UPDATE: “The real estate brokers told [executive editor Rex] Smith they wanted to see stories that portray agents favorably. One said [publisher George] Hearst’s letter should be published as an editorial in the paper.” From the Albany Business Review’s story on the agents who are upset with the Times Union.
Two weeks ago, Albany Times Union reporter Kristi Barlette solicited anecdotes for a quickie Real Estate section item about agents. “What advice did he or she give that you ignored?” she asked. “Why did you decide not to take their advice, and how did it turn out?”
Albany-area agents saw the responses in last Sunday’s paper — here’s one: “They want the fastest sale more than the highest price” — and were furious.
“This story was totally out of line,” says Anthony Gucciardo, who claims to be the top real estate agent in upstate New York. “I emailed my sales rep and canceled a $10,000 advertising contract.”
On Monday, Times Union publisher George Hearst III interrupted his 3-week vacation to apologize to the real estate community for what he calls a “one-sided …unfortunate article.”
In a letter to area realtors, (Gucciardo read it to me), Hearst says the Times Union will run full page ads touting the value of real estate agents; the campaign started today and ends Sunday.
“Our intent is to show how important realtors and agents are to our community and how important you are to us,” writes Hearst. “We’ll right this wrong any way we can.” (He wasn’t available for comment this afternoon.)
Three Times Union representatives, including executive editor Rex Smith, met this afternoon with 20 members of the Greater Capital Association of Realtors. James Ader, who is CEO of that group, tells me that Smith “was apologetic” and said “the article should not have appeared as it did.”
Ader says his members’ “feelings were hurt” by the piece. (Realtor Gucciardo felt better though on Monday morning when “they called with a fabulous incentive [to restore his advertising contract] and I accepted. I believe mistakes happen.”)
Asked for comment, editor Smith writes in an email: “We’re not going to have anything to say about this one. Sorry.” (I contacted Barlette, but she declined to say anything without Smith’s permission.)