Robert E. Calem is in this month’s Autowriters Spotlight
because his career reflects how the interplay between the fourth
estate and the Internet has changed what he still dignifies with a
Writing has always been a solitary endeavor, but when I began my
career nearly three decades ago (in 1986) Journalism was a group
effort. Reporters researched and wrote, editors edited,
fact-checkers checked facts, photographers took pictures, and
graphic artists put everyone else's efforts together — along with
advertisements sold by publishers — on printed pages. The ultimate
aim of all of this activity was to build the publication's brand.
Now, it seems to me, Journalism itself is a solitary endeavor.
Reporters no longer just research and write; they also take
pictures, shoot video, and use their personal Twitter and
Facebook accounts to promote their work to an audience that
follows them individually. While they may work for publications they
do not own, and still in the end help to build those publications'
brands, they are in a very real sense independent and building their
own personal brands as well. Undoubtedly, the Journalists who have
the strongest personal brands are best prepared to survive the loss
of a job or succeed in the search for a new one even as their
employers' brands collapse.
So, after 23 years of flying solo as a freelance Journalist, I have
finally taken the first step toward a truly solitary career: I've
launched my own website and, with it, my own brand.
This was easier than I expected — and also just as difficult.
My entire career had centered around technology, but as a reporter
not as a creator.
Soon after graduating from McGill University in Montréal with
a degree in English, I started my Journalism career as a freelance
contributor to a trade magazine covering video graphics and special
effects, and this led to my first full-time job as a founding editor
of another trade magazine covering consumer electronics, which led
me to the role of top editor at a third trade magazine that I helped
to start — this one about consumer electronics for home offices.
Next came studies for my Master's degree in Journalism from
Columbia University in New York, and then a job as the
technology editor at a financial newswire. When that newswire folded
during the economic downturn of 1990, I began freelancing.
That wasn't my intended career path at first. I had been looking for
full-time employment again, but the Journalism industry was
contracting and I found no openings. Many editors I knew offered
freelance assignments to help keep me afloat, however, and I soon
had no reason to continue my hunt for a staff job. I was busy
covering a beat I enjoyed (technology), earning accolades from
editors in the form of ongoing assignments, and earning a living
I also was evolving with the changing media landscape. In 1995, the
World Wide Web emerged as a commercial entity and a
publishing medium, and I pursued it as such. Already a regular
contributor to The New York Times newspaper (mostly to the
Business section's technology coverage), I switched to reporting for
The New York Times on the Web (nytimes.com) when it launched that
year, covering technology and the Web for the CyberTimes
section. That continued for several years and led to constant work
contributing to other major publications online, including The
Wall Street Journal Interactive Edition (wsj.com) and
In 2004, when BMW started offering Bluetooth as a
dealer-installed option, I took this as an opportunity to meld my
career covering technology with my passion for automobiles, and I
started regularly covering car technology. I also gained new outlets
for my autos coverage, including Edmunds.com.
Meanwhile, I have been reading some of the leading blogs that cover
consumer electronics and autos, and I have sensed that the career I
love is becoming a relic of the past. Their stories are badly
written and superficial — often only lightly researched or entirely
based on press releases. They are a poor imitation of traditional
Journalism. Yet these are among the most-highly-trafficked
publications online, with huge international audiences.
Thus, I concluded last summer that to have longevity practicing
Journalism the way I was taught to do it and want to do it, I would
have to supplement my freelancing with my own publication on the Web
and build my own brand around it.
I bought a URL with my name in it, signed up with a "host" that
would store and serve my webpages to visitors, and researched both
tools for building my website and sources of advertising that would
generate revenue from it. In the nearly 20 years since the dawn of
the Web, I discovered, website building had become easier than I'd
expected. Software to quickly create and set up a site is cheap or
free. Third parties supply the ads that provide the revenue.
By last fall, I had built the site in my spare time, replete with
sections and subsections. In February, having produced an initial
batch of stories, I finally launched it.
Now open to visitors at
www.robcalem.com, the site comprises five sections to span
the range of topics I cover regularly plus any other subject that I
think will interest readers: Autos; Devices (which could be anything
from iPods to high-tech refrigerators); Apps; Sports Tech; and
Random. Also, each of those sections contains three subsections:
Features; News; and Reviews. Moreover, every article on the site is
new — not a revision or republication of my work for other outlets —
and each has the depth, breadth and clarity usually associated with
an excellent newspaper or magazine article.
