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GM’s Chairman-CEO Rick Wagoner recently was quoted in Advertising Age as telling a convention of Newspaper Advertising Association executives that the company is interested in working with newspapers in the area of advertorials.  Writing them is a living but is it journalism? With the circulation of newspapers and magazines declining and the internet providing nearly unlimited sources of information and opinion about cars past, present and future - most of it for free – that question may be a conceit fewer and fewer autowriters can indulge.  Even if advertorials provide a financial respite from the inroads of thousands of pundits in bathrobes with a computer keyboard and a thesaurus (maybe), words and photos alone are not the future because that medium is no longer the message.  The metaphor is now the message, as a current writer on media (possibly, Bob Garfield, Scott Johnson or Steve Smith) observed.  And, as one of them stated “the dominant medium of every age defines the way humans expect the world to be.”  That takes us to the portals of virtual reality sites where cars of different brands are driven in elaborate life-simulating metaphors.  Articulate writers able to verbally put the a reader in the driver’s seat, convey the feel of the road, handling and other characteristics of a car and help the reader better discriminate what meets his or her needs now compete with skilled animators able to provide that same reader the look and feel of driving that same car in cyberspace. That makes something Marshall McLuhan wrote 50 years ago especially pertinent.  He pointed out that in the Greek fable of Narcissus the lad did not fall in love with himself when he looked into the water of a stream but with his reflected image.  Not a far leap then from driving a Nissan, Pontiac or Scion in Second Life or competing with a Lexus in Atari’s “Test Drive Unlimited” and then visiting a real world dealership to buy what already is virtually yours.


Self-styled Luddite Detroit freelancer Maureen McDonald questions the
results of a survey cited in last month’s issue that reported people tend to
read deeper into an article online than they do one in print.  At least for people
over 40 she reasons: reading online is hard on the eyes, you can read in more
spots than plunked in front of a screen and she believes reading print promotes reading more stories because they are all right there. . . .“Car GuySteve Ford writes on the same subject: “The lead snapshot on web content was particularly compelling and struck me as quite consistent with my own experience in web travels and research.  The powerful ability of web sites to allow fast 'jumping' from story to story and link to link make this electronic medium so much faster and easier than sifting through a newspaper, magazine or book (though I still love the novel value of the take-along newspaper or magazine!).” . . .  Regardless of how long they stay, or why they do, more people are opening newspaper web pages.  Unique visitors to newspaper web sites over the last half of 2006 increased 15 percent as compared to the same period in 2005 according to the Center for Media Research. . . . Steve Parker believes someone at Gillette has a sense of humor in linking the brand’s “Triple Protection Deodorant" with NASCAR pit crews.  He adds that the successful applicant for the automotive PR job described in last month’s newsletter will have the satisfaction of knowing he or she has joined the executive ranks (“overtime as needed, overtime not compensated").  Parker, also notes that Warner Cable TV has added a fifth weekly showing of his Car Nut TV show in California’s Coachella Valley and San Diego County. . . Bill Baker reports that he had to cancel this year’s Lone Star 3k.  “I had to postpone the event for a year because we didn't have enough entries to meet financial obligations or to raise money for Fisher House...though we did get a $1000 donation from Wealth Management Network of Newport Beach.  “We had seven automakers fielding 12 journalist teams but the private entries were not stepping up.” . . . Josh Max advises his three-article Daily News section Your Drive went from monthly to weekly on April 17.  As usual, he’ll test and review cars, trucks, SUVs, motorcycles and report on certain interesting aspects of his wheeled world.  Feel free to contact Josh with interesting story ideas. He prefers email, jmaxroadtest@aol.com. . . . AWcom is always glad to hear what you have to say talktous@autowriters.com


This is a cop out because there was no Plan B when a person with a good reason asked to postpone appearing in this month’s Spotlight. So your editor is the spotlight this month.  Autowriters.com Newsletter editor Glenn Campbell was a reporter on a small town daily when he decided that there was less chance of a tornado, crime or other unexpected news event disrupting dates with his girl friend, now wife, if he was in the then new and glamorous field of PR - and that it would be more profitable.  A philosophy major (Colgate) he also utilized a self-flattering Miltonesque rationale that PR’s job was to explain the company to the public and the public to the company.  All of that went south when his employer loved his suggestion that a news conference be held in New York, precisely because it had nothing to announce other than that it had taken the hyphen out of Auto-Lite and henceforth would be known as The Electric Autolite Company. Some press was garnered.  But far more came when a consultant suggested a national mailing of pot metal cast hyphens to the media because, obviously, Autolite no longer had use for them.  Since then, it was the fun that kept him in the game although he has done PR and fund-raising work for a church, charity, college and civic organization and acquired a Masters in Communications from Ohio State University.  But mostly, he served as a press agent on behalf of automotive accounts and employers including Dodge, Shelby, Land Rover and Toyota.  Along the way he accepted the view that PR folk are advocates in the court of public opinion and their most important allies are journalists faithful to their craft.  If they aren’t, who needs PR guys?


