GM Chose Not to Implement a Fix for Ignition Problem – NBCNews.com

Posted: Friday, March 14, 2014



Lance Cooper

3 hours

GM Chose Not to Implement a Fix for Ignition Problem

Engineers at General Motors found a way to stop ignition switches from shutting off nine years ago, but made a “business decision” not to order the partial fix to a problem that has now been linked to a dozen deaths, NBC News has learned.

Certain GM cars are vulnerable to shutting off when their keys are bumped by drivers or stressed by heavy keychains, a problem the automaker cited in recalling 1.6 million vehicles last month. Two GM executives confirmed during a lawsuit filed by the parents of a Georgia woman killed in the crash of her Chevrolet Cobalt that the company had found a partial fix for the problem in 2005 -– a measure that a witness for the plaintiffs estimated would have cost as little as $1 per car.

A high-level GM executive told NBC News the company was “deeply troubled with some decisions that were made in the past and is hoping to move forward."

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In 2005, company engineers proposed a plastic insert that could be added to GM keys to make the opening for the key ring smaller and reduce jostling of the key. Instead of ordering that the insert be added to all keys, however, GM sent a bulletin to dealership service managers that said the insert could be provided to car owners who came in and complained about ignition shut-offs. Under the program, according to GM warranty records, fewer than 500 drivers received the inserts.

“It has to be money,” said Beth Melton, mother of Brooke Melton, who died in a crash on her 29th birthday in 2010. “It has to come down to money but that really doesn’t even make sense to me. In the end, they’re going to have to pay for it. They need to care about their customers. They need to care about human lives.”

Image: Brooke MeltonCourtesy Melton family

Brooke Melton died in a 2010 crash on her 29th birthday, when her 2005 Chevy Cobalt’s ignition switched off and she lost control of the car.

NBC News has examined depositions and internal GM documents from the Meltons’ suit, which the Meltons settled with GM for an undisclosed sum.

During testimony, GM engineer David Trush, who helped implement the insert fix, called the insert a “good solution” for a “very small population” affected by the problem.

“We put the solution out in the field,” said Trush, “the solution that would solve some of the stuff.”

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The Meltons’ attorney, Lance Cooper, then asked witness Gary Altman, who was GM’s program engineering manager for the Cobalt in 2004 and 2005, if it was true that the car company “made a business decision not to fix this problem and five months later sold [Brooke Melton] a vehicle with the problem.”

GM’s lawyer objected, but Altman answered, “That is what happened, yes.”

Altman said that the company had not mandated the change for all vehicles because it was only a partial solution. Altman also agreed, however, that if GM had felt that the key insert was a 100 percent fix, it would have spent the money to make it.

Image: Car keysLance Cooper

GM engineers proposed a partial fix for the ignition problem in 2005 a plastic part that could be inserted into the slot of the ignition key to lessen jangling and reduce the force that could cause the key to turn the ignition to the “off” position. The company made the part available and issued a technical service bulletin to dealers telling them the part could alleviate the problem, but dealerships were advised to install it only if an owner complained.

An engineer hired by the plaintiffs as an expert witness claimed in his testimony that internal GM documents showed that GM had estimated the cost per car of making the change would be less than $1 per car.

Altman called the key insert “a directional improvement” rather than “a fix to the issue.” He said, however, that it had probably been represented to consumers as “a fix.”

He also said that he didn’t believe Melton’s car was “unsafe,” and that it “could still be maneuvered to the side of the road.”

Altman and Trush declined repeated requests from NBC News for comment. Outside his home in suburban Detroit, Altman said, “I can’t answer that question” when asked why GM had not issued a vehicle recall till 2014.

Testimony during the case also revealed that GM made incremental changes to a part inside the ignition switch starting in 2005. It did so without telling consumers.

Image: Detent plunger height change in Chevrolet Cobalt ignition switchMcSwain Engineering

Legal depositions and photographs introduced in the Georgia lawsuit filed by Brooke Melton indicate that GM made unreported changes in one ignition switch part – known as a detent plunger – increasing the height of the piece from 2.3mm to 8mm beginning in 2005 as part of its efforts to prevent engine stalls while its vehicles were in motion. Photos above show the part in 2006 (left), 2007 (center) and the current design.

