autowriters.com may 2008 newsletter


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LA Automotive Open June 2, 2008

the road ahead

The Washington Journalism Center blog, Ink Tank http://wjcblog.typepad.com/ink_tank/ carried a vision of the future of the press by Jim Jarvis, director of the interactive Journalism program at the City University of New York.

Its premise is that “the black box that used to spit out news for everyone” is being replaced by an “ecosystem” that is very flexible, drawing on many sources and information that come and go over time and create a story just for the reader/viewer.  In this news ecosystem newsrooms will be organized around topics or tags (instead of sections). Stories and topics become molecules that attract atoms: reporters, editors, witnesses, archives, commenters, and so on, all adding different elements to a greater understanding. It may not be the editor or reporter who gathers all these sources, it could just as well be the reader creating his own story.

However, Alistair Croll, blogging at Gigacom, April 6 includes in his description of 10 Ways The Internet (As We know it) Will Die, a way that seems inescapable, “sucking ourselves into a black hole of our own making.” One such possibility, granulized separation that only allows what confirms what we know to enter our silo of credibility.

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the tom-tom

Autowriters.Com invites readers to submit their own Clog
(Online Column).  Your reward: a byline and an audience of your peers.  All submissions are acknowledged, queued
and used at the editor’s discretion. 


Sam Moses is a seasoned writer who covered motorsports for SI, authored two books (working on a third) and has contributed car reviews and features to numerous other print and online publications. He recently launched his own web site: www.Sammoses.com.  It is on cars and other matters and is a welcome respite from the carnival blare encounter too often on the Internet. He has more to say and AWCom plans to interview him for a forthcoming Autowriter’s Spotlight.


The Truth About The Truth About Cars’ Take
on The Truth About Newspaper Car Reviews

Your recent post on www.TheTruthAboutCars.com led me to that site, where I found an editorial titled “The Truth About Newspaper Car Reviews,” by Frank Williams. It made your editor’s note that Truth was “as they see it" just the latch to the Pandora's Box.

The Tom-Tom: Sam MosesWilliams takes a bulb of truth and grows it into a mutant stalk.  The simple truth about newspaper car reviews is that 95 percent of the reporting in the vast majority of them (sometimes 100 percent) could come without ever driving the car. By bleating that TTAC is better because it’s purer than thou, Williams is being aggressively ignorant—maybe from inexperience, I don’t know him. I’ve just read some of the TTAC reviews.  You could fill many issues of autowriters.com with examples of horrible, inaccurate TTAC autojournalism that he thinks is clever and truthful—and I’d cite them if there were room here. They serve no more purpose for consumers, in fact less, than the shallow non-critical newspaper reviews he trashes.

He says that to get information from an engineer is a sign of bias. What an idiot! I ALWAYS try to ride with an engineer (or designer—see my Jaguar XF piece at www.sammoses.com), and have NEVER found them not to be candid, and it ALWAYS enhances the review.  Plus, you get twice the seat time.  As if a 4-hour exclusive interview with an engineer or product or PR person could somehow HURT a review.

I write for www.newcartestdrive.com because its editor, Mitch McCullough, gets it.  Declarative sentences.  For the consumer.  Dry, yes; that’s the price of the pursuit of truth—and I’m not saying it’s always there, either.  Also, btw, there’s NO ONE farther left than me when it comes to recognizing the threat of corporate media and non-critical reporting in pursuit of revenue.

What Williams is saying, is: We at TTAC are too weak to filter out the manufacturers’ spin at launches, and not smart enough to find the good technical information that’s all over the place.  So we don’t go to them.

TTAC ought to just send better journalists to the launches.

P.S. Hilarious irony.  While reading Williams’ editorial (in which he disses Chrysler), a noisy ad for the Dodge Journey popped up and blocked the graph I was reading.


 Tom-Tom rants, raves, rambles and ruminations are volunteered and express the opinions of the writer.

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road signs

Wooden Horse News (mweaver@woodenhorsepub.com) reports: A partnership of three Canadian magazine organizations - the Canadian Society of Magazine Editors, Magazines Canada and the Professional Writers Association of Canada - have commissioned research into the state of the industry. 

The survey states that "The Canadian magazine industry does not have a set of standards for what's expected in the relationship between publications, their staffs and the freelance community.  This includes such things as salaries and fees, contracts and the management of creative rights as well as the various kinds of relationships among staff, management and freelancers."

