september 2008 newsletter

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In light of the feedback we get on some of our articles, like "The Road Ahead" and "The Tom-Tom", we thought why not make the comments available to everyone and not wait until the following issue to share?  So, has joined the world of blogging. Newsletter items that are also published in the blog will have a link back to that posting.  AWcom's blog is located at You must be a registered user to comment.

the road ahead

National Auto Journalists Association. Almost since the start of this newsletter it has been suggested that we start this. Our response has been “Why? The many excellent regional motoring press groups are doing the job.” Now, the answer is “Yes.” Print Road Ahead: Photograph by: Quilpublications, particularly newspapers, are slashing staff to offset revenue drops. Gannett is on course to remove 1,000 employees from the chain’s payroll.

The News & Observer Publishing Company is offering buyouts to 40 percent of its staff, including all of the full-time employees in its news room; The Atlanta Journal-Constitution will cashier 85 newsroom employees by the end of October, and, as noted in this issue’s Autowriters Spotlight, The Chicago Tribune is paring its staff.

These are just a few of the widespread draconian measures taken by newspapers and other print publications to stay competitive. Too often those cuts include staff auto writers. This happens despite auto advertisers requesting auto editorial to attract readers and relieve margin-to-margin ad carpets in the auto section. It seems as self-defeating as a baseball team fielding only seven players in order to reduce the payroll.

Nevertheless, auto writers are being let go and there aren’t that many print places for them to land. That means a fair share of them will relocate in cyberspace where they will be lumped with the thousands who, to update Coach Bobby Knight, “can hack with a computer.”

Not all of these transplants as well as many of the qualified auto writers already there are convenient to one of the regional associations. No longer operating under an employer’s aegis, they will need certification, credentials attesting to their professionalism (there were 6,000 requests for media credentials at the Chicago Auto Show) and adherence to ethical standards (19 percent of America’s senior marketers acknowledge placing ads in exchange for news stories); a national organization can have the numbers to make various kinds of insurance, (travel and health insurance) attractive, warrant discounts, promote and police press car rules offer a unified voice when and if needed, provide visibility at auto shows, among other means to promote and strengthen appreciation for the craft.

Your comments and suggestions are encouraged.

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the tom-tom

Autowriters.Com invites readers to submit their own Clog
(Online Column).  Your reward: a byline and an audience of your peers.  All submissions are acknowledged, queued
and used at the editor’s discretion. 

Vince Capece is the pen name of a long-time automotive journalist and IMPA member who publishes a blog on Edmunds' at He's worked on a number of books and has been published in various of automotive magazines. Additionally, he's worked as an industry consultant for global vehicle manufacturers and Tier 1 suppliers

The Future of Automotive Journalism

by Vince Capece

“The car as we know it is on the way out. To a large extent, I deplore its passing, for as a basically old-fashioned machine, it enshrines a basically old-fashioned idea: freedom. In terms of pollution, noise and human life, the price of that freedom may be high, but perhaps the car, by the very muddle and confusion it causes, may be holding back the remorseless spread of the regimented, electronic society.”
J. G. Ballard (b. 1930), British author. "The Car, The Future"

The same can be said for the automotive journalist. Over the past 10 or 20 years, there’s been a dramatic movement in automotive journalism. And it started with a home computer.

When desktop publishing started becoming a household term, people decided that they would begin writing careers. Some of these people wrote political publications and some decided to teach others what they knew about tending their garden. And many of these people decided to take on the glamorous role of automotive journalist.

They’d drive cars, take some pictures, put down some prose and, voila, they were in the automotive media. Sometimes they’d get published in newspapers, sometimes it would form a magazine. Most of the time it went nowhere because it was still too expensive to publish a glossy magazine and too difficult to sell ad space.

And then came the Internet.

These writers could take a course or read a book and learn how to produce a webpage. The cost had dropped to virtually nothing and the last barrier to entry was gone.

