FROM THE GRANDSTANDHo Hum. America’s “Love Affair” with cars is over. Again. Paul Harris, writing in London’s Mail and Guardian renewed the recurring punditry, “The U.S. car industry is lurching into terminal decline. It means a fundamental part of America has died as well . . . America’s tempestuous affair with the car has become a passionless marriage.” It seems the emotions that gave rise to the romance have lost their hormones or transitioned to other objects. To buttress his observations Harris quotes Rob Latham, a popular culture expert at the University of Iowa. Latham reports his students, “no longer see their cars as an essential expression; their Toyotas and Hondas are just vehicles. They boast of iPods or computer games, not their ‘wheels’. They are like walking cyborgs with all these things attached to them. Cars have become functional. They are not statements anymore. Electronics are.” . . . . Ironically, ways to keep the most popular use of these electronics from ending another “love affair,” in this case, “shattering the musical experience” might also help rekindle Americas’ putative romance with cars. They were suggested in a talk delivered by British music authority Dan Hill (www.Cityofsound.com) at a seminar on the future of music held in Helsinki, Finland. Hill believes the “electronics” students love can be used to overcome the numbing effects of the “Great Juke Box In The Sky’s” play lists, shuffle music, paucity of contextual data or listener interaction and absence of tactile or shared experiences – a recipe to kill most love affairs – and shatter the musical experience. He believes that if enjoyment of music is expanded to include reading, seeing, creating participating, sharing and socializing the experience, then the “electronics” that students love can stretch and enrich the experience. Blogs, podcasts, aggregators, DVDs, VODs, intuitive and interactive software, camera phones, digital cameras, web games, sites similar to MySpace or LifeJournal and devices yet to be developed, can enhance, expand, socialize and shape the discovery and experience of music. Why not Cars?
THE ROAD AHEAD“The future of news will only be known by watching where users take us.” – Neill Budd, general manager of Yahoo News. – (AD AGE) . . . John Huey, Time Inc.’s new editor-in-chief, “I think paper media today are more like sailing ships around 1860 – still dominant but enjoying their last hurrah. – (www.newyorkmetro.com) . . . “The traditional monthly car magazines are dead - they just don't know it yet.” – (www.AutoExtremist.com) . . . If so, Robert Farago’s “The Truth About Cars” newsletter with attitude may yet get the wider access to press cars he seeks on the premise that there is no such thing as bad publicity. Or, www.RoadFly.com’s automotive community forum, which recently reached 10,000,000 posts may be the future. (Note “Grandstand” comments above). Hachette (Road & Track, Car and Driver) will digitize all of its publications. CEO Jack Kliger said, “Migrating our assets to new digital platforms will require new strategies for creating content. We’ll need to develop skills and systems that enable print and screen-based resources to be shared. - (Wooden Horse News, which adds: “Writers Check Your Contracts.”) . . . 35% of first-time car buyers shop the internet first. - (Polk Center for Automotive Studies) Newspaper auto classified ads down $175 million for 2004 compared to 2003 and 15% to 20% more as figures for 2005 are reported. – (Wall Street Journal). Would lively Auto Pages bring ads back?
AUTOWRITERS SPOTLIGHTRicardo Rodriguez-Long recently inked a deal to consult and write a monthly column for Randall-Reilly Publishing's Truckers News en Español. He writes an auto review column Auto A Fondo for El Mensajero (San Francisco #1 Spanish newspaper 100,000 circ.) and La Prensa (Inland Empire #1 Spanish Paper 50,000 circ.). He also publishes Auto A Fondo web site and magazine quarterly. The magazine is a 48-page, full-color glossy and has 25,000 circulation. He believes it to be the only Spanish language auto enthusiast pub in the U.S. That may not be the case for long. The number of Hispanic Magazines has grown faster in the last decade than any other category and is still growing. Rodriquez-Long recalls when it was different: "When I started writing for the Hispanic newspapers 20 years ago most of the response from manufacturers was..."they can not afford our cars..." it is interesting to see how things have changed.. I am sorry to say that there are a lot of people getting into our profession just happy to get the perks and have no knowledge of technical writing, mechanicals or the automotive world in general. With so much information available from the manufacturers it is easy to just translate the press release and suddenly you are an Hispanic auto journalist... Besides (three others he names) and myself I am not aware of 'true', qualified, (Hispanic press) autowriters. I am going to post my ASE certificate on my website." He is open to the possibility of an intern who lives in the Los Angeles area (Rodriquez resides in Fullerton) and is proficient in Spanish. "Currently," he reports, "I race (well exercise!) a vintage MGB racer, an 85 Rat RT5 Super Vee, and an F3 Anson."
