I’m not generally much for anniversaries. Heck, after more than six years together, my steady sweetie and I can’t remember our actual anniversary, so we had to make one up… and we (both) still forget it most years. But here on the internet, there’s a record of everything. And looking back, it seems that it was exactly two years ago today that Robert Farago called me to say that The Truth About Cars was going to be my problem from now on.
Even two years removed from that tumultuous weekend, just thinking about it causes my stomach to shift uneasily. Though I’d had some indication that I might at some point become Editor-in-Chief of this fine site, the actual transition took me completely by surprise. And as I scrambled to figure out what it would take to run this site without its founder and editorial touchstone, the sense of nervous anticipation was palpable in the comments from TTAC’s regular readers. Our traffic took a graceful swan dive, key writers left (understandably), and I was almost completely overwhelmed by the challenge of taking a brand that had always relied on one immensely talented voice and guiding it into the future. If I’d known at the time that, two years later I’d be sitting where I am now, this anniversary might not be the occasion for such a flood of intense, nerve-wracking memories. But the journey from there to here is something for which I’m immensely grateful. Through the immense challenges of that fateful transition, I’ve become a better writer, a better editor, and I’ve become close with some of the most talented people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. And, as a result, I like to think that TTAC has become a better site.
Of course none of that would have been possible had Robert Farago not created the strongest, most compelling brand in automotive journalism… or taken a chance on a young freelancer with no automotive experience. Though the circumstances of Robert’s departure were difficult for me (as, I’m sure they were for him), my respect for, and gratitude to him remain undimmed. It took a true visionary to create a brand like TTAC and build it around DNA that would sustain it past his departure.
Similarly, I owe my father, Paul Niedermeyer, a special debt of thanks: when I took over, he quickly agreed to become my Managing Editor, providing critical moral and professional support in my, and TTAC’s, hour of need. Though the last two years have been as tumultuous for our personal relationship as they’ve been for me professionally, and though he no longer writes for TTAC, the opportunity to work with ones father is something that sticks with you. And though I often wish we could still work together, my heart swells with pride at the success he’s achieved with his own site, Curbsideclassic.com.
Another special thanks must be reserved for the man who replaced my father as TTAC’s Managing Editor: Bertel Schmitt. Few people were as instrumental in keeping TTAC together in the post-Farago chaos, and I thank the mysterious forces of the universe every day that Bertel continues to stick by my side. His deep industry experience, his razor-sharp mind, his passionate work ethic and his wonderful sense of humor have become an indispensable part of both the TTAC brand and my own life. Anybody in this car-writing game would be honored to have Bertel as their right-hand-man, and I’m doubly honored by the knowledge that he’s stuck with me despite receiving several offers from far more established outlets.
One of the conclusions I reached within hours of digesting the reality that I would be in charge of TTAC, was that I couldn’t do it alone. I needed a core of talented, inspired and passionate writers to fill in the many gaps in my automotive understanding. And I literally could not ask for a better core of editors than Jack, Murilee, Steve, Sajeev and Michael. Seriously, I’ve given the topic much thought, and there’s literally no team of automotive writers with the same mix of talent, perspective, dedication, passion and diversity. These guys are my dream team. I know it hasn’t always been easy for us to pull together as a team… after all, there’s enough passion and diversity of perspective in this group to make personality clashes inevitable. But deep mutual respect inevitably carries us through, and I would always rather we fight like dogs because we’re too passionate than harmoniously churn out mediocre, uninspired pap.
Speaking of which, I feel an immense sense of gratitude to the readers and commenters who have stuck with (or even left and come back to) TTAC since I took over. Looking back at your comments from two years ago, I see as much nervousness in your comments as I see support for TTAC’s unproven new editor… and that nervousness was well-founded. In many ways, TTAC was and is lightning in a bottle, and I could have very easily fucked the entire thing up. To those of you who uncritically supported me through the entire thing, thank you for your confidence. To those of you who lacked confidence but still gave me the chance to prove myself, and to prove that this site is bigger than any one person, a double shot of thanks. I would not be where I am today without your willingness to keep me and my writers honest, every day and on every story. And none of us would be here at all if your visits and occasional ad-click-throughs didn’t keep the lights on.
I could go on and on with the thanks… certainly VerticalScope deserves thanks for allowing us to keep our independence while paying our bills, and the Automakers deserve thanks for giving increasing access to the brand that can only shoot straight. Also, TTAC’s occasional contributors who pepper our regular content with their flashes of insight and lively prose, are the seasoning that make TTAC such a consistently delicious read. But instead of waffling on, I’ll just shut up and get back to work. After all, TTAC isn’t about basking in glory and good vibes… it’s about keeping your head down, keeping your mind sharp, and never forgetting that readers always deserve better than they’re getting. I figure if I stick to that formula, we’ll be back here celebrating another year before you know it.
I can’t wait…