Upon Further Review

Rod Sutton, Editor in Chief | September 28, 2010

Rod Sutton, Editor in Chief
Rod Sutton, Editor in Chief

In 2003, we took a calculated risk in launching Hands-on Earthmoving. We knew the feature would be widely accepted by readers. Our constituents had made it clear over the years that Construction Equipment's in-depth analysis of machines in Field Test and Hands-on Trucking was valuable and useful information, but they wanted more.

Third-party testing was the natural outgrowth and, thanks to our relationship with Operating Engineers Local 150, we gained access to a team of highly qualified operators to provide independent analysis of machines.

The risk exists in our relationships with our other constituents, those machine manufacturers who make available the machines we test. Never did we promise a test in return for advertising; nor will we ever. Our integrity and credibility, which has taken 54 years to build, will never succumb to such trade-offs. And every manufacturer entered into the agreement with the clear understanding that our Local 150 operators would not pull any punches in their evaluations.

Then, one of our machines failed the test.

Although from an editor's standpoint, such a story had the potential to make great copy and garner acclamation from our readers, we had to give the manufacturer an opportunity to review the performance.

We're pleased to say that the situation ended positively. First, Hands-on Earthmoving had uncovered an engineering flaw. Our purpose for launching the feature had been realized. We had proved third-party testing worked. Second, and most important, the manufacturer moved quickly to fix the flaw. As we investigated the machine's failure in the field, the manufacturer's team determined the problem and immediately implemented the steps necessary to ensure that future machines would perform as they expected.

We debated long and hard how to report this. At the end of the day, we couldn't in good conscience publish a damning article on a machine that would be fixed by the time we arrived on readers' desks. Some might say our sense of fair play clouded our editorial judgment; we don't think so. Sometimes the power of the press needs restraint.

Author Information
Rod Sutton, Editor in Chief, 630-288-8130, rsutton@reedbusiness.com