GM Mobilizes Grass Roots Pressure on Press
"We wanted to send a signal that we recognize and support the news media's freedom to report and editorialize as they see fit," said Woodrow Bonnitot, the third-generation owner of the Route 11 dealership, clearly reading from a statement. "Likewise, GM and its retailers are free to spend our advertising dollars where we see fit."
"Geez, I don't know what got into Woody," said M.W. "Matt" Paxton IV, publisher of the family-owned newspaper. "I've told him for years to get better ventilation in the paint shop."
"I thought we had an understanding," said Bonnitot. "We run our display ads every week and the paper runs a photo of our top salesman once a month, always up front, next to the police blotter."
"Woody only has two salesmen," responded Paxton. "Every time the top guy is either D. Wayne or Jim-Bob. So every month our readers see either toothless D. Wayne or lamb-chop Jim-Bob doing his best to look like Elvis. There is no real news value, so we thought last week it would be OK to move the box since we had lots of good photos from the Methodist Church Youth Group car wash and bake sale."
It could not be determined what kind of financial impact the loss of the half-page weekly ad will have on the News-Gazette. The cost per column-inch for display advertising is $9.25 with volume discounts for regular advertisers. A great deal depends on how long Woody withholds the advertising Paxton said.
"No one likes to lose a major account, especially since newspapers are under pressure from the Internet, but I can't have Woody or anyone else telling me how to run my newspaper. Next thing you know he'll want to sit in my pew at church."
Bonnitot conceded that showroom traffic has dropped significantly since canceling his ad. "We had our annual ride-the-fire truck promotion, you know where we have the hotdogs and balloons for all the kids last Saturday, but since the ad didn't run, I guess nobody knew about it. Thank goodness for D. Wayne's cousin, R. Wayne, who's a nose tackle on the high school team. He ate up nearly all the hotdogs so at least they didn't go to waste."
This is not the first time the GM dealership has cancelled its advertising in the News-Gazette. Three years ago, the newspaper's little league team edged out the "Woody's Chevrolet Pontiacs" on a controversial squeeze play in the bottom half of the sixth to win the league title. The argument carried over from the field and the dealer pulled his ads for three weeks.
"When he didn't sell any cars for almost 18 days, Woody was back like a bug to a light bulb," Paxton said. "Besides, next month I'll, probably move the salesman box back to page two, but don't tell Woody that. It'll ruin his fun."