I deliberately did not create a typical blog filled with short
stories written in a colloquial or stream-of-consciousness style
that emphasizes the writer's opinion or personality over the facts.
It won't be easy keeping my site filled with fresh, high-quality
content, but I'm hoping that my effort to do this ultimately will
attract and retain a sizable audience of interested, appreciative
Ad revenue grows only with audience size, of course, and so far both
have been small.
Nonetheless, even as I confront challenges I never faced as a
Journalist before, I remain hopeful that there still will be a
market for well-written and informative examples of good
old-fashioned Journalism for decades to come. I know there will be a
mac's detroit dispatch
Assessing what really counts in the ratings game
Is bigger better? One would question answers to that the question now that Automotive News and Ward’s Reports have released their data on the “TOP” dealership groups. First off, there is a big gap on how the 17,000 U.S. dealers are chosen for the “TOP” dealer medal.
Lexus Holds Gold Medal in Luxury Set
Amid all the clamoring among pursuers of supremacy in the luxury-car market, none retains more pluses than Toyota’s Lexus brand.
From the No. 1 perch atop the premier brands, Lexus has established a reputation of excellent never really challenged-either by Nissan’s Infiniti brand over the past two decades since either brand was launched, or by the older German cars-Audi, BMW and Porsche.
Revving Up With Chrysler (of all Brands!)
At long last, Chrysler Group is drawing accolades for new-car performance and winning back business for police patrols. Chrysler’s often-panned 300 and its sibling Dodge Charger are being lauded by nothing less than New York Times auto reviewer Lawrence Ulrich, who in the March 17 edition writes that the tweaked line of 300s raises horsepower on V-8 models to 470 and the more economical V-6 to 363.
Click here for all the
Design director Richard Baron writes: "Recently left Road &
Track after 30 + years. Pursuing a variety of freelance publishing
projects. Currently involved with Porsche Panorama magazine as
well as working on a major automotive history book project, soon to be
published. Also work with developing 'Life With Cars' radio
program, soon to be launched in Seattle. Washington. Thank You!" He can
be reached at: Richardbarondesign@gmail.com or 714-404-8036 . . .
Barbara Terry sent along a slide presentation describing a new facet
of her automotive communications career: Public Relations services.
Based on her success in parlaying her automotive know-how and skills to
recognition in all forms of media and dozens of sponsorships, she’s now
offering to help others realize the advantages of a well-conceived PR
plan. She can be reached at: 310 968 4566 or
Dan Gray writes about a new video series he plans: "Hi Glenn -
Many thanks for the fantastic job you do with the Autowriters
Newsletter!" I've launched a crowdfunding
Kickstarter for a new video series, "Ain't
Fuelin'!" This new series seeks to answer the question: 'Is it
possible to improve the fuel efficiency of an older car with simple
aftermarket bolt-ons and proper maintenance? If so, to what degree?
Small incremental changes add up. I'm betting that we can increase
highway fuel efficiency by 10-20 percent by: performing a full synthetic
fluid swap, installing a set of low-rolling-resistance tires &
lightweight alloy wheels, bolting-on a set of lowering springs, applying
small aerodynamic tweaks, and plugging in an OBDII driver feedback
device. You may have heard that President Obama is calling for an
additional 2 Billion Dollars to fund advanced vehicle research for new
cars. That may be all well and good, but what about the cars we already
own? "For every new car that's sold in America each year, three used
cars change hands. If we could incrementally improve the fuel efficiency
of the iron that's already on the street?
We need to find out:
Ohana Road, Hawaii's award winning automotive infotainment TV show is now
Hawaii's newest radio entity NBC Sports Radio AM 1500 has slotted
Road to kick off Saturday, 11 -12 a.m. starting April 20, 2013.