GM has now disclosed to federal regulators that it knew of problems with its ignition switches as early as 2001, during preproduction for the Saturn Ion. The automaker had earlier told the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that it had learned in 2004 that if a driver jostled the ignition switch in a 2005 Cobalt it might shut down the engine.

GM declined to answer specific questions about the Melton case.

In February, GM announced the recall of 1.6 million vehicles worldwide from the model years 2003 to 2007 because of an allegedly defective ignition switch. The models recalled include the Cobalt, the Pontiac G5, Saturn Ions, and Chevrolet HHRs, as well as the Solstice and Sky sports cars. Recalled years vary for each model.

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According to GM’s figures, the defect has been linked to 12 deaths. Brooke Melton’s death is not among the deaths GM listed.

“If it’s caused one single death, to me that’s enough,” said Ken Melton, Brooke’s father. “One single death is enough to make a recall."

Although the Meltons have settled with GM, their suit against the dealership that sold their daughter the Cobalt remains active.

Follow NBC News Investigations on Twitter and Facebook

First published March 13 2014, 3:04 PM

Gabe Gutierrez

Gabe Gutierrez is an NBC News correspondent based in Atlanta, Ga. He joined the network in March 2012, and reports for all platforms of NBC News, including “TODAY,” “Nightly News with Brian Williams,” MSNBC, NBCLatino.com, and NBCNews.com, as well as Telemundo.

Gutierrez came to NBC News from KHOU 11 News in Houston, Texas, where he worked as the station’s City Hall reporter. Prior to working in Houston, Gabe was a weekend morning anchor and reporter at WJRT-TV, the ABC station in Flint, Mich. While at WJRT, he regularly produced and hosted the station’s public affairs program in addition to covering the state legislature and the auto industry. His first on-air job was at WBOY-TV, the NBC affiliate in Clarksburg, West Virginia, where he anchored weekend newscasts and reported during the week. While in college, Gutierrez interned at Telemundo in South Florida and at ABC News’ satellite feed in Chicago.

Gutierrez was named “Best Reporter” in 2009 by the Michigan Association of Broadcasters. He also won an Emmy for his investigation into what several banks called one of the largest mortgage schemes ever in the state. The Associated Press also honored him for breaking news coverage and investigative reporting.

Originally from Miami, Gutierrez graduated from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism with a double major in political science. He is a member of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors.

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Lance Cooper






Engineers at General Motors found a way to stop ignition switches from shutting off nine years ago, but made a “business decision” not to order the partial fix to a problem that has now been linked to a dozen deaths, NBC News has learned.

Certain GM cars are vulnerable to shutting off when their keys are bumped by drivers or stressed by heavy keychains, a problem the automaker cited in recalling 1.6 million vehicles last month. Two GM executives confirmed during a lawsuit filed by the parents of a Georgia woman killed in the crash of her Chevrolet Cobalt that the company had found a partial fix for the problem in 2005 -– a measure that a witness for the plaintiffs estimated would have cost as little as $1 per car.

A high-level GM executive told NBC News the company was “deeply troubled with some decisions that were made in the past and is hoping to move forward.”

In 2005, company engineers proposed a plastic insert that could be added to GM keys to make the opening for the key ring smaller and reduce jostling of the key. Instead of ordering that the insert be added to all keys, however, GM sent a bulletin to dealership service managers that said the insert could be provided to car owners who came in and complained about ignition shut-offs. Under the program, according to GM warranty records, fewer than 500 drivers received the inserts.

“It has to be money,” said Beth Melton, mother of Brooke Melton, who died in a crash on her 29th birthday in 2010. “It has to come down to money but that really doesn’t even make sense to me. In the end, they’re going to have to pay for it. They need to care about their customers. They need to care about human lives.”

Image: Brooke MeltonCourtesy Melton family

NBC News has examined depositions and internal GM documents from the Meltons’ suit, which the Meltons settled with GM for an undisclosed sum.

During testimony, GM engineer David Trush, who helped implement the insert fix, called the insert a “good solution” for a “very small population” affected by the problem.

