If News Blogging is Wrong, Does TTAC Want to Be Right?
The Truth About Cars (TTAC) news blog started on Wednesday. By Friday, we were in trouble. That’s when I posted an item about illegal immigrants getting driver’s licenses in Maine that they could use to purchase a firearm. Some commentators cried flame bait! Others were dismayed that TTAC was wading into political waters. And a few wondered why TTAC was news blogging anyway. In response to the troll accusations, I changed the picture (from a firearm to a gun store) and toned down the text. As for the other questions, well, let’s talk.
As the Maine blog post indicates, I’m naturally drawn to news stories that raise wider social or industry issues. I especially like those stories where [I believe] the media got it wrong, or left out important facts, or presented material that provides a logical jumping-off point for spirited discussion. In case you hadn’t noticed, skewering sacred cows, challenging accepted wisdom and poking around in hidden corners is TTAC’s stock in trade.
There have been many times in the past when I’ve had to rein-in my messianic zeal. A rant about society’s defenseless in the face of car bombs didn’t make the grade. There have also been times when I’ve pulled posts off-line when the ensuing discussion dissolved into a blue state – red state brawl. My conscience, Managing Editor Frank Williams, often waggles his editorial finger. So I understand that there are– and should be– limits.
Of course, it’s simply not possible to run a website about cars with a comments section without triggering passionate socio-political not to mention moral and philosophical debate. How could we publish an editorial or news blog post on Ford’s hydrogen dreams, or CAFE standards, or GM’s union negotiations, without pissing off someone? Even if we restricted ourselves to cars, well, let’s just say the old “anti-domestic bias” issue is in no more danger of extinction than the cockroach.
So where should we draw the line? At the end of the cyber-day (which doesn’t really end), this isn’t my call to make. It’s yours. So tell me if you think the TTAC news blog should shy away from stories that raise political hackles. Keep in mind that we apply the same rigorous posting policy in all cases; so it should be “safe” to debate these issues on this site without personal attacks. Also remember that no one in these parts breakfasts on milquetoast.
And while you’re pondering that one, what about the other end of the spectrum? I’m not sure whether or not the TTAC news blog should restrict itself to hard news. The fact that it’s called “latest news” represents my preference, but I put up a few softer pieces to see how they went down. The post on Slow Racing did no better or worse than the others, but Justin Berkowitz’ mini-rant on the new M3 stimulated the most number of views and comments.
That said, I’m not a comment whore; just because you CAN get people to post their thoughts doesn’t mean you SHOULD. Besides, I reckon Mr. Berkowitz’ post would have garnered even more attention as a full-fledged editorial or a review. Careful readers of this site will know that our authors have consistently argued that auto brands should be tightly focused and consistent. Do the softer news items violate this principle?
From a commercial perspective, we’re still aiming at picking-up some major traffic by splitting the difference between Autoblog and Jalopnik. Again, we’ve only been doing this for three days, but we’ve already gained 500 to 1000 new visitors, every day, over the entire week. That’s an encouraging sign, but another week ought to tell the tale.
But don’t let that stop you from weighing in on the broader issue of whether or not TTAC should even have a news blog. The bump could be false synchronicity, representing our Search Engine Optimization efforts. And anyway, raising site traffic is OUR problem, not yours. TTAC should be what YOU want it to be, regardless of our [necessary] commercial aspirations.
Meanwhile, an update: we’ve hit a stumbling block on the social networking side. The web guys tell me that switching TTAC onto a new platform would be an enormous, six month process. They’ve proposed an alternative: adding features to the existing WordPress platform. The first plug-in on (in?) my brain is live chat. This module can be placed globally (on the home page) and on each post. Your thoughts?
Once again, thanks for your feedback on these mission critical issues, your on-going support and continued patronage. I’m really swamped at the moment, on every level. But whenever I get disheartened, I look at the emails and comments where TTAC readers show that they understand this website’s mission and share its sardonic perspective on life. And then I get back to work.
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