit into a larger frame of reference that defines the overall narrative. It's difficult for an audience to understand the information they're being given, if they don't have a frame of reference for it. So shouldn't journalism also be expected to contextualize, rather than simply disseminate, information?

1 comment:

JohnMcG said...

It seemed the point of including that detail was to enable Jon Stewart to repeat it slowly while his audience laughs at the hypocrisy.