Daily Podcast: Diss Claimer
I know it was cheeky of me. OK, I was being an asshole. But I am genuinely perturbed by media outlets who accept airfare, accommodation, food and booze (not to mention gas and insurance) from car manufacturers without declaring this financial contribution. So when I saw The Car Connection live blogging their Pontiac G8 test drive (General Motors Death Watch on the G8 tomorrow), I couldn't resist adding a comment challenging Mart Padgett to reveal GM's financial interest in the Pontiac review. Within five minutes, the comment was removed. I reposted, trying to be a bit more subtle (as you can imagine). Gone in sixty seconds. (TCC later removed TTAC info provider Michael Karesh's car-related comment.) The last time I chided The Car Connection for their undeclared junketeering, I also took a swipe at Edmunds for the same sin of omission. Edmunds now publish this little ditty at the bottom of their junket-sourced editorial: Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report. Notice the note of self-congratulation. And the lack of any specific mention of the fact that the carmaker PAID FOR THE TRIP. Once again, I challenge The Car Connection and Edmunds to come clean on their relationship to the people making the cars they review. It's high time the automotive media cleaned-up its act and started serving the people who count: the readers.
Automotive journalists are regarded in the journalistic trade with contempt as bottom feeders and hangers on. A reputation that they richly deserve. The Brits are the least affected because auto advertising is a very small part of their publications' overall ad revenue,the Americans and Canadians are influenced most aggressively to be nice guys about the cars they "test". With one or two obvious exceptions. My personal experience is that you'd better say ALL the right things, or you won't be invited back again. Remember when GM withdrew all their advertising from the LA Times over a perfectly honest article that Dan Neil wrote?
Props on the King of the Hill idea. "You were flirting with her, weren't you Hank?" "What! No! I didn't even mention I work in propane!"
I have to agree with Robert. This isn't even normal protocol for certain areas WITHIN the auto industry. The remarketing business for starters. When I was at Capital One Auto Finance, the company had to pay for virtually everything when it came to special events and auctions. The flight, the hotel, the incidentals related to those two. You couldn't simply 'pass the buck' to the auction company or organizer of the event and live it up. In fact doing so would leave you and the company in a very vulnerable position due to the fact that we only liquidated repossessed vehicles. The only thing we got out of the deal was a dinner (usually no more than $20) and perhaps a group event with other attendees, such as watching a ballgame or going bowling. When you're dealing with over a million dollars in inventory every sale, that amount isn't much. It's not even a 'buy fee' for an auction. If the entertainment cost over $50, we either had to have COAF pay for it or just not do it. I really don't see why the major media outlets couldn't either go on an extensive test drive for a production model via a nearby dealership or, in the case of the more successful ones, buy the vehicle themselves and then drive it without having any strings at play. .......................... Then again, the bottom line for many an organization in this business can be more important than being truthful with your clients. Some folks, many of whom have their axes and careers on the line, simply don't want to hear any of it. End of story.
I understand the idea of manufacturers bringing journalists to events to drive the cars. It's called marketing. I work in the medical device sales industry, and noticed the comment earlier regarding when your doctor prescribes pills based on where the company took them on vacation. Frankly that was the case in the years past, but the regulations in place now not only restrict the dollars spent by the companies, but tracks the companies dollars spent by name and in many cases medical license. Maybe there should be more transparent disclosure? Think about car magazine reports 10-20 years ago... less colorful photographs and more colorful copy. Now all of the magazines use manufacturer-released press photos, and the copy reads just like the press releases. And worse, they are all ALMOST the same word-for-word. I no longer subscribe to any of the US print magazines and read them online. At least it saves a tree or two. I could recommend Winding Road too... they at least take their own photos... CAR, and Top Gear are about the only worthy reads within the print media...