Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Mega Car Dealer Counter Attacks Palm Beach Post

My weekly column/blog is usually devoted to advice and opinion but sometimes I have to report the news, especially when nobody else will.

Three Sundays ago, one of the larger car dealers in Palm Beach County, Ed Napleton, was arrested for DUI and jailed overnight. Napleton has several car dealerships in Palm Beach County, including Nissan, Hyundai, Kia, Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep, and Lincoln Mercury. Now, this isn’t the news I feel compelled to report because I don’t really consider this sort of personal tragedy news. What I do feel is newsworthy is that the Palm Beach Post did report it in their newspaper and website and in tabloid-like juicy detail. You can read their web posting at PBPostNapletonDUI and see if you agree.

They say that celebrities like Charlie Sheen, are fair game for this sort thing, but a local businessman who never even appeared on TV or had his picture in the paper?

What clinched the news worthiness of this column was the fact that Ed Napleton has retaliated against the PB Post by cancelling all of his advertising. This doesn’t sound very interesting unless you understand that Ed Napleton spends very large sums of money advertising in the Post and is their largest car dealer advertiser. In fact, he may be their largest advertiser period.

As you know, newspapers have seen better economic times. In fact, over the past several years many newspapers have closed up shop, many have declared bankruptcy, and most others are teetering on bankruptcy. The PB Post has been “hanging by a financial thread” for some time. Losing their largest advertiser can be a mortal blow to any newspaper and it may well be to the PB Post.

My first reaction when I read about Napleton’s unfortunate incident in the PB Post, was surprise that the Post would dare report such a thing about their largest advertiser. I was on the verge of changing my mind about them because I’ve always believed most newspapers covered up for car dealers, giving them a free pass for fear of losing them as advertisers. Now, I’m beginning to doubt that theory. Upon reflection, I think that reporting Napleton’s DUI was an accident that slipped under the radar of the PB Post’s executives. Why else would they fail to report on all of the obvious violations by Napleton’s dealerships’ advertising in their own newspaper? I’ve written about many of his violations of Florida’s Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act and these deceptive ads appear almost daily in full page and color right in their own newspaper!
Or maybe it wasn’t that the Post’s editors missed this DUI story but that they just couldn’t resist a juicy story that would sell lots of newspapers. Whatever the case, things have got to be buzzing at the PB Post and I wouldn’t be surprised to see some “heads roll”. This is just a guess, but I have to believe that the advertising department has launched a major effort to regain their largest advertiser. It’s going to be very interesting to wait and see if Napleton begins to advertise again. And if he does, what sort of concessions the PB Post had to make to accomplish this.

In closing, I commend those few members of the media who do print and broadcast the whole truth in spite of consequences including advertisers who threaten to cancel or do cancel their advertising. The Hometown News is one of those newspapers and Seaview Radio is one of those radio stations. Steve Erlanger, the publisher of Hometown News, and Chet Tart the General Manager of Seaview Radio allow me my platform to “tell it like it is” about South Florida car dealers. I know that both of these men would enjoy a lot more revenue from local car dealers if they refused to let me tell the truth. That’s the way journalism used to be and that’s the way it should be.

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