Before this computerized revolution, automotive journalism was a prime example of basic economic theory. There was a limited demand for automotive writers and a growing supply of people with basic automotive knowledge and the ability to pepper a sentence with choice adjectives. This imbalance led to continually declining wages for automotive journalists because many of these “kids” were willing to work for “free rides in cool cars.” Unfortunately, this oversupply of underachievers swallowed up the Ken Purdys and Tom McCahills of the world and allowed few David E. Davis’ and Beverly Rae Kimes to emerge.

But after the “revolution,” there were just so many outlets available that no publication, online or in print, could generate a critical mass of revenue to pay for the good writers and had to settle for the “affordable” writers.

Print media began to shrink in favor of the cheaper websites. Once grand publications like Automotive Industries have dissolved into glorified press kits for whoever would pay to place an advertisement. The major “buff books” were absorbed by a small group of major publishing houses to create “economies of scale” for the new, more competitive marketplace.

Which brings us up to the present. A handful of companies own the top names in automotive media and they publish little more than what car company PR machines want the public to know. The best new vehicle news comes from automotive chat forums where once the only place to get this kind of current and future talk was from the front sections of the top magazines. And just about anyone with a driver’s license can be a “certified road tester.”

A few years ago, I met a young woman at an automotive event. She wore a badge showing that was the automotive editor of a top NY-based personal finance publication. She didn’t seem to be the “car type,” but then we didn’t ask probing questions on the subject either. We did, however, ask her how she got such a significant position at her tender age. Her response was that she had a driver’s license, a relative rarity among her fellow Manhattanites.

As a youth, I learned how to read from the likes of Motor Trend and Car and Driver. Over the years, I’ve collected thousands of magazines spanning hundreds of different titles. The quality of magazines has fallen so dramatically that my list of personal subscriptions, which at one time numbered 8-10, is now just 2. My trips to the newsstand which could add 6-10 magazines a month to my collection now just adds 1 or 2 a year. There’s simply not enough to keep my interest. And I’m still as much of a car enthusiast as I ever was.

An automotive historian once opined that the trend toward electronic press kits is going to kill the “paper trail” for future automotive enthusiasts. This same trend in publishing is doing all it can to kill the present for automotive enthusiasts. Between pretty talking heads on TV shows and the “level playing field” of ‘Net automotive “publishing,” there’s simply not enough intriguing automotive journalism left in one place to keep an enthusiast coming back.

There are still a few great writers out there, but they’re being lost in the din of the rest of the automotive landscape. Unless we can find a way to pay “real writers” to write about cars, there is no future for automotive journalists. I’ve been fortunate enough to rub elbows with some of the greatest automotive writers of the past 30-40 years (this writer is not in their league) and sadly they are a, literally, dying breed. I can’t remember the last time I met someone who could fill their shoes. And the next time I do, I hope someone is paying them enough to keep doing it.

Comments? Please go to:

 Tom-Tom rants, raves, rambles and ruminations are volunteered and express the opinions of the writer.


AWcom for targeted news release distribution.

new roads

Wooden Horse News reports: CRUZIN' SOUTH is a bimonthly that targets motorsport fans and participants in southern AR and MS. Content includes bikes, custom cars, hot rods, go-karts, NASCAR and other racing events, charity shows, and profiles of local racing celebrities. Donna Wadford is the editor and publisher of the title, which has a circulation of 15,000 and is distributed free at NAPA stores and other locations between Tupelo, MS, and Marion, AR.