“We put the solution out in the field,” said Trush, “the solution that would solve some of the stuff.”

The Meltons’ attorney, Lance Cooper, then asked witness Gary Altman, who was GM’s program engineering manager for the Cobalt in 2004 and 2005, if it was true that the car company “made a business decision not to fix this problem and five months later sold [Brooke Melton] a vehicle with the problem.”

GM’s lawyer objected, but Altman answered, “That is what happened, yes.”

Altman said that the company had not mandated the change for all vehicles because it was only a partial solution. Altman also agreed, however, that if GM had felt that the key insert was a 100 percent fix, it would have spent the money to make it.

Image: Car keysLance Cooper

An engineer hired by the plaintiffs as an expert witness claimed in his testimony that internal GM documents showed that GM had estimated the cost per car of making the change would be less than $1 per car.

Altman called the key insert “a directional improvement” rather than “a fix to the issue.” He said, however, that it had probably been represented to consumers as “a fix.”

He also said that he didn’t believe Melton’s car was “unsafe,” and that it “could still be maneuvered to the side of the road.”

Altman and Trush declined repeated requests from NBC News for comment. Outside his home in suburban Detroit, Altman said, “I can’t answer that question” when asked why GM had not issued a vehicle recall till 2014.

Testimony during the case also revealed that GM made incremental changes to a part inside the ignition switch starting in 2005. It did so without telling consumers.

Image: Detent plunger height change in Chevrolet Cobalt ignition switchMcSwain Engineering

GM has now disclosed to federal regulators that it knew of problems with its ignition switches as early as 2001, during preproduction for the Saturn Ion. The automaker had earlier told the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that it had learned in 2004 that if a driver jostled the ignition switch in a 2005 Cobalt it might shut down the engine.

GM declined to answer specific questions about the Melton case.

In February, GM announced the recall of 1.6 million vehicles worldwide from the model years 2003 to 2007 because of an allegedly defective ignition switch. The models recalled include the Cobalt, the Pontiac G5, Saturn Ions, and Chevrolet HHRs, as well as the Solstice and Sky sports cars. Recalled years vary for each model.

According to GM’s figures, the defect has been linked to 12 deaths. Brooke Melton’s death is not among the deaths GM listed.

“If it’s caused one single death, to me that’s enough,” said Ken Melton, Brooke’s father. “One single death is enough to make a recall.”

Although the Meltons have settled with GM, their suit against the dealership that sold their daughter the Cobalt remains active.

Follow NBC News Investigations on Twitter and Facebook





Gabe Gutierrez


Gabe Gutierrez is an NBC News correspondent based in Atlanta, Ga. He joined the network in March 2012, and reports for all platforms of NBC News, including “TODAY,” “Nightly News with Brian Williams,” MSNBC, NBCLatino.com, and NBCNews.com, as well as Telemundo.

Gutierrez came to NBC News from KHOU 11 News in Houston, Texas, where he worked as the station’s City Hall reporter. Prior to working in Houston, Gabe was a weekend morning anchor and reporter at WJRT-TV, the ABC station in Flint, Mich. While at WJRT, he regularly produced and hosted the station’s public affairs program in addition to covering the state legislature and the auto industry. His first on-air job was at WBOY-TV, the NBC affiliate in Clarksburg, West Virginia, where he anchored weekend newscasts and reported during the week. While in college, Gutierrez interned at Telemundo in South Florida and at ABC News’ satellite feed in Chicago.

Gutierrez was named “Best Reporter” in 2009 by the Michigan Association of Broadcasters. He also won an Emmy for his investigation into what several banks called one of the largest mortgage schemes ever in the state. The Associated Press also honored him for breaking news coverage and investigative reporting.

Originally from Miami, Gutierrez graduated from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism with a double major in political science. He is a member of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors.


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Gabe Gutierrez is an NBC News correspondent based in Atlanta, Ga. He joined the network in March 2012, and reports for all platforms of NBC News, including \”TODAY,\” \”Nightly News with Brian Williams,\” MSNBC, NBCLatino.com, and NBCNews.com, as well as Telemundo.

