february 2008 newsletter

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the road ahead

At the moment most reporters do not think blogs help the quality of their work but they do speed up the availability of news, according to a survey by Brodeur reported in Research Briefs.  But maybe beatblogging can supply that quality. is a collaboration between 13 news organizations from around the country and www.NewAssignment.Net to figure out how journalists can use social networks to improve beat reporting.

As described by NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen, “Beatblogging is a simple project testing a single idea: Maybe a beat reporter could do a way better job if there was a “live” social network connected to the beat, made up of people who know the territory the beat covers, and want the reporting on that beat to be better.  That’s the entire idea—so far. Beat reporting with a social network: can we get it to work?"

And  then there is Shawn Smith who thinks blogs are one of the “4 must-use web tools every journalist should learn and live by”. This is also the title of a summary of a talk given by Shawn at a Michigan State University journalism class on computer-assisted reporting. And the other must-haves are: Twitter,, and Google Reader.  A brief explanation of each and why is available at:

Custom Publishing (Jeep, MyFord, etc.) is marching across the magazine scene according to Advertising Age. Only now it is better labeled “Custom Marketing,” according to Wendy Riches, Exec. VP at Meredith Publishing Group, one of the forces in the field. She told the trade paper:  "That's because what used to be custom publishing now includes word-of-mouth, the internet, e-mail newsletters, mobile alerts, deeper database crunches and complex behavioral modeling.”  Revenue in the field jumped to $37 billion in 2006, up $15 billion from 2004.

According to the Newspaper Association of America (NAA), the average monthly unique audience figures for newspaper websites grew by more than 3.6 million in 2007, a record year for the industry and an increase of more than 6% over 2006 numbers.


new roads

John Grafman has announced AutoDesignO, the Automotive Design Organization, an association of design studios, and industry professionals that help to staff and facilitate the development of production and concept vehicles. The Organization is dedicated to the highest ideals in automotive design. This is an all-new professional association dedicated to promoting improved business relations, communications, and information exchange within the design industry. Members include staff and freelance designers, modelers, fabricators, engineers and similar design professionals, as well as design and management representatives from vehicle manufacturers, industry suppliers, aftermarket companies, consumer groups, governmental bodies and other motoring-related firms and organizations. John sees AutodesignO as a perfect conduit for the media to connect to the auto design industry. For more information, check out the website  or contact

Peter Frey has announced two new features for his website: is a unique internet site that allows anyone to post a photo of a vehicle and have it rated as Hot or Not on a scale of 1 to 10 by other visitors to the site. . . . AutoBuddies ( is a new application that can be downloaded by Facebook users and is a way for members who are auto enthusiasts to network with similarly-inclined friends.

Tina Gaudoin will edit The Wall Street Journal’s new high-end lifestyle glossy magazine, Pursuits.  It is slated to debut in September, followed by a December issue and then become a monthly thereafter, focusing on lifestyles of the wealthy.  Gaudoin is assembling a team of journalists and can be contacted at WSJ’s main office (212-416-2000). Or, presuming the company’s email formula: . . . Automotive Rhythms TV will provide exclusive auto video content to VEOH Networks a video hosting service on the Internet.


the tom-tom

Autowriters.Com invites readers to submit their own Clog (Online Column). Your reward, a byline and an audience of your peers .
We’ll acknowledge all contributions, queue them and use the one considered the most pertinent at the time.

Newspaperman, PR executive and consultant Tom Houston offers his opinion on the departure of Jason Vines and subsequent downgrading of PR at Chrysler Ltd. As with all volunteer Tom-Tom rants, raves or rambles, the opinions expressed are those of the writer.

Jason has landed. Again.

This time Jason Vines, the most peripatetic of Detroit’s automotive public relations executives has docked at Compuware, the Detroit –based software builder.

So it’s out of the auto business and into software for Vines whose PR career began at Chrysler Corp. and wound through Nissan, Ford, Daimler Chrysler, Chrysler Ltd. (no fault of Jason’s) and thence to Compuware.

It seems that Vines walked out of Chrysler’s HQ in Auburn Hills, Michigan, after a disagreement with Bob Nardelli, the former Home Depot chief who now heads Chrysler Ltd.