With the New York Times joining scores of newspapers forced to reduce their staff and top executives voluntarily leaving the Los Angeles Times, two pieces seen recently online are pertinent.  The first is Advertising Age writer Nat Ives’ interview with David Hiller, publisher and CEO of the LA Times.  Asked if the papers new niche products will recapture the revenue that's seeping from the core product?  Hiller responded, "Will it be, quote, as we've known it?" "Absolutely not."  “Can online-ad rates ever match the paper's print rates? "No way," he said.  "Never." 

An unnamed former Times executive was quoted: "I definitely don't think, if all you're trying to do is respond to revenue decline by cutting, that you'll find your way out of this."

Which brings up Alan Mutter’s Blog on JRC. (Journal-Registry Company) Reflections of a Newosaur April 13.  Mutter was formerly with the Windy City’s Daily News and Sun-Times and then the San Francisco Chronicle before becoming a successful Silicon Valley CEO.  He describes how the news company’s strategy of aggregating neighboring newspapers into ever larger clusters and thereby sell advertising more efficiently while lowering production costs failed. 

The company owns 22 daily newspapers and more than 300 non-daily publications.  RC’s share price dropped 99 percent from 2004 to 2008, $21.84 to $0.63.  This despite aggressively reducing expenses: thinner newsprint, cutting staff, salaries and benefits; demanding odometer checks before reimbursing journalists for driving to their assignments and completely filled reporter’s notebook before providing a new one. 

It did produce a $6.3 million 2007 salary for chief executive Robert Jelenic who was vilified by ex JRC employees commenting on Mutter’s financial analysis of JRC.  “His strategy of stripping the life out of dozens of community papers has left the company almost completely without sellable resources in this dark hour.  And his personal vulgarity and brutality will live on whenever former JRC minions gather to recount the worst days of their working lives,” said one. 

Another, "Those high margins and tight newsroom budgets came at a cost – readers”  Or, “The idea that expenses were reduced in these newspapers is just a myth.  The decline in circulation which is a hallmark of most JRC newspapers tell a different story”  And, “Slashing and burning content and circulation in the name of profits is not building value and is not sustainable.  We're seeing just about every newspaper company make the same mistakes now -- cutting instead of investing.  Newspapers need to reinvent themselves on the web and you can't do that with 20% less staff than you had last year.”

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new roads

Evelyn Kanter reports her recently launched blog: www.greatdrives.blogspot.com, is growing.  Key words are car and travel, environmental, hybrids, alternative fuels. auto safety and technology, green travel destinations, money saving tips. . . . Editor Camilo Alfaro reports that impreMedia Website (www.impre.com) and portal for: La Raza, La Opinion, Hoy, El Diario, El Mensajero, La Prensa, Vista and La Vibra launched April 14.  ImpreMedia, he says. “ reaches 2/3 of the Hispanic population and 45% of Hispanic adults."

Steve Saleen has formed “SMS Limited”, Lifestyle Performance Automobiles.  He said: “We are currently developing our Signature Series of ultra high performance vehicles and technical performance parts which will address the new American Muscle Car offerings.” . . . Wooden Horse News reports, NJ TUNERS is a just-released seasonal magazine dedicated to serving the import car tuners of New Jersey.  Every issue features modified Jersey rides, coverage of Jersey events, reviews of products, and tech talk.

Doug Meyer writes about ATV Television and 4X4TV Internet video: “Our goal...is to be the place for both enthusiasts and first-time buyers looking for pertinent and valid information to view quality video reviews of 4x4s, ATVs, UTVs and all the related products.  Unlike conventional television programming, all of our reviews are categorized by content and available on demand.” . . . www.AutoTrader.com  is expanding from pre-owned vehicles to new cars and trucks.

Perhaps taking a cue from National Geographic photo journalist Randy Olson who turned 20,000 photos and hours of video into a Toyota Land Cruiser ad campaign (without conventional advertising), Carl Edwards, Carart@mac.com,  has taken his CarArt photoshop on the road in a completely equipped RV.  He’s offering to absorb the travel expense, lodging involved to shoot ad-quality car photos on location, his or yours. . . . The Detroit-founded and based weekly PBS TV show Autoline hosted by John McElroy has begun an 11-part series exploring the auto-industry and car culture of Southern California, taped no doubt while the Midwest was enjoying ice and snow.

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autowriters spotlight

Autowriters Spotlight: Maureen McDonaldWriting about the human side of the car business is great fun for Maureen McDonald, a 20-year freelance writer, former managing editor of Ward’s Automotive Yearbook and co-author of a soon to be published book, Sirens of Chrome, the Enduring Allure of the Auto Show Models.