Gutierrez came to NBC News from KHOU 11 News in Houston, Texas, where he worked as the station’s City Hall reporter. Prior to working in Houston, Gabe was a weekend morning anchor and reporter at WJRT-TV, the ABC station in Flint, Mich. While at WJRT, he regularly produced and hosted the station’s public affairs program in addition to covering the state legislature and the auto industry. His first on-air job was at WBOY-TV, the NBC affiliate in Clarksburg, West Virginia, where he anchored weekend newscasts and reported during the week. While in college, Gutierrez interned at Telemundo in South Florida and at ABC News’ satellite feed in Chicago.

Gutierrez was named \”Best Reporter\” in 2009 by the Michigan Association of Broadcasters. He also won an Emmy for his investigation into what several banks called one of the largest mortgage schemes ever in the state. The Associated Press also honored him for breaking news coverage and investigative reporting.

Originally from Miami, Gutierrez graduated from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism with a double major in political science. He is a member of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors.

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Rich Gardella is an investigative producer, off-air reporter and digital journalist with NBC News, based in Washington, D.C.

He joined NBC News in 1991.

“,”name”:”Rich Gardella”,”picture”:null},{“type”:”Byline”,”is_vip”:false,”city”:”New York City”,”facebook_page”:”https://www.facebook.com/NBCInvestigates”,”instagram”:null,”professional_title”:”Producer”,”show_or_site”:”Investigations”,”twitter_handle”:”@Trombipulation”,”email”:”kevin.monahan@nbcuni.com”,”bio”:”

Monahan is a producer for the NBC News Investigative Unit.

He had been a producer for \”Nightly News with Brian Williams\” based in New York since 2008. Before that, he was based in London and the Middle East for NBC News for more than a decade.

He’s a four-time News Emmy winner for coverage of the Middle East and terrorism. The award winning 2007 series “The Wounds of War” took a look at combat support hospitals throughout Iraq; “Crisis in the Middle East”, covered the 2006 Israeli war with Lebanon; and “The War Next Door”, focused on the Mexican drug war in 2010.

Monahan was one of the first Western journalists to venture into Afghanistan and Pakistan after the 9/11 attacks. His Afghanistan coverage included the October-November 2001 U.S. bombing of Tora Bora and the fall of Kandahar later that year. Oher work includes extensive coverage throughout Pakistan, Kashmir, Iraq, Jordan, and Syria, as well as civil wars in Gaza and Sudan and the nuclear crisis in Korea.

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Reynolds is a producer in NBC News’ Washington Bureau, where she has covered the IRS targeting scandal, the impact of sequester and the Affordable Care Act, among other things, since joining the network in May 2012.

Prior the joining NBC News, Reynolds was a producer for ABC News “Nightline” and “Good Morning America.”

Over her career, Reynolds has covered everything from politics to pop culture. She produced day in the life pieces with President Barack Obama, covered the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the Joplin tornado and produced profiles of Perez Hilton and Jay-Z.

Reynolds was part of the \”Nightline\” team that won a Barone Award for excellence in journalism for a series on The Clinton Years.

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“I don’t have as much upper body strength as the males … Men lift it with their arms and we do more of a squat to use our lower body.”