The guess is that Vines and Nardelli didn’t agree on how public Chrysler Ltd. should be. Chrysler Ltd. is a privately held company and doesn’t have to do all that noisome public reporting a publicly held company does. Another good guess is that Vines left a pretty fair chunk of change on the Chrysler table when he walked out.

It would appear that Nardelli doesn’t think much of PR anyway because, no sooner had Vines left, than Nardelli turned the leadership of PR over to the company’s Human Relations geniuses.

How dispiriting that must be to the PR pros Vines developed during his tenure at Chrysler and upon whom Vines heaped praise when he was elected 2005’s “Communicator of the Year” by the Detroit Chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators.

I don’t know how many reporters covered the home improvement store industry on a day-to-day basis, but in Detroit there are about 100 reporters covering every breath ranking auto execs take and every decision car companies make.

My suspicion is that Nardelli doesn’t like talking to the meddlesome media and even though he’s hired press-savvy Jim Press from Toyota, as Vice Chairman and President to run Chrysler product development and sales, those 100 reporters still want to talk to the boss man.

Press reports over the past week – quoting Chrysler executives other than Nardelli—have Chrysler drastically simplifying its model line and reducing the number of dealers.

Seems an ideal time for a seasoned PR executive to be getting Chrysler’s vision out to the car-buying public.  Who better than the experts in health care plans?


autowriters spotlight

After two laps in an outdoor pool followed by a six mile run over a frosty western Colorado moonscape, tight roping across a gulley on a narrow beam and hauling herself up a dangling 18-foot rope, Sue Mead smiled and asked “What’s next?”

Autowriters Spotlight: Sue MeadAlready an established chronicler of off-road vehicles and adventures, it was her grit and grin in the try outs that earned her a spot as the first female journalist on America’s team for a two-week Land Rover competition in the jungles of Borneo. Since then she has participated in three more of those competitions as well as the Arctic Circle Challenge ‘95, the Tip to Tip Challenge ‘96, and the TransAmerica Challenge ’97, and was a co-driver in two winning Baja 1000 rides and in the Paris-Dakar-Cairo 2000.  She was at the starting line of this year’s Paris Dakar Rally when it was cancelled due to terrorism threats and, as noted in her recent Off-Road Motorsports Hall Of Fame induction, she has accumulated enough off-road miles in 62 different countries to circumnavigate the globe in dirt.  Her work has appeared in dozens of publications and she has authored three books and raised one daughter, Brooke.

Sue got her start in journalism as a part-time writer/photographer for New England newspapers and as a stringer for the Associated Press. She added freelancing for off-road magazines, specializing in four-wheel drive – a niche that few females had explored at the time and found it or made it, “the answer to my prayers to use writing and photography skills as a means to travel the globe and to have an ever-changing “view from my desk.”

In return for her chance to see the globe she works to bring hope and health to parts of it in great need. She corralled a library’s worth of books and persuaded BMW to help fund construction of one to house them in Tixfusene, South Africa.  Following Hurricane Katrina, she joined a Hummer’s Owner’s Group Prepared for Emergency (HOPE) and made six trips to Louisiana and Mississippi to bring medical aid and supplies to survivors in remote areas.  After being thwarted by terrorists in the Paris-Dakar Rally, she has resolved to do more, telling her local paper, The Berkshire Eagle, “My hope for the future is that we can rid our world of radical terrorists and increase the number of radical peacemakers.”


road signs

Research Briefs reports that 85%of the world’s online population has used the Internet to make an online purchase, increasing the market for online shopping by 40% in the last two years, according to a Nielsen Online Global Survey

Yet, while the online market is growing and consumers are spending 30% of their media time online, marketers are investing but 7.5% of their budgets in online marketing initiatives according to Media Post. Conclusion: money is going to flow by the bucket full to the Internet and this means opportunity for auto writers to build an audience. However, manufacturer web sites are not the preferred online information source for car buyers.

According to blog, a BurstMedia survey revealed: “Consumers who are in the market for a car go online for information—but not to automobile Web sites.  That preference also carries over into advertising: Online advertising for cars works best on Web sites that have nothing to do with automobiles."

On the other hand, Wooden Horse News reports a new trend in magazines that one promoter believes will bring advertisers back to magazines and, thus, create pages for writers to fill: barcodingCar and Driver published more than 400 links in its late December annual Buyer’s Guide, according to Wooden Horse.  Each car in the guide had a corresponding barcode linking to a microsite with pictures, reviews and a link to the full road test.

