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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.”
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.