“,”class”:”pullquote”},{“type”:”p”,”html”:””Coming from the paralegal world where I lift files, to lifting 65 or 107 pounds, this is definitely demanding,” says the sergeant who trained for 5 weeks alongside male soldiers for the nationwide “U.S. Army Physical Demands Study.””},{“type”:”p”,”html”:”The data will be used to develop unisex performance tests that will become the Army’s standard for determining whether a soldier is fit for combat, regardless of gender.”},{“type”:”p”,”html”:”Designing the fit-to-fight tests is part of the armed forces’ efforts to prepare for Jan. 1, 2016, the date women will be allowed to apply for all front-line positions according to new Pentagon rules. Approximately 200,000 of the Army’s jobs are battle related, in fields such as infantry, artillery and combat engineering.”},{“type”:”p”,”html”:””},{“type”:”image”,”url”:”http://media1.s-nbcnews.com/i/newscms/2014_11/251451/140313-military-woman-course-02-740_57932576a063babdce961d937e1845a5.jpg”,”caption”:””,”credit”:””,”source”:””,”title”:””,”alt_text”:””,”width”:2500,”height”:1716},{“type”:”p”,”html”:”Few Army women will be applying for those jobs if the results of a recent poll reflect reality. Only 7.5 percent of the 30,000 who responded to the survey sent to all female members said they wanted a combat position.”},{“type”:”p”,”html”:”But Army Intelligence Officer Autumn Claybaugh would consider it.”},{“type”:”p”,”html”:””It’s always something that I’ve known as a possibility and now it’s more so,” she said. “I joined to serve my country in whatever capacity that is.””},{“type”:”p”,”html”:”That survey also revealed some male soldiers are deeply concerned women are not physically strong enough to perform at the level combat requires.”},{“type”:”p”,”html”:”Specialist Christina Hood says women find ways of overcoming physical challenges.”},{“type”:”p”,”html”:””I don’t have as much upper body strength as the males,” says the 28-year-old describing how she uses a knee to load a TOW missile launcher on a Bradley Fighting Vehicle, about a 50 pound load. “Men lift it with their arms and we do more of a squat to use our lower body.””},{“type”:”p”,”html”:”Maj. Gen. Mike Murray, the commanding officer at Ft. Stewart, one of the bases where the physical demands study is underway, said he hopes standardized performance tests will dissipate concerns expressed in the survey by showing that women can perform as well as men.”},{“type”:”blockquote”,”html”:”

“Coming from the paralegal world where I lift files, to lifting 65 or 107 pounds, this is definitely demanding.”