McDonald spent the last three years attending auto shows, interviewing historians and rummaging the great stacks of the National Automotive History Collection at the Detroit Public Library gaining insight on the hundred years of shows and the beautiful people that flank the cars. Most enduring jokes? “Do you come with the car?” or “Nice headlights and I don’t mean the car.”

There are tales of models marrying millionaires, a BMW model mauled by a lion, journalists masquerading as show models and human hood ornaments performing tricks for the crowds.

“It is intriguing to combine pop culture, fashion and car marketing into one picture book, to see the impact of carCary Grant in BMW Isetta shows on the nation at large,” says McDonald, a 30 year veteran of journalism and other writing endeavors.  She fell in love with autos when her cousin (no, not Cary Grant) picked her up in grade school in his new BMW Isetta and all the kids on the playground salivated.  She could taste life twice, once in a driver or passenger seat, once again telling others about the experience.

Soon after college graduation she wrote 10-day sales stories as a stringer for the New York Times, finding how the financial world often drives itself by numbers and output. But writing about shiny vehicles, sales numbers and variable speeds got boring. Mark Cocroft, a General Motors PR guy in the Eighties, said too much car concentration could give you narcolepsy. What’s revitalizing? Writing about water cisterns on a new car dealer lot, boutique Beetle restorers, magazine launch parties in a Land Rover showroom and auto manufacturers’ landfills made into shopping plazas or poplar farms. Ways that cars interface with daily living.

In her spare time, McDonald crusades for the continuity of newspapers, a product she’s been reading as long as she’s been dreaming of owning an Isetta.  She despises the flash and blast of Internet ads that cause momentary blindness and unbalance the brain.  Even more aberrant is the “pretty poop” stories that say nothing lest it potentially offend someone that might one day advertise.

Whenever she teaches journalism in colleges and universities she insists students read newspapers, put the papers in hand, smell the ink and paper, let the eyes wander around varied articles and pick up the essence of real stories, real handiwork by talented journalists. Then again webs have “unique visitors” and newspapers have readers. “God bless them, they keep us in paychecks, however meager,” McDonald says. Look for a website soon.

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pit notes

www.SpeedStyleMagazine.com editor Bill Moore, reporting from Indianapolis, where he is spending “the year of May” prior to the big race, advises that the State of Connecticut and John Fitch are working together to resolve the costly oil contamination problem on Fitch’s property.  Also, that in addition to his own reports and photos from Indy, his E magazine is chronicling Fubish Lousewort’s return to the venue as reported by his creator, the Voice of America’s John Birchard.

Warren Brown writing in the Washington Post about the reality gap between what we see and what we get, “What we see in TV commercials and read in zoom-zoom product reviews is mostly fantasy. Some of us might have the wherewithal to buy a super-performance car. But hardly any of us driving in metropolitan America will have the opportunity to exploit its full potential.”

SAMA president Ron Beasley touts online photos of the press group’s “spectacular” April meeting featuring the 2009 Mercedes-Benz SL 63 AMG (www.SAMAonline.org) and says any current press members of other autowriter groups tempted to visit Miami’s sunny climes will be accorded a member’s discount at the group’s monthly meal meetings and special events.  The April luncheon also raised SAMA’s contribution to the Frank Washington fund to $630.00. GM VP Bob Lutz is their May speaker.

The last AWCom heard from Adam Barrera (July ’06 Newsletter: www.autowriters.com/archives), he was an energetic and enthusiastic Junior in the Jack Valenti School of Communication at the University of Houston bent on becoming an auto journalist.  Now just graduated, he asked in a recent phone call if starting out in automotive PR even if only for a company and products he believed in would jeopardize his credibility and ability to switch to auto journalism.  He said he had three offers. AWCom noted that many well-known auto writers, David E. Davis, Jr., William Jeanes and Brock Yates among them, have successfully worked both sides of the marketing street. But, Barrera was reminded, “A PR person is ‘a paid advocate in the court of public opinion.’  Your employer pays you to advance his or her interests - usually, for more than you will make starting out as a journalist.”  So far, in addition to his own site (www.highmilege.org)he remains a Category Editor for Expo TV posting reviews and blogs to encourage car owners to share their experiences with shoppers seeking honest opinions.”