Users download software from Scanbuy to access the material. As reported by Wooden Horse, Scanbuy CEO Jonathan Bulkeley believes, “barcodes could be ubiquitous within the next three to five years . . . and bring readers back to print.” . . . However, Source Interlink, which recently purchased Primedia’s dominant array of car magazines is planning to take 40 million magazine copies out of circulation, as reported in foliomagazine, although this may be an internal correction of what amounts to Chrysler’s old “sales bank” practice of producing more than the demand.


pit notes

To clear up possible misunderstandings about Isuzu’s future in the U.S., Chip Letzgus writes, “Isuzu Motors America is not going out of business.  The company made the decision to discontinue the distribution and sale of passenger vehicles in the U.S. effective January 31, 2009, but that will have no impact on our parts, service or warranty operations.  Isuzu will continue to have a network of dealers nationwide to service our Isuzu owners.  Of course, this decision also does not affect Isuzu Commercial Truck of America, a separate company that will continue to distribute the most popular low-cab-forward medium duty trucks in the nation.  And Isuzu Motors America will continue to distribute industrial diesel engines. There will continue to be public relations staff -- namely, me . . .” .

A trust fund has been opened for veteran Motor City journalist Frank Washington to help with his expenses while recovering at home but unable to work after a brutal mugging that required extensive surgery and a medically-induced coma to repair.  To contribute, send your check to: Frank Washington Fund Charter Bank One Attn: Ms. Angela Todd, bank manager 633 Notre Dame Grosse Pointe, Mich., 48230 Phone: 313 882-7697 Ext. 22.  The Automotive Press Association is sponsoring a fund raiser for Frank, Tuesday, Feb. 26 5-7:30 pm, Seldom Blues 400 Renaissance Center # 1, Luther “Bad Man” Keith will entertain. $20 donation. RSVP:  Cards can be sent to him at: P.O. Box 23167 Detroit, MI 48223-0167. Or email him at:

Omni GLH photo wantedCarl Goodwin is searching for a photo of the Omni GLH produced for Dodge by Carroll Shelby.  He would appreciate hearing from anyone with a print or a source for one.  Contact him at: . . . Recognition for top automotive email campaigns put Dodge at the top of a list of 10 selected by Bill McClosky, editor of Email Insider for MediaPost.  Infiniti was second and Ford third. . . . HotrodHotline Newsletter is advising its readers using Comcast to check and see if the provider is arbitrarily blocking emails it considers spam. The publication says Comcast is doing this to avoid adding more equipment to better handle its Internet load.

Immediate Network reported that CHP Publications in Britain has added Auto Italia to its auto portfolio that includes 911 & Porsche World and Japanese Performance.  Also, that a survey of 4,000 participants in four European companies revealed that word-of-mouth advocacy is five times more effective in selling cars in the UK and nine times more effective in Spain, than is advertising.  Yet, two of Britain’s dailies have dropped their motoring sections and two others have named auto editors with no auto backgrounds – one a former food writer.

Bruce Smith’s new towing book, The Complete Guide to "Trailering Your Boat" McGraw-Hill 2007, has just hit the bookstores.  It talks a lot about vehicle tow ratings and the dilemma facing boaters when it comes to what their vehicles can really tow and the meaning of "properly equipped."  Smith’s "Truck Test Digest”, a pickup/SUV-oriented radio talk show, is heard weekends on the Radio America network.

AUTOMOTIVE WHO'S WHO, Inc. is pleased to announce that the content of its North American automotive original equipment supplier database now exceeds well over 18,000 automotive industry key employees and their contact data. . . . The maverick and affordable appeal of Jay Lamm’s LeMons race series for jalopies is being domesticated by the insurance industry ‘s insistence on safety clothing, mandatory main hoop specs and rollcage dimensions. For complete ’08 rules and series schedule, contact

