Media Debate Who Brought Attention to Firestone Troubles
                    September 12, 2000

                    By ANN ZIMMERMAN
                    Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

                    The first phase of the Bridgestone/Firestone tire recall centered on
                    whom to blame for the mounting death toll related to alleged tire-tread

                                         Now, another phase has begun. Who deserves
                                         credit for bringing the problem to the nation's

                                         In May, shortly after the National Highway Traffic
                    Safety Administration announced that it had launched an official
                    investigation into some Firestone-brand tires originally equipped on
                    Ford Motor Co. sport-utility vehicles, several industry periodicals,
                    including Automotive News and Rubber & Plastics News, credited a
                    series of Chicago Sun-Times articles that ran in late April and early May
                    for prompting the investigation.

                    The Chicago Sun-Times, owned by Hollinger Inc.'s Hollinger
                    International, reissued the articles on its Web site with an editor's note
                    pointing out the timing of its articles and the NHTSA investigation. The
                    Sun-Times articles, though, don't focus on Firestone tires, but on other
                    brands that suffered tire separations.

                    The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration itself early on
                    credited a researcher at State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co.,
                    Sam Boyden, who spotted a pattern of claims in tread-separation cases
                    on Firestone tires. He forwarded information to the NHTSA defects
                    office in July 1998. But NHTSA didn't think that the number was high
                    enough to take action, according to an NHTSA spokesman.

                    Then last week, members of Congress and Ford Chief Executive Jacques
                    Nasser said the real credit for setting in motion the largest tire recall in
                    history belongs to KHOU-TV Channel 11, the Houston CBS affiliate
                    owned by Belo Corp. of Dallas.

                    On Feb. 7, KHOU's three-person investigative team ran an eight-minute
                    report saying that possibly defective Firestone tires on Ford Explorers
                    may have been responsible for 30 deaths nationwide.

                    In the report, Ford blamed driver error, specifically under-inflated tires,
                    for the tire blowouts that caused the SUVs to roll over. Several days
                    later, Firestone sent the station a letter accusing it of airing a misleading
                    report. "This series has unmistakably delivered the false messages that
                    Radial ATX tires are dangerous," the letter read.

                    The report originated with a tip from a lawyer to Channel 11
                    investigative reporter Anna Werner. The lawyer was handling a case
                    where a Firestone tire's tread had separated and led to a passenger's
                    death. The story, however, almost ended right there. The victim's family
                    hired another attorney to handle the case, and the two lawyers wound
                    up suing each other.

                    But Ms. Werner learned of other lawyers with similar cases. She and
                    producer David Raziq contacted NHTSA, which told them it was unaware
                    of a problem. The report received so much response that NHTSA asked
                    the station to run its 800 number so complaining parties could contact
                    it. By the beginning of March, NHTSA told the station it was conducting
                    a preliminary evaluation of Firestone's tires. Firestone/Bridgestone Inc.
                    is a unit of Japan's Bridgestone Corp.

                    Chicago Sun-Times deputy metro editor Paul Saltzman acknowledges
                    that KHOU was first on the story, but says his reporter, David Skertic,
                    "focused on a broader industrywide story." His reports focused on
                    problems with tires made by other companies. The series also
                    highlighted that tire manufacturers kept problems quiet by keeping
                    settlements secret.

                    A day after the Chicago Sun-Times series ran, NHTSA announced a
                    formal investigation. It also sent letters to tire manufacturers asking for
                    service bulletins on their tires, which they were supposed to have filed
                    with the agency. NHTSA told the Sun-Times it had meant to do that
                    ever since the KHOU story aired, according to Mr. Saltzman.