The Motor Press Guild’s fourth annual PR Satisfaction Survey of auto journalists has been sent to U.S. and Canadian auto writers of record.  If you have received your invitation to participate and have questions or if you have not received an invitation and believe you should be included in the survey, contact John Rettie at John@johnrettie.com.  The survey results are valued by all major auto makers as a guide to monitoring their PR practices from year-to-year.

Construction is proceeding apace at New Jersey Motosports Park, so much so that tickets for the summers events, starting with a long weekend race schedule August 7 to 10 are on sale. Check www.njmp.com  for the complete season schedule and photo updates.

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lane changes

SourceInterlink has relocated the offices of Modified, Modified Luxury and Exotics and Modified Mustangs Magazines, thereby cutting loose 17 staffers but retained their respective editors: Peter Tarach, Colum Wood and Huw lestyn Evans to work from their homes. James Walrod, who covered the auto industry with CBS for eight years prior to recent layoffs in Detroit is now freelancing and can be reached in Ann Arbor at jimwalrod@hotmail.com.

Richard Saxton, long time business news reporter for radio in the Los Angeles area has launched a new blog for Edmunds.com's Car Stock Exchange.  He describes it: “My blog is focused on news that relates to new vehicles which have corresponding shares that trade on the Car Stock Exchange, a fantasy game where traders buy, sell and sell short shares with $1,000,000 in play money with the goal of earning more than their peers by not only predicting stock action but first six month sales of new vehicles.”  He can be reached at: biznewsguru@yahoo.com

Veteran bi-costal auto journalist Zane Binder has selected Florida for his new home base.  His email remains the same: opossum@ix.netcom.com. . . . Mark Halvorson has relocated from the Northwest to a custom publisher in Texas but is interested in freelance assignments at: mark@halvorsen.name. . . . David Barnas resigned his Chrysler PR post on good terms, he says, and AWCom awaits word of his promised new email address. . . . Tom Kowaleski, who may not have parted GM PR under the best of circumstances, has rebounded to vice president of Corporate Communications at BMW of North AmericaTom Salkowsky moves from manager of experimental marketing to manager of BMW corporate communications, with responsibility for the BMW automotive brand.

A five-line press release issued by Maserati PR in Modena, Italy announced that Marti Eulberg will become President and CEO of Maserati North America on June 1.  She comes from Jaguar Cars of North America where she was vice president, sales and marketing. . . . Popular Hot Rodding magazine technical editor Steven Rupp has moved to sister publication Camaro Performers. The Camaro magazine has gone from a 6-time frequency in 2007 to a 9-times per year publication in 2008.  Its steady growth required more staff, editor Nick Licata reports. . . .St. Louis Post Dispatch Business Editor, Andre Jackson departed the paper April 8. Daniel Wiese continues as the paper’s print and online auto editor.

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across the finish line

Bob Storck wrote an admirable tribute to prolific racing writer William Neely who died in North Carolina March 25 from complications after heart surgery.  Among his 19 books was Stand On It which introduced the fictional character Stroker Ace, subsequently brought to film life by actor Burt Reynolds“Humpy” Wheeler who was Neely’s competition when he led Firestone public relations and Neely Goodyear’s, was quoted about his rival by Storck: “He was one of the icons of auto racing in the 1960s, when auto racing was really jumping forward by leaps and bounds.”  Neely also pursued an acting career and enjoyed lounging on a yacht once owned by Greta GarboThe family requests any donations be made to Friends of Felines www.friendsofelines.org, P.O. Box 475, Castle Hayne, NC 28429.

Wade Hoyt, Toyota Northeast PR Manager, wrote to express his fond memories of retired GM PR man and hearty IMPA supporter, Bill Winters and advised donations in his memory should be sent to West Cornwall Fire Dept., c/o Patience Lindholm, Box 220, West Cornwall, CT 06796.

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- 30-
Glenn

Glenn F. Campbell
Principal
autowriters.com

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vehicle awards list


CONSENSUS AWARDS FOR 2008

For sanity’s sake AWCom has created its own ballpark of vehicle awards – 2008 models only. This leaves out the 2009 Dodge Journey and 2009 Infiniti FX 50 that won awards in the recent TAWA Spring Challenge as well as Hemmings‘ Muscle Car of the Year, a 1970 Pontiac and the 2007 Dodge Viper predicted to become a classic in time and therefore Collector Car of The Year. And, the Concept Cars of the Year selected by a national panel of journalists from those displayed at the year’s auto shows.