The show will be repeated Sunday's 9-10 a.m. Produced / Hosted by
Bill Maloney and Island Driver TV's Ed Kemper and sponsored
by Honolulu Ford Lincoln the one hour show will feature fine
tuned segments on: New car profiles, local auto events hosted by racing
lady Shelley Wilson, Classic car auction reports live from
Newport Beach, Ca with Kelley Blue Book editor Phil Skinner,
historical automotive flashbacks hosted by Dale Payson, auto
industry reports and motor sports updates. Many movie, TV and
sports celebrities will appear via their appearances on Ohana Road TV.
In mid-April the program will be available world wide via streaming
video on NBC Sports Radio web site.
Bloomberg Pursuits, a glossy, luxury magazine, is increasing its
frequency from 2 to 4 times a year. New editor Ted Moncrieff,
says his moneyed readers like stories that go behind the product to the
awards and events
Third Jerry Flint Scholarship Awarded February 22 the Overseas
Press Club Foundation presented 14 scholarships and internships to
graduate students of journalism who intend to become foreign
correspondents. One of the scholarships is named in memory of automotive
journalist Jerry Flint. Kate McLeod, Jerry’s wife, founded
the scholarship in memory of Jerry in 2010 to honor Jerry’s
contributions to journalism. The scholarship was endowed in record time.
This year, winner Valerie Hopkins, 25, who graduates from
Columbia Journalism program in June, heads to Belgrade on an
internship with Reuters. When McLeod thanked a Reuter’s editor
for supporting Valerie, he said, "We’ve never had anyone in the bureau
before who speaks the language." Before entering graduate school,
Hopkins reported from Bosnia, Herzegovina and the Balkans. "I traveled
there for summers 2008 and 2009, and lived there from Feb 2010-Aug 2012.
I speak Bosnian/Serbian/Croatian, which are variations of the same
language," says Hopkins. She also has a knowledge of Spanish and
Russian. Hopkins, who grew up in the Voice of America newsroom
where her mother worked, was one of 14 who won scholarships/internships
out of a field of 174 applicants. Other scholarships awarded by the OPC
Foundation are named for some of the most influential names in
journalism history including I.F. Stone, H.L. Stevenson,
Walter Cronkite and Flora Lewis. Two winners have preceded
Valerie: Natalie Bailey, the first scholar to win, is freelancing
in New York; Rachel Will is in Phnom Phen. "I wasn’t sure I would
get any support for a scholarship in Jerry’s name," says McLeod. "I
found out pretty quickly how well thought of Jerry is."
||From left: Mateo Hoke, Jacob
Kushner, Jad Sleiman, Stephen Kalin, Valerie Hopkins,
Christopher Harress, Patricia Rey Mallén, Frederick Bernas,
Marina Villeneuve, Tom Finn, Justine Drennan, Anders Melin,
Xiaoqing Pi, and Adriane Quinlan
"An Evening With Brian Redman" April 18 in Long Beach, Calif.
prior to the running of the Toyota Grand Prix will honor the more
than 40-year racing career of the veteran sports car, Formula One
and F5000 driver. It is the Road Racing Drivers Club's
fifth annual banquet honoring a legend of the sport and the presenting
sponsor is Firestone. For more information and tickets to the
event, contact: Jeremy Shaw at
firstname.lastname@example.org . . . . Also occurring on April 18 in the L.A. basin
is the Petersen Museum’s first "Alternative Fuel Symposium."
The symposium will feature three different panel presentations and
discussions. It runs from 1:00p.m. 5:00p.m., followed by a reception.
For more information contact: Chris
964-6320 . . . The 1936 Duesenberg SJN (Supercharged) and the 1968
Ford GT40 "#1075" won "Best In Show" honors at the 18th annual
Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance the weekend of March 9 –10. . . .
Automobile industry insider and author/historian Karl Ludvigsen
will speak about his experiences in the worlds of cars and racing at 1
p.m. on April 13 at the International Motor Racing Research Center,
Watkins Glen, NY. The free talk is part of the on-going Center
Conversations speaker series and is open to all. . . . . . Registration
is open for the August 5-8 CAR Management Briefing Seminars 2013.
For more information contact: Lisa Hart at 734.929.0465 or
email@example.com . .
.Just in case you, like AW.Com, did not know there is a Federacion
Internacional de Periodistas del Automovil (FIPA: International
Federation of Automotive Journalists), there is. It is headquartered in
Guatemala. Its members and the Interamerican Automotive Journalists
Federation (IAJP) that extends to more than 20 countries, selected
the Mazda CX-5 2013 CX-5 "SUV of the Year for the Americas."