PASSING SCENETom Madigan, who won the Motoring Press Guild’s 2005 Dean Batchelor Award for Automotive Journalism with his book, "Edlebrock, Made In America," may be on his way to another. He has unearthed a treasure drove of drag racing photos from private collectors that will help him illustrate the interviews and narrative of a book on drag racing he is writing. . . . Leslie J. Allen, former auto editor of The Detroit Free Press is Projects Writer for Automotive News, a new post focusing on “big picture” stories. . . . David Kennedy is now editor of Primedia’s Diesel Power Magazine. The publisher is said to be selling most of its women-dominated Craft titles and focusing on its stable of magazines directed at 18 to 34 year-old males. It recently added The Barrett-Jackson Experience, a new quarterly magazine covering action and the scene at that auction house. . . . Car Stories, a feature film by Northern California-based JuneBug Films, was selected to debut at the San Jose Cinequest Film Festival. It started as project to help writer/director /producer Kari Nevil understand what her racer husband did on weekends he was away. It became five vignettes exploring the sport and the ardent enthusiasts who have made it such a big part of their lives. . . . Before “Dr. Doom” (as Jerry York was referred to by some during his Chrysler days) delivered the bad news and joined GM’s board, there was expert opinion that the company’s chief problem was its PR. Rightly or wrongly, PR vice president Tom Kowaleski took the fall for that. It was on his watch that GM made the Pyrrhic gesture of withdrawing its ads from the Los Angeles Times and journalists in a national survey by The Motor Press Guild rated GM’s PR operation at the bottom. However, that opinion was rampant long before Kowaleski was at GM. . . . Harold Gunn, producer/host of The Automotive Reporter syndicated Texas radio show and GunnStuff.com, has added road tests and other feature writing assignments at Texas Driver Magazine to his portfolio. . . . Miquel A. Sanchez writes, "After 12 years as Car Editor of EL DIARIO/La Prensa of New York, the oldest Spanish newspaper in USA, founded in 1913, I resigned to dedicate all of my time (and passion) to www.autoenciclopedia.com, a project I started in October 2004. During my years at EL DIARIO doing the car section and seven others (you know it is not The New York Times), I was honored with four awards in a row for "Outstanding Auto Section" for large publications by The National Association of Hispanic Publications. I think my project autoenciclopedia.com is a beautiful web site with a lot of information, not only about new cars but about everything with the word car. My first car, while in Cuba, during late 60's, was an Oldsmobile 1953 with a Rocket 88 engine, very easy to fix even for a guy like me, unable to change a bulb light."
GETTING STARTEDJoe Oldham’s response to the aspiring auto journalist who offered to write for free in order to get started and the “perk” of driving the cars, was supported by a number of established auto journalists and one PR pro. Wade Hoyt, Northeast Public Affairs Manager Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. wrote, “When I first joined Toyota's PR staff, I had a request to review cars from a guy who wanted to borrow test vehicles on the strength of inept reviews he paid to run in his local Pennysaver publication. The occasional half-page he paid for was much less expensive than Rent-A-Wreck, much less Hertz or Avis! We still get occasional requests from unqualified and semi-literate reviewers who are mainly interested in the "perk" of free loaner cars. It's the job of conscientious publicists to weed out these pretenders and not dilute their press fleets and budgets with under-performing vehicle loans. Some carmakers allow the vehicle delivery services to book their loans with little or no supervision. This is not only a conflict of interest, but is akin to letting the fox watch the henhouse, and explains how some of these pretenders wind up with seat time and make cars unavailable to legitimate reviewers.” (Formerly Auto Editor at Popular Mechanics, Hoyt worked with Oldham there.) . . . Other responses included Jonathan Linkov’s recollections of the difficulties he had getting started and accepted in IMPA . Paul Weissler, IMPA membership chairman answered: “I am not ashamed of our admission policies and I don't consider them onerous. We expect that our members receive what I have called "bill-paying" money for their work, and if they are applying as journalists, that they provide clips from acceptable sources. With today's proliferation of websites, we often do a lot of digging and asking questions to determine acceptability. Being paid for automotive editorial or PR fits our definition of a professional and IMPA is a professional organization for both journalists and PR. If someone is a car buff who is happy to write for the thrill of the byline, that's fine. But it isn't what IMPA is about, as Joe Oldham (a three-time IMPA president) made clear with his (albeit non-IMPA-specific) comments.” Linkov, who is Coordinating Editor, Autos, at Consumer Reports, suggests, “ Perhaps rather than reinforcing stereotypes and tossing expletives at aspiring writers, the various groups (MPG, IMPA, etc.) can work towards developing mentoring or internship programs? Maybe a positive result is possible.” . . . Jan Wagner, an award-winning San Diego photojournalist who has been writing a weekly “Automotive Matters” column for three years expressed thanks to persons who sent in suggestions that he is using to increase his outlets. … David Zatz, who recalled his struggles to get established in print, using college clips to get into trade publications but unable even as an established auto reviewer to break into newspapers. Now he can pay for articles on his web sites: www.acarplace.com; Toyota oriented www.toyoland.com and Chrysler oriented www.allpar.com. For those submitting material, he cautions: “be sure to mention you are a pro or serious amateur looking for compensation!”
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TO THE PODIUMWAPA
MOTORING PRESS ORGANIZATIONSThe 13 regional automotive press associations provide information and background not easily found elsewhere. If they are too distant to attend their meetings, belonging usually gives you access to transcripts or reports of these events and other benefits.
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