Even so, we’ve collected 243 winners proclaimed by 26 entities ranging from journalist associations, web sites, and magazines to selected panels and research firms. The awards are not weighted. All are treated equally and in the case of ties all are counted as a winner. After all, would an owner brag, “In a ranking of 2008 vehicles by eight different classes mine tied with two others as best in its class.” More likely, “I’ve got a car of the year.”

There is unfairness in AWCom’s un-weighted report. Some evaluators make more distinctions, and therefore more awards, Auto Pacific, for example, makes 78 while Motor Trend names but three winners. Others are confined to specific circumstances such as cold weather or muddy trails. And, no doubt, there are some we have not included and even some compilation errors that we encourage readers to call to our attention
after checking the spread sheet
 and before we make a final report of 2008’s most honored vehicles and manufacturer.
 

awards,honors&events

The NEMPA Ragtop Ramble will be July 10 & 11. Tentative schedule: July 10-lunch at John Lawlor’s, 6:00 p.m. cruise of Boston Harbor; July 11-Depart for Kennebunkport, Maine and a lobster lunch. Out-of-town participants can be picked up at airport.

Motor City Dream Cruise Festival will begin August 8, eight days before the official Dream Cruise and will include car shows, (Green, Lowrider, Classic, GM 100th Aniv) music motorcycle and specialty cruises including a new charity auto carnival event outside of Comerica Park in Detroit.

IMPA has rescheduled the 2008 Test Days for Wednesday/Thursday, September 10-11, thus allowing members and the manufacturer representatives a bit of "breathing" time after the Labor Day long weekend.
 

 

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CALENDAR

MAY

15

IMPA, Luncheon, 3 West Club, NYC, Mercedes Benz

16-18 Monterey Festival of Speed, Laguna Seca
17 MPG, Power Trip, 9:00 a.m., meet in Long Beach
17 Tire Rack, Survival Teen Driving Program, Woodeburn, IN; Wilkesboro, NC; Aurora, CO
20 APA, Luncheon, Detroit Eye on Design
21 WAPA, Luncheon, Smithsonian Castle Bldg., Challenge X (Finish and Media Ride Drive)
24 Second Annual Tribute To Japanese Car Culture, Solano, California Fairgrounds
28 APA/BBK Luncheon, Detroit
31 Tire Rack, Survival Teen Driving Program, San Francisco, CA

JUNE

2

LA Automotive Open, Trump Golf Club, Palos Verdes, CA

3 MPG, Luncheon, Los Angeles, Suzuki
4 APA, Luncheon, Detroit A.C., MPG
4 WAJ, Dinner, Basque Cultural Center, San Francisco, Bob Sinclair
4-5 Ward's Auto Interior Show, Detroit, Cobo Hall
5 APA, Breakfast, Detroit, Harbour Report
11 2008 Edition of Gene Ritvo's Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance, feature film, Charles River Museum, Waltham, MA
21 Tire Rack, Survival Teen Driving Program, London, NH; South Bend, IN

JULY

10-11 NEMPA Rag Top Ramble
 

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motoring press organizations


The 14 regional automotive press associations provide information and background not easily found elsewhere.
  If they are too distant to attend their meetings, belonging usually gives you access to transcripts or reports of these events and other benefits.

APA

Automotive Press Association, Detroit - Katie Kerwin

IMPA

International Motor Press Association, NYC, Fred Chieco, President - info@impa.org, www.impa.org

MAMA

Midwest Automotive Media Association, Chicago - www.mamaonline.org

MPG

Motor Press Guild, Los Angeles - www.motorpressguild.org

NEMPA

New England Motor Press Association, Boston - www.nempa.org

NWAPA

Northwest Automotive Press Association, Port Orchard, WA- www.nwapa.org

PAPA

Phoenix Automotive Press Association, Phoenix, Cathy Droz, President- drozadgal@aol.com 

RMAP

Rocky Mountain Automotive Press, Denver - vince@theweekenddrive.com

SAMA

Southern Automotive Media Association, Miami FL, Ron Beasley, President, ronbeasley@bellsouth.net

SEAMO

Southeast Automotive Media Organization, Charlotte, NC www.southeastautomedia.org

TAWA

Texas Auto Writers Association http://www.TexasAutoWriters.org, Harold Gunn, hgunn@gunstuff.com 

TWNA

Truck Writers of North America, www.twna.org Tom Kelley, Executive Director, tom.kelley@deadlinefactory.com

WAJ  

Western Automotive Journalists, San Francisco  - www.waj.org, Ron Harrison rharr70210@aol.com

WAPA

Washington Automotive Press Association, D.C., Kimatni Rawlins, President - www.washautopress.org


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