When I was asked to write about the future of automotive journalism, I was honored. My blog caught the attention of someone and they asked me to expand on my viewpoints. I enjoyed the chance to speak up.
My earlier article received some interesting feedback and I felt the desire to expand on my thoughts with a piece I wrote a while back.
I’ve been working in and around the automotive industry for a number of years and it always amazes me that there is such a wide variety of abilities in the people who are supposed to be the face to the public and the media. There are people who you will go out of your way to see at every event and there are people you will avoid as if your life (and more importantly, your sanity) depended on it. I remember a woman who worked at Honda that everyone spoke of in only the most glowing terms and there were similar people Subaru and Ford. But unfortunately, it’s the people on the other end of the spectrum that you tend to remember the most.
I was walking around a public car show where a Slovakian kit car called the K1 Attack was shown. As I walked over, I noticed that someone was being interviewed just in front of the car. The videographer was setting up so I quickly snapped a picture or two before they were ready for the camera to roll.
As I walked away, the interviewer tried to impress his interviewee by making some disparaging remark about the audacity of any schmo with a camera, obviously trying to put himself on a plane higher than me. He was obviously younger than me so I was to assume that, unless he had been interviewing people since he was in diapers, I had more experience than him. But because I didn’t have an entourage or a broadcast-quality video camera, I must be one of the unwashed masses. I felt secure enough that I didn’t have to flash the media credentials in my pocket just to make myself feel important.
And because I’m a nice person, I didn’t embarrass this cub reporter in front of his “big interview.”
Now, as I’m reading what I’ve written, I feel like you, the reader, are going to get the wrong idea of me. I love working in this industry. Aside from that rare person, I’ve enjoyed the company of most automotive people (media, PR, and others) that I’ve met along the way. I do not, in any way, want you to think that I think highly of myself, because I don’t.
But when others put me down, I will get a bit defensive.
There’s a pecking order in this industry, and you’re made aware of it quite often. There are precious few people you must bow down to, but you also know that your experience and stature places you on a certain rung of the ladder. Just because you have a cameraman with you doesn’t put you near the top and just because you carry a lowly digital camera doesn’t mean you’re on the ground floor.
If I were to run into you at an event, I would treat you just as you would treat me. If you’re taking a picture, I will step back and help prevent others from stepping into your frame. But I would hope to have you treat me just the same. When someone acts as if they’re more important than anyone else around, they’re not going to get any special treatment from me.
I’ve been surprised by the people who are nice to me and sometimes equally surprised by the people who weren’t.
There was a gentleman from a Washington DC TV station. We ran into each other a few times and each time he would re-introduce himself as having “an old car and a young wife,” and then proceed to show me a picture of his ’59 Rolls-Royce.
Another car show, another DC personality. I was fighting through a crowd at the New York Auto Show, looking down and trying my best not to step on anyone’s feet, when I caught a glimpse of a nametag. I read “John Harter” and I immediately remembered that I watched his on-air road tests on WJLA. I told him that I watched him every week and he replied by joking that he thought only his mother watched.
I was reporting on an awards ceremony where a rather famous and prolific automotive writer was honored. After I took his picture, I told him that he had authored the first automotive book I was ever given. He is quite the writer so he started to name off some of his most important works, but I just answered no. When I named the book, he laughed and said, “the funny thing is, I don’t remember writing that one.” Apparently, the book had been culled together from various pieces he wrote so he never specifically sat down to write that book, but we had a laugh about it.
These are the people you want to meet. These are the people who make the automotive industry so dynamic and interesting. From the most experienced CEO to most-knowledgeable historian to the private car collector to the budding enthusiast, there’s nothing quite like the automotive world.
I wish I could introduce you to some of the people I’ve met along the way. Some are funny (intentionally or not), some are scholarly, many are respectful, and all add some color to the world. As much I would love to ramble on and on about all of the people I have met over the years, I’d also like to hear about the people I have yet to meet or, sadly, the ones I will never have the honor of meeting.