Uncooked Truth: Automotive Journalism, Alive or Dead?

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Josh just came back from the 2012 NY International Auto Show, and a great question came up while he was there… and he even argued about it on Facebook. Uh-oh!

Before I get into too much here, I’d first like you all to watch at least part of the video below. If you watch the whole thing, I’ll be grateful. If you watch it and still read this column, I’ll send you two chocolate chip cookies in the mail.

Now that you’ve watched the video, what do you think? The Drive team (comprised of, what I’d call, a real group of automotive journalists and enthusiasts) have been good about raising interesting questions, but also finding proper ways to answer them.

I agree with every writer in the video, except Ray Wert of Jalopnik. Now, I know Ray -albeit not much more than a friendly acquaintance- and I typically know what he’ll say to most automotive questions he’s being asked. In the video he makes the comment that while journalism is no longer important, the conversations started and talked about are. I do agree that it’s important to have conversations in the automotive industry, whether they be arguments, debates, or just a chit-chat over drinks.

However, it’s the way Ray goes about explaining it that I disagree with. He’s very pompous about saying the job many of us try and do is useless. Sure, as he said, car companies do very well at just redoing their own press releases and kissing their own asses, but some of us who actually care about the public don’t do that. We all must remember, though, the attitude being conveyed comes not from an automotive journalist, or someone who’s actually served the automotive industry as a real voice for consumer awareness, but instead of sarcasm and wit. Not that there’s anything with that… I do it all the time. It should be said, Matt Hardigree at Jalopnik is a journalist. Sometimes more a social journalist than an automotive one, but still someone that busts his hump to get a story, whether you agree with it or not. Also, Mike Spinelli, a guy I’ve looked up to for years, and a man who’s shared personal wisdom and knowledge to help make RawAutos a far better place to be, is very much so an automotive journalist. Hell, read his great car reviews, for God’s sake. There won’t be a time you’re disappointed.

You see, I struggle to call myself a journalist, and that’s because I’m not sure that I am one. I’d have to be told by the best in the industry that I am in order to feel that way about myself. Although when asked what I do for a living, I don’t hesitate in telling people that I am an automotive journalist. Why so hesitant in my mind, but so sure for someone else’s? Easy, whenever I say I’m an automotive writer, they look at me like I just told them I saw their grandmother naked… after she was dead. So yeah, having to explain what an “automotive writer” is gets on my nerves. Yet when you say something about journalism people conjure up thoughts that maybe you’re someone important. I’m most likely of no importance to a lot of you throughout your average day, but my mommy says I’m really good.

Now it’s time for my viewpoint: Journalism is in no way dead. Unfortunately, the crop of morons that call themselves “journalists” are sadly mistaken -potentially myself included. I remember when I first walked the halls of the LA Auto Show in 2009. It was my first show as a blogger at the time, and I was flabbergasted. I couldn’t believe that right before my eyes I was meeting guys like Matt Russell, at the time head of Motorsports PR for BMW NA, now the head of M NA, Alpina NA, and BMW Individual NA, and someone I call a personal friend. Then there were guys like Matt Stone of Motor Trend, Bob Long of Motor Trend radio at the time (I now produce Bob at auto shows thanks to that first meeting), and then Charlie Vogelheim and Josh Hancock, both from Car and Driver radio in those days. But I was definitely not one of the young crop I roll my eyes at now. Not because I don’t care to associate with them, but because I was far more professional and passionate. I had opinions, and I wanted to find the facts to back them up. I was starving for truth in the auto industry having been a car salesman and seeing the lies and deceit in its many parts.

I’ve met many more people in the industry since then, and many of whom I can call my friends. Each and every one has inspired and taught me something different.

I saw two guys that appeared to be skaters with hoodies, backpacks, and the semi-backwards caps that are just hanging on to their heads by a simple strand of hair. Now if you dress like this, or you like this style, go for it… I couldn’t care less. But, and this is a big one, DO NOT COME TO AN AUTO SHOW DRESSED LIKE THIS. You get absolutely no respect, and you make the guys that are there to provide credible information and feedback to the buying public look bad.

All of the guys I mentioned above have had a profound effect on me since joining this industry, but always made me want to do what they did way before I started RawAutos. And so, it’s because of them I’d be happy if someone called me a journalist, yet I won’t go looking for it. At the end of the day it’s the relationships I’ve made in this industry that have helped my enthusiasm for the industry and the automobile as a whole; sharing the key ingredients that make up what we all love, and what people go to a dealership to drool over and/or spend their hard earned money for. That, my friends, is why journalism matters, and why it will never die.

Be tenacious, but be smart. The realest of real automotive journalists can be read and learned from here: http://www.caranddriver.com/search/all/author/DAVID+E.+DAVIS+JR.

[Photo taken from: Tobby News]