The Road Ahead 10.2008

The dilution and decline of auto journalism decried in last month’s Newsletter along with the suggestion that it might be time for a National Auto Journalists Association brought a modest and mixed response. The percentage of readers who weighed in was small and there were no outright Road Ahead: Photograph by: Quilobjections to the idea although IMPA membership chairman Paul Weissler, dismissed the decline in print outlets and the trend to online journalism as nothing to fear. In his full response, the first in our new blog, he states that IMPA has found how to properly vet bloggers who wish to join. That was disputed by one of his fellow members who wishes to remain anonymous but noted the many unknown and presumably un-skilled dot coms at IMPA’s recent test days. And, that he talked to PR representatives in attendance who agreed. Weissler presciently covered that aspect in his blog, suggesting that IMPA membership might help improve the “breed” while improving access to “lifestyle journalism” for veteran auto writers.

Jan Wagner’s view was decidedly contrary and lengthy enough to merit its own separate post. Ted Biederman, recently retired Los Angeles Daily News editor, tried to form a national organization 15 years ago when he was an officer of MPG. He believes a $5.00 fee for journalist members of a regional group would generate the numbers that would appeal to group car and health insurers while avoiding the onerous task of vetting members at the national level.

On the other hand Bill Baker observes: “The whole electronic e.g. internet auto writer blogosphere is definitely a conundrum. The idea of a national accreditation organization makes a lot of sense. I know some of the existing associations have tried to tighten their membership qualifications to weed out the guys with a website from coming to events and trashing cars.” He also suggests a number of benefits to a national organization: extensively cross-referenced single source for all auto journalists; a similar single source for all auto PR types; a member news release service, a means for journalists to identify outlets interested in a particular story or video and a massive “where to find it” resource for all things automotive.

Other comments “A national organization would be great.” – Mike McHale, Subaru of America; “Count me in.” – Jeff Zurschmeide, freelance. “To the point: if there is a national organization that promises to be reasonably well managed… I will join, and I will pay reasonable dues to do so.” – Jeff Vettraino, Sr. Editor-At-Large, Autoweek. Freelancer Larry Dietz believes bottom line pressures have reduced the quality of writing in all print publications and suggests it is time for a top magazine to initiate an auto column. Craig Fitzgerald editor of Hemming’s Sports Exotic Cars notes that the right formula, as evidenced by Hemmings Publications’ overall 12 per cent circulation gain, can counter the downward trend in print popularity.

Gary Grant, a Canadian blogger, emailed high praise of IMPA and posted a long pro-blog comment and noted some difficulties with the Auto Journalists of Canada’s approach.  “Netizen” JGlucker posted a paen to auto writing and David Adolphus invites journalists to check out the Autowriters community he has been building at Meanwhile AWCOM invites you to share your opinion and suggestions for a worthwhile National Auto Journalists Association. Some one suggested it should be named Auto Writers Everywhere:AWE.”