Conde Nast has launched a new publication for Ferrari owners worldwide. . . . Britain’s Dennis Publishing has launched Imotor, “the world-first digital magazine emailed free to readers.” (really?) It claims a 1.5 million man database it can market to. (Press, PR Media Digest) . . . General Motors has opened a new web site, GM Facts or Fiction, to counter mistaken public perceptions of its products and policies. (Media Post Publications). . . . Also from Wooden Horse: CREAM WORLD is a quarterly targeting young adults in Canada. Coverage includes fashion, technology, television, movies, music, cars, real estate, national affairs, and arts and culture. TVM Publications is the publisher. The editor-in-chief is Marcus S. (Yes, the initial S.). is Time Inc.'s Netflix-like service for magazines and allows consumers to choose titles from a variety of publishers for mix-and-match "subscriptions" where they pay one monthly fee and have the ability to switch titles at any time. Unlike traditional subscriptions, members aren't locked in their memberships and can cancel whenever they wish. Reportedly, some 280 titles have currently signed up with 400 expected by the end of the year.


autowriters spotlight

Rick Popely’s auto writing career began at the junction of opportunity and necessity when he saw a blind ad for a writer who was an auto buff. Out of work, he deemed a passing interest in cars sufficient to reply.  Twenty-seven years later he hopes to return to that providential intersect after being cut along with 40 other Chicago Tribune staffers in August.

This time, however, he brings some impressive credentials to reporting and commenting on automobiles from either the consumer or the business side of the industry. Schooled in journalism, he was editor of the campus daily while a senior at Eastern Illinois University and pursued newspaper journalism for six years, working his way as a reporter from smaller to larger circulation papers when family responsibilities required that he resign from the Rochester (NY) Democrat and Chronicle and return to the Chicago area.

That’s where he spotted the blind ad, replied and was hired by Consumer Guide publisher, Publications International, Ltd. He advanced to editor and writer for 12 Consumer Guide publications annually that evaluated quality and performance of new and used vehicles, safety features and fuel economy. He supervised a staff of five direct reporters and assisted in managing a 13-person department and vehicle test program.

After 16 years, he was emboldened to try free-lancing and for the next four years wrote for three major dailies, Kiplinger, Cars.Com web site and others. When one of his contacts at the Tribune said the paper was adding a second auto section and was looking for someone to write for it, he asked them to look no further. During the next seven plus years he delved into the psychology as well as the demographics of car buyers and later, switched to the business side, covered the industry’s financial, manufacturing, labor relations and sales and marketing.

Exploring the emotions that motivate consumers fascinate him. “like the guy who buys a full-size pickup to haul a few bags of mulch once a year.” So does learning about labor contracts and the financial realities - “why things are the way they are in the industry." Currently freelancing, he’d like a post that would make use of his experience but acknowledges that may require moving from the Chicago area.



talk back

Chris Paukert of Winding Road takes exception to the description of that Emagazine in the July Tom-Tom by Eric Killorin. Paukert writes: “While it’s true that we enjoy a distribution relationship with eBay Motors, Winding Road is not at all owned by eBay as suggested. ...It is owned by Nextscreen LLC of Austin, Texas. Further, the characterization that WR has “shifted from high-profile writers to no-buck reader contributions” is not accurate. We continue to maintain the services of expert writers on staff and in our contributor pool, including the likes of David E. Davis, Jr., William Jeanes, etc." He continues, “I suspect that where Killorin became confused is with our new website,, which both recognizes and celebrates user-generated content in a new way for the automotive journalism segment. It does so by encouraging users to author their own stories, as well as upload their own videos and pictures. It does not change the fact that we will have a team of paid and respected staffers generating stories for both our NextAutos website and Winding Road digital magazine.”

From Don Weberg, Editor-Publisher Garage Style Magazine: "Just a quick note to say thank you for doing a great job. I've subscribed to your newsletter for some years now, and have always enjoyed reading the various updates and news stories. Nothing great ever comes easy, or so it seems, and with that it's important to keep up the steam and enjoy the ride. All the best."

