Monster retailer Wal-Mart is stiff-arming the Huffington Post. Citing the Web site’s pattern of coverage, the monster retailer will decline to comment for future stories, according to David Tovar, the company’s vice president for communications. Here’s the statement that Wal-Mart sent to Huffington Post this week:
We have made a business decision not to participate in Huffington Post articles going forward due to the one-sided reporting and unfair and unbalanced editorial decisions made by Huffington Post reporters and editors.
Here are Wal-Mart’s reasons for the new policy:
* Huffington Post has singled out Wal-Mart for extensive and singular coverage, including creating a special landing page for Wal-Mart content. “They have a dedicated Walmart pages, which they don’t seem to have for other companies,” says Tovar.
* That landing page hosts a number of articles with negative spin on Wal-Mart news. Wal-Mart executives say they have no quibble with negative press, but Huffington Post doesn’t balance the negative with other things that might cast the chain in a more balanced light, including its financial performance and its attempts to serve its customers as well as to address environmental sustainability and hunger.
* Wal-Mart has done an analysis of Huffington Post coverage vs. that of other outlets and found it to be an outlier in terms of unbalanced coverage.
* Even though Wal-Mart had a sensational day on sales for Black Friday, Huffington Post chose not to highlight that fact, instead emphasizing labor difficulties.
* Wal-Mart claims that it has spent a great deal of time on the phone and in person with the outlet’s reporters, only to see its perspective buried by contrary views. On the factual front, Wal-Mart has issues with how Huffington Post has portrayed the magnitude of protests against the retailer.
Huffington Post Executive Business Editor Peter Goodman, to a certain degree, agrees with the critique: “We plead guilty to singling out the nation’s single largest private employer for significant coverage,” he says. “We stand by our work.” When presented with the Wal-Mart charge that Huffington Post’s web architecture isolates the retail giant, Goodman pointed to other corporate landing pages, including one for General Motors, for instance. Apple, too.
As many reasons as Wal-Mart advances for banning the Huffington Post, Goodman advances for going with wall-to-wall coverage of Wal-Mart:
* Wal-Mart is a case study for the larger economy: “The sorts of jobs that they have are being created in the largest numbers.”
* Wal-Mart is the “embodiment of globalization.”
* Wal-Mart is “an employer that relies on the federal government handing out food stamps and it has been enormously successful at satisfying consumer demand for cheap products, and it’s worth scrutinizing what are the social costs of those cheap products.”
* Wal-Mart is a “consumer-facing brand.”
* “How Wal-Mart feels about that is not my concern.”