Jim Travers’ new soft cover car book is part of the Smithsonian Institution’s “Extreme” series of publications on various topics and therefore is titled Extreme Cars.  But it is not so much about automobile oddities and rarities as it is snapshots of a century of car culture with attention to “the men and women behind the cars – and behind the wheel.”  “Often,” Travis notes, “the characters associated with these cars are every bit as much of the story as the vehicles themselves.”  Eclectic rather than encyclopedic, Extreme Cars ranges wide with a good-humored appreciation of autodom’s feats, fables and foibles – and much like the smile that links Denise McCluggage’s AutoWeek column photo with one of her gazing out of a press box years ago, it reminds us of what fun it has been. Harper/Collins, 222 pages, full color. is soliciting writers for its all-everything automotive web site.  They write: “Any writers interested in expanding their reach and having their articles posted online on the AutoViewPoint site can email their submissions to  or go to  and click on the "Submit Article" link located at the bottom.”  No mention of remuneration.


lane changes

Barbara Powell is no longer on the auto beat for Bloomberg News. She’s moved from the Detroit Bureau to her home state of Texas and the energy beat in Dallas . . .  It took a little longer than when first announced but Brock Yates and Car and Driver have parted.  In his first column for The Truth About Cars blog aggregation, Yates writes he was told the magazine “could no longer afford my services.”  He promises he will continue to be outspoken on the Internet and invites those who don’t like his writing to stop reading.  For those who don’t and write him back he promises to respond.

Manny Lopez, who covered the Auto industry for the Detroit News is now its auto editor and Jose Valencourt has left to join The Wall Street Journal there. . . . Auto writer Todd Seibt has accepted a buyout at Michigan’s Flint Journal with plans to be announced.  His boss, Carl Stoddard, also accepted a buyout and retired.  Marjory Raymer is the new assistant metro editor and is in charge of the business, auto and Monday Money pages.  She can be reached at, or at 810.766.6325.

After 16 years as editor of the San Jose Mercury News' weekly Drive section, Matt Nauman is now covering clean technology and energy for the paper.  As part of cuts that are ongoing throughout the industry, and with a series of new owners and new editors at the Mercury News, the newspaper moved the auto section from the newsroom to the advertising department.  The paper's real estate section will follow a similar path.  Nauman still covers auto topics related to his new beat -- hybrids, electric cars, biofuels, California emission stories, etc.  He still can be reached at, and says he's doing a bit of auto free-lancing.  He writes, "I might be the only person in the world who is sad about not traveling to Detroit in the middle of winter.”

Lisa Fleming has left Subaru to take the Product News Manager job in Ford’s New York officeMichael McHale has assumed Lisa's duties at Subaru. . . . Dan Engelman has moved to Porsche in Atlanta after a year on the Toyota account in Houston for Stevens/fkm . . . . . Rob Mitchell has agreed to stay at BMW as interim head of PR for several months. Also, Dave Buchko has acquired new duties in addition to PR for BMW motorsports. . . . Peter Hubbard, founder and first president of TAWA would like to return to Texas, the West or Southwest . He presently is in the frigid Midwest and can be reached at 779-348-2090 . . . Charles Cyrill previously with the Greater Cleveland Auto Dealers for eight years, is the new NADA Director of Public Relations, succeeding Jeff Beddows.

Landspeed Louise Noeth is slated to move from California to St. Louis, Mo. where her husband has a new job, but will continue as the chief tub-thumper and fundraiser for the continuing pursuit of the absolute world land speed record begun by missing adventurer Steve Fossett. . . .  Bill Garlin will retire as Global Manager, Infiniti Communications, at the end of February.  Future plans to be announced. His new email contact is: . . . RV Trade Digest and Light Truck and SUV will share Bob Carnahan as publisher and Dana Nelsen as editor-in-chief.


talk back

Andy Schupack challenges the claim in last month’s newsletter that Lola is, “the world leader in race car victories and championships.” He says, “they (Lola) have nowhere near the number of motorsports victories that Porsche has (and Lola doesn’t even make an engine, so they cannot call themselves a race car manufacturer).  Porsche is the only car company that manufacturers race cars right on the product assembly line for general sale to the public.   Also, Porsches have won – by our latest calculations – almost 29,000 races – 23,000 of those by 911-based cars.” (AWCom’s source for the Lola claim did not respond when sent Schupak’s disputation.)