Lindsay Brooke, senior editor of Automotive Engineering International questions a statement in Bill Maloney’s June Tom-Tom: “The CNW market research firm from the northwest along with the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) say the little hybrids are a way for some individuals…can you say Leonardo... to make an environmental statement.” Brooke writes, “This is puzzling because, as an editor on SAE’s flagship monthly Automotive Engineering International, I have no idea to what this is referring. Do you know if it was taken from an SAE publication? Although I happen to agree generally with the statement above, and believe Pat Bedard’s analysis of hybrids in CnD to be sound, we at SAE Magazines usually strive to report engineering and technology developments without making judgement calls regarding the end customer. (I’ve copied my boss, SAE Editorial Director Kevin Jost, on this note. Maybe he can shed some light on this.) In any case, no worries from us—your newsletter serves a very useful purpose in our profession. Keep up the great work!”

Christopher Burdick Editor-in-Chief writes, “Just dropping a note to let you know I'm enjoying reading the newsletter and hearing from other automotive journalists, including some I've met at various media events. Here at we're getting into the hang of regularly doing full reviews on cars, and I hope to bring some value to consumers everywhere. I'm really looking forward to attending more media events and shows so I can meet more people and have a good time. Keep up the good work!"


pit notes

Bill Moore, who was there when Paul Newman got his first competitive ride is soliciting anecdotes about the racer, actor, food marketer. Send them to Moore, editor-in-chief of at:

Automotive Rhythms TV has created an automotive lifestyle channel on You Tube, . . . Bill Maloney’s Ohana Road TV Show will salute the U.S. Air Force’s 61st birthday by shooting its October shows at Hickam Air Field surrounded by fighter planes and will include pre-taped  happy birthday wishes to air force men and women from the top brass of major car companies.

The Electric Lightning sports car promises 700 HP and 0 to 60 in 4 seconds and is reputed able to do pretty much everything an internal combustion engine can (not our field but impressive billing) . . . Conde Nast’s Portfolio Magazine piece Dotcom Confidential named spy car shooter Brenda Priddy one of seven internet sources corporate America did not want the public to know about (she didn’t know she was so dangerous with her camera).

Thompson Reuters has set up a new Formula One web site intended to be “a one-stop shop for all FI news.” . . . Chris Duke of X7 Media reports his Truck Blog TV Instructional Series hit the top ten automotive titles among Apple Itunes podcasts. . . .Wooden Horse writes: “Former uber publisher Primedia has pretty much left the, the magazine business. It has sold off two of its regional auto guide publications and has shuttered another, leaving the company with its apartment and new home guides as well as its distribution operation, DistribuTech.”

SAMA’s redesigned web site is impressive . . . Jay Lamm’s LeMons Series is attracting increasing national press and may well beget a movie in the genre of “They Shoot Horses Don’t They?” In the meantime, he writes like he is having more fun than he imagined when he created the series : "LeMons race cars display gangrenous rust scabs, rattle-can paint jobs, flatulent engines, and other aesthetically unpleasant features ... We thus advise all Texans of a sensitive nature to avoid MSR Houston.” The series goes there Oct. 18 –19.

“There’s a price to be paid for every press trip and that price is to listen graciously to the predictable promotional spiel.” – Freelance journalist Monica Porter, quoted on the downside of press junkets in the Immediate Network’s Press, PR & Media Digest.


lane changes

Matt De Lorenzo has been named vice-president and editor-in-chief of Road Track, succeeding Thos Bryant, who retired this year after 36 years with the company. . . . After 40 years as a staff writer and editor Ted Biederman has retired from the Los Angeles Newspaper Group (LA Daily News, et al). That is really good news according to Ted.  More good news (he thinks) is that he will continue as a freelance editor and writer of Lane Changes: Photograph By: Michal ZacharzewskiMotorway and for the newspaper group. Additionally he will be a contributing editor to Automotive Executive Magazine and  As if that wasn’t enough to do he’ll be contributing to several other papers and websites scattered from New England to Texas. His wife still says he needs to do more, but he’ll see about that so he says.

