The Tom-Tom: Terry Parkhurst: Internet Scammers


 Terry Parkhurst is contributing editor/auctions for Collector Car Market Review. Additionally, he is a contributor to American Rider and Nissan Sport magazine. He has over 30 years writing about automobiles, trucks and motorcycles. His work has also appeared in AutoWeek, Sports Car Market and Old Cars Weekly. You can reach him directly at tparkhurst@hotmail.com


Internet Scammers

Back when animated films were produced using what were called “cells” a character named Wimpy was a stable of the old “Popeye” cartoons. Wimpy was a big fan of hamburgers but never seemed to have much money. His ongoing mantra was, “I will gladly pay you tomorrow for a hamburger today.”

Autowriters.com: Tom-Tom: Terry Parkhurst

Terry Parkhurst

That’s similar to what a lot of automotive websites are offering these days: something for nothing, or at the most, a promise of something for something. Of course, to hear some of them tell it, by asking for something as tangible as money, an automotive journalist is being short-sighted.

Consider the response I received when I asked why only certain “select” contributors would get paid, from one well-known automotive website.

“While I can understand the frustration that someone is willing to provide for free, something that you have been paid for in the past, I don’t appreciate the allegation,” he wrote in an e-mail, adding, “We never promised that we would ever want to hire you or anyone else or pay a penny.”

“We have over 100 contributors out of which a dozen or so are paid contributors, who were brought on board despite not being promised anything, at anytime, until the point at which we decided to ‘upgrade’ our relationship. We are all working very hard to build a great company and would never compromise our values for the sake of making a buck.”

God forbid that values would be compromised by actually paying any or all contributors. Still, you’d think that a website that calls itself “The Web’s auto authority” would be able to find the money.

Then too, there are companies such as Internet Brands, that have two tiers for auto writing. During this past summer, IB ran an ad on Craig’s List looking for auto writers for two of its sites: www.CarsDirect.com and www.Autos.com. They offered the less than grand sum of four dollars for a short item of 150 to 250 words, and $10 for a “long article” of 400 to 600 words. Pay was a flat rate with no expenses.

I ran it by a friend of mine, a longtime veteran of Car and Driver magazine and he blew the whistle on them.

He told me that Internet Brands also owned NewCarTestDrive.com and paid $600 for a full road test; and also paid $250 for a short introductory piece for that same site.

When I brought this up, to the human resources person listed as the contact, by e-mail and telephone, she never responded.

What I’ve taken to doing, is telling people who are offering rates that aren’t worth the time that would be invested is, I live in one of the most expensive cities in America, don’t live with my parents and have over 30 years writing about autos, trucks and motorcycles. It has helped in only one case; where the publisher bumped rates up: from $20 a piece to $50.

In what other occupation would someone be asked to do work for either no money, or at rates that don’t even pay the rent? Of course, this used to go on with print journalism, too; but not to the extent it seems to, in regards to Internet sites. The result cheapens automotive journalism, too.

We get a collection of impoverished and exploited writers who are mere sycophants willing to write whatever platitudes it takes to keep a steady stream of press vehicles and invitations to ride-and-drives.

Somebody needs to tell some of these websites that even Wimpy had to come up with some money if he wanted to get what he felt he needed.

This Post Has 9 Comments

  1. Well, you can rant and rave all you want about not getting paid fair rates for your work, but it’s never going to do a bit of good.
    There is plenty of automotive content out there these days, far more than most people would ever care to read, and that’s why it’s cheap.
    So those of us who continue to write automotive material for mere pennies do it because we enjoy it, not because we expect to make a fine living off of it.
    If you want to make decent money, get a real job.
    Sorry for the harsh assessment, but that’s reality.

  2. Actually Rob, being a journalist IS a real job. There is a distinct difference between the articles published by mainstream press and auto publications and the majority of the TRIPE that is being foisted on readers as journalism. Examiner.com is an example. There are writers making a few hundred a month because their reposted youtube videos get a bunch of hits, but they can’t write their way out of a paper bag, or else they have cut and pasted other articles 200 words at a time in quotes, added a sentence to the top and bottom and called it their own. Same for pirated photos.

    The National Writer’s Union actually set a recommended rate at $1.00 per word as a standard to ensure a full time writer has a shot at a $40k / yr living wage. If you are willing to sell your hard work for pennies an hour, then that is what YOU are worth. It has nothing to do with how much Mr. Parkhurst and myself are worth.