“,”class”:”pullquote”},{“type”:”p”,”html”:”But after 32 years of experience in the armed forces, the Army leader says scientific tests may show the physical demands of some careers make them unsuitable for women.”},{“type”:”p”,”html”:””There may be specific M.O.S. (Military Occupation Specialties) we can’t integrate,” says Murray. “It’s about finding the best qualified soldiers for the job,” he says.”},{“type”:”p”,”html”:”Sgt. Lancaster smiles after completing all tests. The paralegal who is married to an infantryman says she is proud her disciplined training allowed her to complete the same tasks as her husband during the study. “Doing those tasks over and over again built up those muscles,” she says.”},{“type”:”p”,”html”:”But she is most proud of playing a role in the reshaping of an Army that will open new jobs to women. “I wanted to be part of the physical demands study to help open doors.””}],”summary”:”The data will be used to develop unisex performance tests that will become the Army’s standard for determining whether a soldier is fit for combat.”,”mediaList”:null,”breaking_news”:false,”show_on_cover”:false,”ads_enabled”:true,”comments_enabled”:true,”search_enabled”:true,”native_ad”:false,”copyright”:null,”cover_art”:{“caption”:null,”url”:”http://media2.s-nbcnews.com/i/newscms/2014_11/251456/140313-military-woman-course-03-740_080deb459ea61398f1caf4499fa006d0.jpg”,”credit”:null,”source”:null,”alt_text”:null,”width”:2500,”height”:1773,”title”:””},”tease_art”:null,”canonical_url”:”http://www.nbcnews.com/news/military/army-tests-physical-capabilities-soldiers-better-placement-n52356″,”title_url_slug”:”army-tests-physical-capabilities-soldiers-better-placement”,”original_canonical_url”:”http://www.nbcnews.com/news/military/army-tests-physical-capabilities-soldiers-better-placement-n52356″,”type”:”spread”,”headline”:”Army Tests Physical Capabilities of Soldiers for Better Placement”,”headline_cover”:”Army Tests Soldiers for Better Placement”,”headline_slug”:”army-tests-physical-capabilities-soldiers-better-placement”,”bylines”:[{“type”:”Byline”,”is_vip”:false,”city”:null,”facebook_page”:null,”instagram”:null,”professional_title”:”Producer”,”show_or_site”:”NBC News”,”twitter_handle”:null,”email”:”Erika.Angulo@nbcuni.com”,”bio”:null,”name”:”Erika Angulo”,”picture”:null}],”first_published_utc”:”2014-03-14 00:42:53 Z”,”last_published_utc”:”2014-03-14 00:42:53 Z”,”sections”:[{“title”:”News”,”slug”:”news”}],”topics”:[{“title”:”Military”,”slug”:”military”}],”feature”:[],”show”:[],”storyline”:[],”tags”:[],”id”:”NewsCms/Entry/52356″,”externalId”:”52356″,”externalSource”:”NewsCms”,”main_art”:{“caption”:”Women in the middst of Shot in Ft. Stewart, Ga. on March 13, 2014.”,”url”:”http://media3.s-nbcnews.com/i/newscms/2014_11/251256/140313-women-in-military-02-340_988a7825b2d7c6fa074e70ce09e4cec9.jpg”,”credit”:”Michael Gemelli”,”source”:”NBC News”,”alt_text”:null,”width”:2500,”height”:1667,”title”:””}},{“body”:[{“type”:”url”,”html”:”http://blog.laptopmag.com/huawei-android-windows-phone”},{“type”:”source”,”html”:”LAPTOP”}],”summary”:”The Chinese device maker plans to release a dual Windows Phone-Android-powered smartphone in the U.S. in the coming months.”,”mediaList”:null,”breaking_news”:false,”show_on_cover”:true,”ads_enabled”:true,”comments_enabled”:true,”search_enabled”:true,”native_ad”:false,”copyright”:null,”cover_art”:null,”tease_art”:null,”canonical_url”:”http://www.nbcnews.com/tech/mobile/huawei-making-dual-windows-android-smartphone-n52401″,”title_url_slug”:”huawei-making-dual-windows-android-smartphone”,”original_canonical_url”:”http://www.nbcnews.com/tech/mobile/huawei-making-dual-windows-android-smartphone-n52401″,”type”:”externallink”,”headline”:”Huawei Making Dual Windows-Android Smartphone”,”headline_cover”:”Huawei Making Dual Windows-Android Smartphone”,”headline_slug”:”huawei-making-dual-windows-android-smartphone”,”bylines”:null,”first_published_utc”:”2014-03-14 00:28:42 Z”,”last_published_utc”:”2014-03-14 00:28:42 Z”,”sections”:[{“title”:”Tech”,”slug”:”tech”}],”topics”:[{“title”:”Mobile”,”slug”:”mobile”}],”feature”:[],”show”:[],”storyline”:[],”tags”:[],”id”:”NewsCms/Entry/52401″,”externalId”:”52401″,”externalSource”:”NewsCms”,”main_art”:{“caption”:”Huawei has announced it is working on a dual Windows Phone-Android-powered smartphone that will be released in the U.S. in the coming months.”,”url”:”http://media3.s-nbcnews.com/i/newscms/2014_11/251516/140313-tech-huaweiascendmate2-562x400_36585f34544eaf09d85887b015ed0145.jpg”,”credit”:null,”source”:”LAPTOP”,”alt_text”:”Image: Huawei phone”,”width”:562,”height”:400,”title”:”Image: Huawei phone”}},{“body”:[{“type”:”p”,”html”:”We’ve been hearing for almost a year that Facebook would soon be adding auto-playing video ads to your stream, and the final countdown has begun.”},{“type”:”p”,”html”:”The news appeared on Facebook’s Business blog, explaining the basic mechanism of the ad modules: They will play automatically and silently when users scroll past, and go to fullscreen with sound if tapped or clicked.”},{“type”:”p”,”html”:””},{“type”:”image”,”url”:”http://media1.s-nbcnews.com/i/newscms/2014_11/251486/vidad_5a64b233109c6649ebbf53dabfe3c246.jpg”,”caption”:”Video ads will play automatically but silently, going fullscreen and adding sound when you tap or click.”,”credit”:””,”source”:”Facebook”,”title”:””,”alt_text”:””,”width”:682,”height”:445},{“type”:”p”,”html”:”Facebook confirmed it was testing video ads in December, but declined to provide a hard rollout date for the new revenue-generating initiative. There’s still no guarantee when you’ll see your first one, but a Facebook spokesperson told NBC News that late April is when you should expect to start seeing the 15-second ads on both mobile and the Web.”},{“type”:”p”,”html”:”If you’re afraid something annoying or explicit is going to ruin your Facebook experience, don’t worry: Facebook doesn’t want people closing the app in disgust either. 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Devin Coldewey is a contributing writer at NBC News; he started his role in April of 2013. Coldewey is responsible for original reporting on a number of tech topics, such as photography, biotechnology, and Internet policy.

