National Auto Journalists Association. Almost since the start of this newsletter it has been suggested that we start this. Our response has been “Why? The many excellent regional motoring press groups are doing the job.” Now, the answer is “Yes.” Print publications, particularly newspapers, are slashing staff to offset revenue drops. Gannett is on course to remove 1,000 employees from the chain’s payroll.
The News & Observer Publishing Company is offering buyouts to 40 percent of its staff, including all of the full-time employees in its news room; The Atlanta Journal-Constitution will cashier 85 newsroom employees by the end of October, and, as noted in this issue’s Autowriters Spotlight, The Chicago Tribune is paring its staff.
These are just a few of the widespread draconian measures taken by newspapers and other print publications to stay competitive. Too often those cuts include staff auto writers. This happens despite auto advertisers requesting auto editorial to attract readers and relieve margin-to-margin ad carpets in the auto section. It seems as self-defeating as a baseball team fielding only seven players in order to reduce the payroll.
Nevertheless, auto writers are being let go and there aren’t that many print places for them to land. That means a fair share of them will relocate in cyberspace where they will be lumped with the thousands who, to update Coach Bobby Knight, “can hack with a computer.”
Not all of these transplants as well as many of the qualified auto writers already there are convenient to one of the regional associations. No longer operating under an employer’s aegis, they will need certification, credentials attesting to their professionalism and adherence to ethical standards (19 percent of America’s senior marketers acknowledge placing ads in exchange for news stories); a national organization can have the numbers to make various kinds of insurance, (travel and health insurance), warrant discounts, promote and police press car rules offer a unified voice when and if needed, provide visibility at auto shows.
Your comments and suggestions are encouraged.