Michael Taylor, former auto editor at the San Francisco Chronicle, is
now writing new-car reviews and other car-related items and features for
Hearst Newspapers’ National Cars Blog, which goes to the big media
company’s 15 dailies, including the Chronicle (blog.sfgate.com/topdown).
Michael can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org or telephoned at 510-653-7810
in Berkeley, Calif. . . . . Michael Dobrin, whose PR agency, MDPR,
and Chrysler on the West Coast for 25 years, has set
up offices in Soquel, CA, and taken on a number of new motoring
accounts, including the Hillsborough Concours d'Elegance, "the longest
continually running concours in the world" and Bob Dron’s Delta Diamond
Farm, a motoring destination and events center in the heart of the
vast Sacramento River Delta. His contacts are:
2901 Park Ave, Suite B-6
Soquel, CA 95073, (831)464-8824 (510)693-9701 (cell) . . . Cision reports the
International Herald Tribune will be renamed
International New York Times in fall 2013. In other Times news, its blog "Green" which included autos in relation to environmental matters
in its coverage, has been axed. Also, from Cision, the Washington
Examiner will cease as a daily publication mid-June and become a
consumer digital platform and business to business weekly magazine two
days later. . . .Ricky
Beggs has been
named sr. vice president and editorial director of Black
Book, a daily, timely and independent source of auto pricing information. No contact information provided but we would try:
. . . .John McDermott has replaced Stephen Williams as the
Age automotive reporter.
Reach him at: email@example.com. He requests no voice mail, Email
only. . . Jason
Cammissa made it to the West Coast but no longer works for Automobile. .
. . Tony and Michelle Hamer, who pen About.Com’s Classic Car Guides have
a new email address: firstname.lastname@example.org . . . .
Matt Emery is no longer at Beckett Media and is now
freelancing. He can be
reached at email@example.com or 714-299-3578 in Anaheim, Calif.
. . . . Photo-Journalist Chris Petris in Sanford, Florida has a new
email address: firstname.lastname@example.org . . . .Former
technical editor Doug Newcomb (picture-r) is now freelancing and can be emailed at:
After eight years with Hemmings Motor News, Associate Editor
David Traver Adolphus is leaving for the freelance life, at least temporarily.
He will be continuing as Program Manager of his automotive nonprofit,
The Road Home http://www.theroadhomeusa.org/, but is open to
assignments. He is looking forward to finally being able to accept his
first ever junket. His contact: email@example.com.
Our apologies to a number of persons who wrote us with
corrections or comments but did not hear back or read theirs
in one of our issues. A computer glitch stored a number of
readers’ letters from way back. The oldest, arrived last
October from Automobile Magazine president and
editor-in-chief Jean Jennings, but didn’t appear on our
screens until March. She corrected our description of her
Re: October 2012: New
"Tweaking your copy!"
"Love following the industry on Autowriters, and thrilled that
you gave our new venture a plug. A couple of notes:
www.JeanKnowsCars.com isn't a blog but a fully realized website,
heavy on the video. Also, I won't be in Tribune newspapers, I
will be contributing an automotive service segment weekly to the
Tribune TV syndicate. Lots of video, guys! Have a look!
Hi From Down Under
For 12 years I had the great privilege to be able to work and
earn a living in the USA at Jaguar and Bentley. I made many,
many good friends, whose company I miss, having retired back to
Australia. Thanks for the newsletter which helps me keep up to
date on events and old friends. If any of them plan to vacation
in Australia, I'd love to hear from them.