Coldewey joined NBCNews.com from TechCrunch, where he was an editor covering a similarly wide variety of content and industries. His personal website is coldewey.cc.

“,”name”:”Devin Coldewey”,”picture”:{“credit”:null,”caption”:””,”url”:”http://media3.s-nbcnews.com/i/newscms/2014_01/95471/2503781351_7feef38a1a_b_6060966ce39c2973ce6dc11714136154.jpg”,”width”:316,”height”:316}}],”first_published_utc”:”2014-03-14 00:24:34 Z”,”last_published_utc”:”2014-03-14 00:24:34 Z”,”sections”:[{“title”:”Tech”,”slug”:”tech”}],”topics”:[{“title”:”Social Media”,”slug”:”social-media”}],”feature”:[],”show”:[],”storyline”:[],”tags”:[],”id”:”NewsCms/Entry/52361″,”externalId”:”52361″,”externalSource”:”NewsCms”,”main_art”:{“caption”:”Video ads will play automatically but silently, going fullscreen and adding sound when you tap or click.”,”url”:”http://media1.s-nbcnews.com/i/newscms/2014_11/251486/vidad_5a64b233109c6649ebbf53dabfe3c246.jpg”,”credit”:null,”source”:”Facebook”,”alt_text”:null,”width”:682,”height”:445,”title”:””}},{“body”:[{“type”:”p”,”html”:”Poet and essayist Carmen Giménez Smith knew she wanted to be writer at a very early age.”},{“type”:”p”,”html”:”“I was a big bookworm,” she says. “I would get books at thrift stores and garage sales. I’d just read anything I could get my hands on. I loved it, and I loved the world that it created. And I said, ‘I want to do that. I want to create these worlds.’””},{“type”:”p”,”html”:”These “worlds” she has created have clearly resonated with readers and critics; Giménez Smith’s latest book, Milk and Filth, was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in the Poetry category.”},{“type”:”p”,”html”:”“That day was like I was walking on air,” of the day when she found out she was a finalist.”},{“type”:”p”,”html”:””},{“type”:”widget”,”widget_type”:”youtube”,”youtube-id”:”DCuJuOxybdI”},{“type”:”p”,”html”:”Giménez Smith is the daughter of South American immigrants. Her mother, who is Peruvian, and her father, who is Argentinean, both worked in the hospitality industry for most of her childhood. She was born in New York and then moved 13 times around the country when she was growing up.”},{“type”:”p”,”html”:”Giménez Smith attributes these migrations to her “father’s rising and complex relationship to status in this country. We kind of had to go where the fortunes took us.””},{“type”:”p”,”html”:”So often being the new girl made her feel like an outsider, and books became a haven. “I was familiar with difference anyway, having moved so much. I was always the odd person in the room. I spent a lot of time alone and I have a very complex interior life. I already sort of knew that I was different.””},{“type”:”p”,”html”:”It was in high school that she became interested in poetry. One of her teachers, who was a contemporary of the Beat poets, introduced her to the work of Allen Ginsberg and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, among others. She was also profoundly influenced by William Blake and Sylvia Plath.”},{“type”:”blockquote”,”html”:”

“I always knew that I was a feminist, and I kind of always knew that I was a writer of color, but I didn’t know what that meant. And I’m still continuing to unpack what that means.”

