Please excuse the self-congratulation, but little breakthroughs like this are a big deal for a site like TTAC. The American Journalism Review has a fantastic piece by Frank Greve on the murky and corrupted world of professional car reviewing, which is well encapsulated in the piece’s subtitle
The world of car reviewing is replete with expensive perks and fantasy vehicles. Consumer advocates need not apply.
And after running through the litany of corruptions endemic in the system, Greve concludes:
Web sites like Jalopnik and The Truth About Cars deliver more independent, aggressive and timely coverage for car enthusiasts than traditional car magazines like Motor Trend.
With all due respect to MT (which is but one of many), that sounds like the truth to me. As does Greve’s description of how press cars are allotted (by the likelihood of a positive review). And for one of his examples of the system at its worst, Greve describe an incident involving TTAC’s own Jack Baruth and the aftermath of his no-holds-barred review of the Porsche Panamera.
After describing the fawning reviews for the Porsche Panamera produced by sites like Autobytel and New Car Test Drive, the AJR piece continues
One freelance reviewer sang off key, however: Jack Baruth, a racer of Porsche 911s, and “a known malcontent” by his own admission. Baruth crashed a Panamera event for reviewers at the Road America track near Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, and reached a damning-by-faint-praise conclusion. “More fun to drive than any other four-door sedan,” Baruth declared in a five-minute video for LeftLane News.com. But the Panamera “couldn’t be any less like a 911,” he added. Although Baruth, a Web reviewer popular for his audacity, had previously gotten along with Porsche publicists, he’s been a nonperson with the automaker ever since.
Fong says there was nothing personal about Baruth’s exile. “One of the key questions we ask is whether a reviewer writes for a demographic that can afford a Porsche,” he says.
Baruth draws a different lesson from the experience: “Carmakers can make you noncompetitive,” he says.
Well, Mr Fong, as someone with access to TTAC’s Google Ad Planner data, let me be the first to inform you that 50% of TTAC’s readership makes $75,000 or more per year (congrats, folks!). 20% make $100k or more. So what do you say Mr Fong, do we get to review new Porsches now… or are you still as afraid of editorial independence as the AJR makes you out to be? And before you answer, remember this: with every piece like this, the walls of OEM control over editorial independence crumble a little more… and the sooner they fall down, the better.