MPG stalwart Louise Ann “Landspeed Louise” Noeth has relocated to Creve Coeur, Mo., where her husband has transferred. However, her business and cell phone numbers remain the same, as does her email: . . . Steve Kursar has been named the new Southwest Communications Manager for Ford Motor Company in the Plano, TX. . . . Atlanta Journal Constitution’s cut of 85 newsroom positions included Rob Douthit, auto editor for the past three years. No replacement announced. Features editor Jon Brieske continues to be responsible for the paper’s Fall new car and Auto Show special sections . . . Bruce Castleberry, auto editor at the Dallas Morning News for 10 years, has re-joined the journalism side after a sojourn in PR. He is now business editor of the Springdale, Ark. - based Morning News serving northwest Arkansas . . . Larry Webster has moved from Tech Editor at Car and Driver to Detroit Editor for Popular Mechanics . . . . Joe Lorio continues on the staff of Automobile Magazine but has relocated from Michigan to Ossining, New York. Same duties, new base. . . . Tom Appel moves up from Managing Editor to Associate Publisher at Consumer Guide . . . Micki Maynard changed announced plans to move to D.C. for The New York Times. Instead, she will remain in Detroit, covering the airline industry. . . . Monique Valadez has been appointed Manager, Education and Public Relations for the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum in Pomona, Calif.

Long time Detroit area auto journalist Dan Ross writes: “I spent 37 months after 9/11 on a Navy active duty recall to NAVFAC here in DC, serving as the chief journalist of the Seabees. It led to being the 3rd or 4th person to join Vox Optima, an agency working primarily with Navy clients -- though we just snagged agency-of-record status for the brand-new Congressional Bowl being played here in DC 20 Dec. All of us are current Reserve or former active duty Navy PAOs and senior enlisted. Today, there are 12-13 of us all teleworking from home literally from coast 2 coast." At last report, Ross was moving to Lima. Ohio. He can be reached at:

Keith Griffin has added http://www.About.Com to his many outlets. He will cover used cars for the New York Times online enterprise. . . . Multiple award-winning book author Tom Benford has been named editor-at-large for  He also writes 2 monthly columns for Corvette Fever Magazine and a monthly resto-tips column for . . . . Steve Parker is rightly proud to report he added The Huffington Post to his lengthy list of radio, TV and print outlets in addition to his own website and blog:


- 30-


Glenn F. Campbell

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autowriters wanted

Car Chat Club ( is looking for feature articles on any of the following topics, and is always open to new ideas as well.

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  • Public driving roads – are they ever closed off to traffic for racing?

  • Racing Scene (Domestic & INTL)

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  • Specialty mfg. performance divisions (SVT, M, SRT, S, etc.) Trans Am racing

  • Vintage Race Cars

  • What's wrong with Detroit?

  • WIP (work in progress - cars being built/restored)

  • Woodies

Car Chat Club is dedicated to the automobile enthusiast in all of us. It profiles great collector cars and their owners in a fun and informative way.

Audience Demographics

Automobile enthusiasts, 92% male, ages 25-65, geographically located in and around major cities in the North East and Western United States. Income levels: $80,000 - $100,000 in various occupations, 90% are college graduates.


We are asking for query letters (article proposals), not complete manuscripts.


Writers are assigned articles on a contract basis.



General guidelines for the average number of words in a feature article 1,500 words or a column is 500.


We are looking for photos and art, and such work should be submitted by email in most all cases.


$100 per article, $50 per column.


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IAMA Awards

David Bull Publishing books won four gold and three bronze medals in the International Automotive Media Awards held last June in Dearborn, Mich.  John Zimmerman’s Dan Gurney’s Eagle Racing Cars won two: Best Book of 2007 and another in the Single Marque or Manufacturer Category. Peter Bryant’s Can –Am Challenger and Jesse Alexander’s Ferrari Grand Prix Moments won gold in their categories. Three other Bull Publishing books won bronze medals in their categories: Chris Jonnum’s The Haydens, Janos Wimpffen’s Spyders and Silhouettes and Phil Berg’s Ultimate Garages II.

Michael Andretti, Buddy Baker, John Force, Richie Ginther, Wayne Rainey, Betty Skelton and Paul Goldsmith were inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame at its 20th annual Meeting.  Carl Hass won the Bob Russo Award for his significant contributions to American motorsports.