36 Lakelands Drive
MERRIMAC QLD 4226
Pacific Coast Dream Machines Show
Bruce Hotchkiss regularly sends AWCom his "Spare Parts" column,
so we missed a ton of them. Among them was a plug for an event that there is still time to plan on attending: the 23rd
Pacific Coast Dream Machines Show. Hotchkiss says it is,
"biggest, baddest, most fascinating gatherings of the world's
coolest cars, trucks, motorcycles, aircraft and assorted
contraptions representing every era and style." To be held at
Half-Moon Bay , the show will be April 27-28 from 10 a.m. to
4.pm. You can find an excellent description of what makes the
Dream Machine Show so popular by scrolling down Hotchkiss’ web
site: www.brucehotchkiss.com. You’ll also run across some other
columns that are refreshingly direct and timely. Or contact the
show itself at: 650-726-2328 or
Jerry Kuyper's misinformation
Just a heads-up (in case you haven't already heard), but Jerry Kuyper's description of the
Chevy Volt's motive system in
today's Northwest Herald is way off. He describes the manner in
which the Toyota Prius operates (electric power until a certain
speed is reached, then the gas engine drives the front wheels)
and attributes that drive system to the Volt. HE IS IN ERROR!
The Chevy Volt operates essentially just the same as the vaunted
Fisker Karma Eco Sport he is describing...that is, the Volt
carries its own generator and once the battery is depleted the
generator makes electricity for the electric drive motor (NOT
gasoline power directly to the front wheels).
The Volt does all this for forty-thousand dollars (not the
$116,000 the Karma costs) and has been doing it for three years.
Perhaps Fisker-Karma learned something from Chevrolet (like, how
to copy)? Mr. Kuyper needs to get his facts straight...he is a
car guy, right?
The Piper-Hales 917 LawSuit
"The Piper-Hales 917 court ruling has raised major concerns in
the automotive journalism community. Many things about this
story have an unpleasant smell, and there's lots of discussion
on- and off-line about it. There is a broad consensus that all
the pertinent facts about the case have not been revealed.
So - should any writer ever again ask for or accept an offer to
drive a collector car, especially a race car, to obtain a
behind-the-wheel experience so he or she can later write a
story? For a free-lancer doing a story on spec, I might agree
that "You break it, you buy it" should apply in the event of an
accident that is the fault of the driver, or a mechanical
failure due to carelessness or abuse. I think that there should
be a clear agreement between driver and owner as to liability,
preferably in writing. If a writer is an employee of, or on
assignment from, a publication or website, does the employer
bear some responsibility to support the writer legally and
financially if there's a problem? I have long had a personal
umbrella liability policy, purchased early in my former career
as a radio news reporter and anchor, but I need to pull it out
to see if it would cover me if I found myself in a similar
situation. Several car-enthusiast lawyers of my acquaintance are
parsing this case very carefully; one will present his thoughts
in an upcoming issue of Sports Car Market.
I should also mention that the question of liability may arise
at the race track. If another driver asks if he/she can take a
few laps in your car, are you prepared to bear the cost of
repairs if that person puts your car into a wall? That occurred
a few years ago to an acquaintance whose Porsche was severely
damaged by another driver who was taking a few practice laps
during a club racing weekend. The other person was unable to
make good the damage; the owner ate the entire six-figure cost,
and I assure you that he was not a happy camper. Well, as the
proverb suggests, "Neither a borrower nor lender be..."
The final outcome of the Piper affair will potentially affect
everyone who loves cars and writes about them. I sincerely hope
that the verdict will be overturned. If not, Mr. Hales needs to
know that he has a lot of sympathy among his peers. As for Mr.
Glenn F. Campbell
Petersen Automotive Museum: Corvette
Day(s), Los Angeles, CA
WAJ: The Silicon Valley Car, Danville, CA
Geneva Motor Show: Geneva,
Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance
2013 Electric Powertain Technologies Symposium, Inidanapolis, IN
Luncheon, CATA, Chrysler
Luncheon, BMW, New York, NY
Luncheon, Mazda, Nat'l Press Club
Luncheon, Chrysler, Detroit Athletic Club, Detroit, MI
Buick New York-Pre-Auto Show
Highline Stages, New York, NY
KIA: NYIAS Media Reception:
Sir Stage 37, New York, NY
Greater New York International Auto Show:
Media Days, New York, NY
Greater New York International Auto Show:
Public Days, New York, NY
Luncheon, Ford Design Center, Irvine, CA
Luncheon, Steel Market Development Institute,
Luncheon, New York, NY, TBA
Mazda Motorsports Media Luncheon:
SAE 2013 World Congress & Exhibition:
Petersen Musuem Alternative Fuel
Symposium: Los Angeles,
WAJ: Media Days, Monterey, CA
TAWA: Auto Roundup, Ft.