Greg Rager, editor of Mopar Enthusiast Magazine, takes exception to a statement by Bernard Simon in The Financial Times quoted in last month’s newsletter that, "it is impossible to review a car without driving it.”  “Obviously," Rager writes, “Mr. Simon has never heard of the late Roger Huntington.  Roger was one of the premier automotive writers of the Sixties and Seventies.  He was very highly regarded by all the manufacturers (as well as his peers and his readers) for his accuracy and unbiased objectivity when it came to writing road tests of their new product.  He was able to describe the seat-of-the-pants feel of muscle cars of the era like no other before or after him.  But what few people ever knew then - or know now - is the fact that Roger was confined to a wheelchair and never drove any of the cars he so accurately reviewed.  It was all done from the passenger seat - but was as detailed and spot on (often more so) as any writer who had actually driven the cars. We lost Roger in 1989, at age 63 - and his absence has left a void.”

CORRECTIONS: From last month’s Newsletter, it is Julie Hamp (with an “a”), Micki (with a “c”) Maynard and Cary (without an “e”) for the North Carolina town located between Durham and Raleigh which Steve Schutz tells us TarHeel locals say stands for ”Containment Area for Relocated Yankees.” . . . Jeff Johnston offers this quote regarding AWCom’s sniffing at unneeded profanity in submissions to the Tom-Tom clog: "Profanity is the result of a weak mind trying to express itself forcibly."


across the finish line

Tom Lindamood, who won a legion of friends while heading A&M’s Los Angeles office, lost his battle with cancer.  His brother Tim is assembling a scrapbook for Tom’s boys to let them know about their father’s professional life.  He invites anyone with memories or photographs to contribute to please send them to him at


- 30-

Glenn F. Campbell

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vehicle awards list

With the addition of the Consumer Report Top Picks and the Collector Car of The Year Award, AWCom has compiled 91 annual vehicle awards to be won.

 They are not weighted, each being treated as equal in the eventual summary when all have been announced. Most likely there will be more when various class, segment or other distinctions are made.  And, by the time all of the 2008 awards are recorded, the 2009s will be a short breath away.

If you know of an award not listed here please let us know. For those who ask, The Collector Car of The Year is voted on annually by members of the Friends of the National Automotive History Collection (NAHC) which supports the world-famous automotive collection at the Detroit Public Library. They predict the "Collectible Vehicle of the Future" from the year's new American-built cars and trucks.
























 *We need the results when available.


The International Wheel Awards hosted by the Detroit Press Club Foundation is accepting entries until March 15 for this year’s competition in seven categories: Newspaper, Wire/News Service, General Interest Magazine/Special Interest Magazine, Internet, Photojournalism, Television and Radio.  It is open to all journalists, editors and producers.  For entry forms and further information go to, the Individual Communicators Network Web site at or contact Steve Purdy at 517-655-3591, email:





26 Frank Washington Benefit, 5-7:30 p.m., 400 Renaissance Center, Detroit
28 WAPA, Luncheon, Nat'l Press Club, Consumer Reports


4 MPG/IAG Research Luncheon, Auto Advertising Awards, Los Angeles
11 NEMPA's Annual Winter Driving Awards Dinner, Boston Globe
12 APA, Luncheon, SAE Detroit
13 MAMA Luncheon, Chevrolet
15 Deadline International Wheel Awards Entries
19 IMPA New York International Auto Show
Show Kickoff Breakfast, Chrysler
26 Deadline TAWA Spring Challenge Registration
27-29 TAWA Spring Challenge, Texas Motor Speedway, Fort Worth


motoring press organizations

The 14 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.

APA Automotive Press Association, Detroit - John Lippert,
IMPA International Motor Press Association, NYC, Fred Chieco, President -,
MAMA Midwest Automotive Media Association, Chicago -
MPG Motor Press Guild, Los Angeles -
NEMPA New England Motor Press Association, Boston -
NWAPA Northwest Automotive Press Association, Port Orchard, WA-
PAPA Phoenix Automotive Press Association, Phoenix, Cathy Droz, President- 
RMAP Rocky Mountain Automotive Press, Denver -
SAMA Southern Automotive Media Association, Miami FL, Ron Beasley, President,
SEAMO Southeast Automotive Media Organization, Charlotte, NC
TAWA Texas Auto Writers Association, Harold Gunn, 
TWNA Truck Writers of North America, Tom Kelley, Executive Director,
WAJ   Western Automotive Journalists, San Francisco  -, Ron Harrison
WAPA Washington Automotive Press Association, D.C., Kimatni Rawlins, President -

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