John Blauth, editor of Great Britain’s www.ImmediateNetwork.com that covers media doings there reports that Top Gear, which has been revving up its U.S. coverage in recent issues, is in talks to bring the hit TV motoring show to the States.  Blauth observes that show star Jeremy Clarkson apparently has not offended as many Yanks as thought. . . . Let’s Talk Cars.com, bilingual English/Spanish online auto and motorcycle information source serving North, Central and South America, has garnered praise for its redesigned website that includes new flash technology and video. . . . Bloggers worried about the legalities of what they publish can turn to the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Legal Guide For Bloggers,  http://www.eff.org/bloggers/lg/ Not legal advice per se, it is a guide to a gauntlet of concerns from liability issues to media access, freedom of information and adult material. . . .Wooden Horse News reports that The World of Rods is a new bi-monthly for those who enjoy restoring old cars and that Inland Empire Automotive Magazine, overseen by publisher/editor Chris Sawyer will debut July 1 with news, reviews and events on the Southern California automotive scene. . . . Also from Wooden Horse for those who are having trouble growing their web site, a quote worth remembering from journalism professor Samir Husni: “The problem is not with the technology or the method of delivery, the problem is in having a product that is relevant to the reader whether it is in print or on the web. It is the content stupid...if your readers are not there for a printed copy, I can assure they will not be there for a digital or online copy alone." . . . Automotive News ad/marketing writer Laura Geist is glad to report that readers are there for her book, “Praying Through Cancer.” Now in its fourth, first soft-cover, printing, its not the sales but, “ the number of lives it seems to have helped” that pleases Geist, who has survived a bout with the disease herself. . . Online Media Daily reports that Hachette Filipacchi expects to more than double its automotive digital revenues with its recent purchase of Jumpstart Automotive Media for $110 million.  Jumpstart is an online ad network but Laurie Petersen, executive editor of MediaPost, predicts “syndication of Hachette content within the Jumpstart site network and content syndication into Hachette sites may also factor in down the road." . . . Reuters is not selling news stories to advertisers but it is selling key words to them that automatically trigger adjacent Hyundai ads when they appear among the 30,000 online stories the agency files daily. . . . Ask Patty,Inc. automotive web site for women has been retained by Arkona, Inc., one of the three largest dealer management system providers in the U.S., to augment its many management programs for dealers with a turn-key sales and marketing certification program to dealerships in order to attract, sell, retain and keep loyal women consumers.


Cam Benty has added anther hat to his hall tree where those from Petersen, SEMA, Corvette Fever and a few PR stints already hang. He is now at the helm of Drive!, a monthly enthusiast tabloid that has survived and grown despite being sold, repurchased and sold again.  He succeeds Bill Moore as editor who says he enjoyed producing every one of the 27 issues during his time at the magazine that saw two ownership changes.  Also leaving is Sr. Associate editor Scott Ross whom Moore describes as a “walking encyclopedia of car facts.”  The son of an engineer who worked at different times for each of Motown’s erstwhile Big Three, Ross grew up close enough to Woodward Avenue to hear amateur rodders and pros like the Motown Missile crew flex their muscles late at night.  Moore, himself, plans a short vacation and hopes for another ride up the career roller coaster he’s experienced since leaving as a sports and motorsports reporter at the New Haven Register in 1984 to find his joy in the Golden State.  At last word, Ross also is at large but considering a return to Detroit. Housing is cheaper there these days. And Moore is available. . . Robert Schoenberger is the new business editor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.  He covers the industry and farms out reviews. . . . Wayne Johnson advises he is the new auto contact at the Wilson (NC) Daily Times. . . Jonathon Wolman is the new editor/ publisher of The Detroit News.


The Detroit Press Club Foundation presented its top award for auto industry coverage, the Golden Wheel, to Ron French of The Detroit News for his series, “The General and The Beast” about runaway health care costs at GM. . . . Women’s Automotive Association International has named Lynn St. James Honorary vice president, motorsports, in recognition of her foundation’s 12-year-old Driver Development Program for women race car drivers. . . . James D. Winsor, Executive Editor of Heavy Duty Trucking Magazine is the latest recipient of the Truck Writers of North America (TWNA) Lifetime Achievement Award.

May 15        APA - Eye On Design panel 11:00 am, Detroit Athletic Club
May 16        Automotive News Manufacturing Conference, Nashville, TN
May16         NWAPA, Dinner, Olympia, WA
May 16        WAPA -Honda, Noon National Press Club DC
May 16-18   Automotive News Manufacturing Conference, Nashville, TN
May 17        IMPA Motorola, Noon 3 West Club NYC
May31         APA Harbour Report, Detroit
June 2         Chi-Town Kruze, 8am –3pm Chicago
June 6         APA J.D. Power IQS Noon Detroit Athletic Club
JUNE 6–7     Ward's Auto Interiors Show, Detroit, MI

Ken Purdy Award the deadline for entries in the 2007 contest is February 1, 2008 but IMPA urges everyone to be on the lookout for and to collect potential winners throughout the year. You do not have to be an IMPA member to win but you must be nominated by an IMPA member. A complete set of rules can be found at www.impa.org 


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, jlippert@bloomberg.net
IMPA    International Motor Press Association, NYC, Fred Chieco, President - info@impa.org, www.impa.org
MAMA   Midwest Automotive Media Association, Chicago - www.mamaonline.org
MPG      Motor Press Guild, Los Angeles - www.motorpressguild.org
NEMPA  New England Motor Press Association, Boston - www.nempa.org
NWAPA  Northwest Automotive Press Association, Port Orchard, WA- www.nwapa.org
PAPA      Phoenix Automotive Press Association, Phoenix, Cathy Droz, President-
RMAP      Rocky Mountain Automotive Press, Denver - vince@theweekenddrive.com
SAMA    Southern Automotive Media Association, Miami FL, Ron Beasley, President,
SEAMO    Southeast Automotive Media Organization, Charlotte, NC www.southeastautomedia.org
TAWA      Texas Auto Writers Association - http://www.TexasAutoWriters.org, Harold Gunn, hgunn@gunstuff.com 
TWNA     Truck Writers of North America, www.twna.org Tom Kelley, Executive Director, tom.kelley@deadlinefactory.com
WAJ      Western Automotive Journalists, San Francisco  - www.waj.org, Michael Coates, president, coateskm@aol.com

     Washington Automotive Press Association, D.C.,
Kimatni Rawlins, President - www.washautopress.org

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Glenn F. Campbell