“,”class”:”pullquote”},{“type”:”p”,”html”:”Though she desperately wanted to be a fiction writer, Giménez Smith realized she had a natural instinct for poetry. “I like that it’s more plastic than prose. Fiction requires so many layers of infrastructure, which I find less interesting than language,” she says.”},{“type”:”p”,”html”:”In college, one of her professors, a Lebanese American writer, exposed her to writers of color.”},{“type”:”p”,”html”:”“It was a real paradigm shift for me to think about identity and it became a big part of my writing,” she says. “I always knew that I was a feminist, and I kind of always knew that I was a writer of color, but I didn’t know what that meant. And I’m still continuing to unpack what that means.””},{“type”:”p”,”html”:”Her book “Milk and Filth” examines issues of gender and race with vibrant language and bizarre and astonishing imagery. On race, Giménez Smith says the issue “has been put at the forefront because we have a black president and we can’t pretend that’s not the case.””},{“type”:”p”,”html”:”On gender, she wanted a book more “explicit in its feminism.” Part of the impetus, she explains, was a result of becoming older and getting more involved with VIDA, an organization which examines the perceptions of writing by women.”},{“type”:”p”,”html”:”“Seeing the way female students navigate the world, having a daughter and having all of those things converge, it made me realize I’m still pretty pissed off and there’s a lot of work to be done. I felt like I wanted to do something aggressive. That’s the word that comes to mind,” says Giménez Smith, who is an assistant professor at New Mexico State University.”},{“type”:”p”,”html”:””},{“type”:”p”,”html”:””},{“type”:”image”,”url”:”http://media4.s-nbcnews.com/i/newscms/2014_11/247376/140312-carmen-gimenez-smith-02-1p_6118559326450ca15d2f3ce8c20ad20b.jpg”,”caption”:” \”Milk & Filth\” is the latest poetry book by author Carmen Gimenez Smith. “,”credit”:””,”source”:””,”title”:””,”alt_text”:””,”width”:2500,”height”:3750},{“type”:”p”,”html”:”Her book is a tribute to feminist artists such as the late Cuban American performance artist and sculptor Ana Mendieta and Chicana scholar Gloria Anzaldua, who wrote about her experiences on the Texas-Mexico border in Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza.”},{“type”:”p”,”html”:”These artists, as well as the feminist poetry anthology No More Masks, explicitly politicized their work. “That’s exactly what I wanted the book to do.””},{“type”:”p”,”html”:”As a woman and writer of color, she says she is elated her book was recognized among the best poetry books of this past year.”},{“type”:”p”,”html”:”“I’m so proud. I’m so happy. I think it’s amazing that the NBCC speaks to the diversity of how they’re reading, because this is a Latina feminist book. I kind of can’t believe it.””},{“type”:”p”,”html”:””},{“type”:”p”,”html”:””}],”summary”:”Carmen Giménez Smith’s unique language, imagery achieves national recognition.”,”mediaList”:null,”breaking_news”:false,”show_on_cover”:false,”ads_enabled”:true,”comments_enabled”:true,”search_enabled”:true,”native_ad”:false,”copyright”:null,”cover_art”:{“caption”:”Latina poet, essayist and professor Carmen Gimenez Smith. “,”url”:”http://media1.s-nbcnews.com/i/newscms/2014_11/247381/140312-carmen-gimenez-smith-01-1p_6118559326450ca15d2f3ce8c20ad20b.jpg”,”credit”:”Evan Lavender-Smith”,”source”:”Photo credit: Evan Lavender-Smith”,”alt_text”:null,”width”:2500,”height”:1923,”title”:””},”tease_art”:null,”canonical_url”:”http://www.nbcnews.com/news/latino/latino-lens-feminist-poet-draws-praise-new-book-n51071″,”title_url_slug”:”latino-lens-feminist-poet-draws-praise-new-book”,”original_canonical_url”:”http://www.nbcnews.com/news/latino/latino-lens-feminist-poet-draws-praise-new-book-n51071″,”type”:”spread”,”headline”:”Latino Lens: Feminist Poet Draws Praise for New Book “,”headline_cover”:”Latino Lens: A Proudly Feminist Poet”,”headline_slug”:”latino-lens-feminist-poet-draws-praise-new-book”,”bylines”:[{“type”:”Byline”,”is_vip”:false,”city”:null,”facebook_page”:null,”instagram”:null,”professional_title”:null,”show_or_site”:null,”twitter_handle”:null,”email”:null,”bio”:”

Erika L. Sánchez is a Chicago-based writer and poet. Her nonfiction has been published in NBC Latino, Salon, Rolling Stone, The Guardian, Al Jazeera, and other publications. She is a CantoMundo fellow, recipient of a Fulbright Scholarship, and winner of the 2013 “Discovery”/Boston Review poetry prize.

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