Luncheon, Michelin Design Panel,
MAMA: Spring Rally, Elkhart
APA: Luncheon, J.D. Power &
Associates, Detroit, MI
MAMA: Spring Rally, Elkhart
Test Days. Monticello, New York
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or phone 435.656.1040.
The New England Motoring Press Association is seeking
sponsorships for its 3rd annual Technology Conference and Awards
Dinner, both to be held at the MIT Media Lab in
Cambridge, Mass. on May 9. The conference will focus on "Balancing
Cafe vs Safety + Consumer Appeal." The awards will include
trophies for the winners of the 2013 New England Winter Vehicle
Evaluations. For more information about the events and
sponsorships available contact NEMPA prexy Keith Griffin
at 860-523-0618 or
The Toyota Green Grand Prix, a showcase of motoring
technology that aims for a cleaner environment, is returning to
Watkins Glen International race course on April 19. The
single-day event will feature a two-stage, fuel-efficiency
competition for pre-registered drivers of alternate-fueled
vehicles, hybrids and traditional gasoline-powered and
diesel-powered vehicles. Individuals, colleges and
universities, car clubs, dealerships and entrepreneurs are all
invited to participate. Entries in the rally are now being
accepted through the Toyota Green Grand Prix website at
www.greengrandprix.com. The deadline for entries is April 5.
SCOTT KEOGH, President of Audi of America, won
WAPA’s Golden Gear Award presented at the group’s annual
gala in recognition of his company’s efforts in expanding diesel
technology in the United States.
Porsche has signed on as a sponsor of the inaugural
Pinehurst Concours d’Elegance to be held May 3 – 5 on the
famed North Carolina golf course. For hotel reservations, call
Pinehurst Resort at (888) 894-4572 and ask for the Concours
rate. For more information about the event and cars to be
featured, contact: Dave Droschak, Droschak
Tickets are on sale now for this year’s United States Grand
Prix November 15-17 in Austin, Texas. Go to:
for more information and tickets.
Registration for the 2013 TAWA Auto Roundup is open to
members in good standing until April 14. The event is April
28-29 at the Texas Motor Speedway. TAWA members can
register online at
San Francisco car enthusiasts can join a "Cars and Coffee"
klatch every Sunday morning at the Blackhawk Automotive
Museum starting April 7. . . . A second Santa Ana Drag
Strip and Main Street Malt Shop Reunion on Saturday, April
13, 2013 will be held at Santiago Park on the borders of Santa
Ana and Orange in southern, Calif. There is no charge other than
fond memories of the strip’s halcyon days.
The 21st Palos Verdes Concours d’Elegance at the Trump
National Golf Club, Rancho Palos Verdes on September 15 will
celebrate the “Age of Elegance” by showcasing some of the
world’s most luxurious classic automobiles, according to
Chairman Peter Kunoth. The featured classes include
Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Duesenberg and the
coachwork of Raymond Dietrich. The Concours will also
recognize the centennial of Aston Martin, the 60th
anniversary of the Corvette, and the 50th Anniversary of
the Lowey Avanti. The PV Concours will be preceded by a
Road Rallye on Saturday, September 14.
motoring press organizations
The 17 regional automotive press associations provide
information and background not easily found elsewhere. If they are too distant for you to attend their meetings,
belonging usually gives you access to transcripts or reports of
these events and other benefits.
American Auto Racing Writers & Broadcasters Association, Inc.
Norma "Dusty" Brandel
President, Exec. Director
Automotive Press Association
Mark Phelan, President
American Racing Press Association
Stan Clinton, President
Dave Kiley, President
Greater Atlanta Automotive Media Association
Davis Adams, President
Tom Appel, President
Motor Press Guild
Los Angeles, CA
Aaron Gold, President
New England Motor
Keith Griffin, President
Nik Miles, President
Phoenix Automotive Press
Cathy Droz, President
Rocky Mountain Automotive Press
Nathan Adlen, President
Southern Automotive Media
Jaimie Flores, President
Southeast Automotive Media Organization
Texas Auto Writers Association
Truck Writers of
Tom Kelley, Executive Director
Western Automotive Journalists
San Francisco, CA
Washington Automotive Press Association
Melanie Batenchuk, President www.washautopress.org