  3. Thank you, Tom for saying some of the things I’d hoped to say myself.

    Rob, I find your comments so offensive and rife of ignorance, I took a few hours to do some other things and try to manage my anger enough to respond.

    Without getting too much into my own situation, allow me to share with you a link to an article that might illuminate the difficulty for someone, such as myself in getting “a real job”: http://www.usatoday.com/money/economy/employment/2009-07-29-oldermales_N.htm

    Last month, a part-time job I had at an auto parts facility, taken to supplement my freelance earnings, when a quarterly (print) publication I worked for, Sport Z magazine, ceased publishing in June of 2006 (a very reliable source of income, by the way), ended; as I was laid off. The department where I worked was dissolved (although frankly, I do believe age was a factor, along with the fact that the facilities manager never knew what to do with a 50 something automotive journalist).

    I am indeed looking at all sorts of possibilities; but it’s doubtful you’d understand, until you perhaps get to that point. If you read the USA Today article, you might. But – here’s harsh – you seem so self-absorbed and ignorant of what is going in America, I’ll let that topic rest.

    What you don’t understand Rob, is that you are a large part of the problem. When guys like you accept money for work – real work, hard work – less than what should be, or especially if you simply work for free, it makes it difficult for everyone in what used to be considered a legitimate profession.

    My sense is that you don’t understand history, or even consider it worthy of your time. But allow me to say that automotive journalism used to be considered nothing more than a schill for advertising; at least at the daily papers. Then, people came along such as the late Leon Mandel or Brock Yates and Denise McLuggage and made automotive journalism a legitimate form of journalism. Wages or freelance payments for such work reflected that fact.

    But now, it seems we’re back to where things used to be, pre-Car and Driver, Road & Track, etc. That’s largely because of people such as yourself, Rob.

    You also benefitted from the struggles of people in organizations such as the American Society of Authors and Journalists, the National Writers Union and other organizations.

    Your comments about journalism Rob, are an insult to writers and photographers everywhere, and to the professions of writing and photography. My contempt for you is complete.

  4. The Newspaper Guild is also notable, as an organization that helped the pay rates, and professionalism of journalists, go up. Back in the days of H.L. Mencken, newspapermen – and it was mostly all men then – oftentimes had no more education than high school (such as Mencken himself) and were paid so poorly, the agressive behavior of journalists of that time – 1900 through 1930s – rivaled that of photographers for tabloids, today.

    There also was less emphasis on accuracy and more emphasis on getting a headline that would suck people into buying a paper – a similar process to what is now occurring with websites. It’s no accident that the sordid story of Monica’s dress was broken by the Drudge Report.

    The challenge is to not allow a similar dynamic to befall automotive journalism.

  5. Wise words! This reality also is true for Automotive designers.
    I guess we all need to get together and fix this on-going problem.

  6. Rob

    Quote from your blog: “Atlanta Auto Beat was started by Rob Douthit, former automotive editor at a major Atlanta daily newspaper.”

    So did you work for free at the major daily newspaper or was that not a “real job” either?

    BTW I noticed you stole one of my photos and posted it on your site without my permission. Should I just send you a bill or would you prefer to talk to my lawyer?

  7. Getting squeezed for free work is nothing new for photographers who are also writers, it’s been going on for years and the only way I have found to navigate through it is to produce the best copy and most intriguing angle for my photos. For those who won’t pay, I don’t play.

    Luckily, at this point in my career, I work because I want to, not have to which makes it easier to blow off deadbeat publishers.

    My more serious concern is the dearth crap commentary that has not been vetted or fact checked. The reader/viewer/listener is duped and we all look worse for it.

    Veracity and integrity are inseparable to any serious journalist.

    The rest are cheap shot wannabes.

  8. Hilarious! The number of typos, misspellings, illiteracies and simple grammatical mistakes in each of the posts above certainly reveals what amateurs today’s automotive “journalists” are.

    Just an example: “…the dearth crap commentary that has not been vetted…” Obviously, there’s a missing “of,” and equally obviously, Landspeed Louise means the exact opposite of “dearth.” Look it up, Louise, if you own a dictionary. Or, better yet, get somebody to vet your copy.

    Yeah, I know…picky, picky, we move at the speed of the Internet and don’t have time to spel rite, what’s the big deal about where an apostrophe belongs, it’s a living language…

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