15 Deadline for Texas Truck Rodeo room reservation
15 Deadline for entries in TAWA Excellence in Craft judging
16 NEMPA, dinner, Boston Globe, Media-only members
18 MAMA, Luncheon, CATA Oakbrook Terrace, Smart, USA
20-21 Fairfield County (CT) Concours D’ Elegance, Westport
26 SAMA, Center For Performing Arts, Miami, FL,  Chrysler
26 WAPA, Luncheon, National Press Club, Battery Technology
26 "The Future of the Car"  Consumer Reports Auto Test Center, East Haddam, CT


1-2 North American Automotive Supplier Summit, Detroit, MI
3 MAMA Fall Rally, Volo Auto Museum, Volo, IL.
7 Automotive Hall of Fame Induction Dinner, Dearborn, MI
7 APA/NADA Luncheon, Detroit, MI
8-9 SEAMO Ride & Drive, Callaway Gardens, Pine Mountain, GA
16-19 Texas Truck Rodeo, Gaylord Texan Resort, Oak Hill Raceway
17-19 24Hours of LeMons, MSR Angleton, Houston, TX
22 Convergence 2008, Detroit, MI
22-24 Automotive Testing Expo (Dedicated To Reducing Recalls) Novi, MI
29 Detroit Press Club Steakout, MGM Grand, Detroit, MI


4-7 SEMA Show Las Vegas, NV
13 Automotive News Green Car Conference/Exhibit. Novi, MI
13 MAMA, Luncheon, Oakbrook Terrace, American Suzuki
19-20 Press Days, Los Angeles Auto Show


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.


Automotive Press Association, Detroit - Katie Kerwin


International Motor Press Association, NYC, Fred Chieco, President -,


Midwest Automotive Media Association, Chicago -


Motor Press Guild, Los Angeles -


New England Motor Press Association, Boston -


Northwest Automotive Press Association, Port Orchard, WA-


Phoenix Automotive Press Association, Phoenix, Cathy Droz, President- 


Rocky Mountain Automotive Press, Denver -


Southern Automotive Media Association, Miami FL, Ron Beasley, President,


Southeast Automotive Media Organization, Charlotte, NC


Texas Auto Writers Association, Harold Gunn, 


Truck Writers of North America, Tom Kelley, Executive Director,


Western Automotive Journalists, San Francisco  -, Ron Harrison


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

memory check

A writer has requested help in identifying the car in this picture from a 1960’s Detroit Auto Show. Taken in one of Chrysler Corporation’s displays it shows an imitator of Red Skelton’s clown and a model in a flesh-colored swimsuit but what car? If you know, let us know at
 or online at

Do you recognize this car?


good money posted

Excerpts from a press release quoted by Michael Tiemann on the Open Source Initiative web site.

Fifty coaches are standing by online to help innovative thinkers apply for the Knight News Challenge , a $5 million-a-year contest to move journalism into the 21st Century. The coaches-made up of past jurors and winners-will give News Challenge hopefuls a better chance of winning up to $5 million in prizes annually. They also hope to attract a more diverse range of ideas.

Its goal is to discover new ways of using digital technology to meet the information needs of geographic communities. Last year's contest received 3,000 applications. It named 16 winners.

And the best news for the open source community? The rules stipulate that applications must:

  • Use or create digital, open-source technology as the code base.
  • Serve the public interest.
  • Benefit one or more specific geographic communities.

One thing there cannot be enough of is proposals for how to free the news from proprietary media formats, and how we can share our news over networks that cannot be controlled for private gain. Open source, open file formats, and open standards can ensure that no matter how ugly the news may be, how unflattering it may be for some of the actors who are strong today (and who may seek to become all-powerful tomorrow), the key to our future freedom is an accurate understanding of the past.

Applications opened Sept. 2 and close Nov 1. For application information go to:


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