By on May 15, 2008

sammoses.jpgThis "article" by Sam Moses appeared on an newsletter/website called autowriters.com, an Inside Baseball-type publication for automotive journalists. When I read the not-so-divine Mr. M's diatribe, I was more than slightly miffed. His rant completely misrepresents Frank Williams' editorial on automotive reviews in newspapers. So I called autowriter.com's main main, Glenn F. Campbell. I asked the publisher point blank if he'd actually read Frank's article. Nope. But that was O.K. because it's OK to publish someone's opinion, even if it is factually inaccurate or, in this case, devoid of factual justification. When I reminded Campbell that he's legally liable for libel (just to tweak his nose), Campbell didn't get it. "You said there were no facts cited so what could I check  – to see if my opinions agree with Sam’s? Homogenous opinions would make a dull, narrow-minded Newsletter." And yet, that's what he's created. I've calmed down enough to see the unintentional humor of Mr. Moses' TTAC attack. Still, I think it's important for our readers to contemplate the full glory of what we're up against, day in, day out.  

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41 Comments on “The Truth About The Truth About The Truth About Cars’ Take About Newspaper Car Reviews...”


  • avatar

    Two important facts:

    1. “He says that to get information from an engineer is a sign of bias.” He does not.

    2. “We at TTAC are too weak to filter out the manufacturers’ spin at launches, and not smart enough to find the good technical information that’s all over the place. So we don’t go to them.” TTAC attends new product launches and other manufacturer-sponsored events– when invited (obviously). We always list any and all manufacturers’ contributions to an article (transportation, lodging, food, gas, insurance, etc.)

  • avatar
    Justin Berkowitz

    Declarative sentences. For the consumer. Dry, yes; that’s the price of the pursuit of truth—and I’m not saying it’s always there, either.

    Okay, two problems here.

    The first is that Moses assumes all automotive review readers are the same.

    Second, why must pursuit of the truth be dry? Ever heard the expression “It’s funny because it’s true”?

  • avatar

    One thing Moses is blatantly ignorant of is the fact that TTAC is not aimed at the consumer. But Moses’ diatribe is so disorganized and badly written that I wouldn’t have gotten past the first couple of sentences if I had come across this anywhere but on TTAC. I had to read it several times to figure out what he was trying to say. It is worse than amateurish. My advice to RF is to take this item down and forget about it. Its inconsequential IMO.

  • avatar

    Justin Berkowitz:

    Declarative sentences.

    Is not. A sentence.

  • avatar
    dean

    As if a 4-hour exclusive interview with an engineer or product or PR person could somehow HURT a review.

    If I spent four hours with a friendly engineer/designer while caning the snot out of his pride and joy, I might have trouble telling the world that he couldn’t design his way out of a paper bag. Not that this would happen, but that is how it could hurt a review.

    And he needn’t worry about TTAC’s ability to sort the spin from reality. The whole point of Frank’s editorial was that the typical newspaper car reviewer doesn’t bother.

    Like you said RF, it was pretty obvious the guy didn’t do more than skim the piece at best.

  • avatar
    Richard Chen

    Sam Moses writes for (among many other things) newcartestdrive.com whose staff includes other members of established automotive news media, but whose Alexa rating which at 1/5th of TTAC’s could use a little boost. It is owned by Internet Brands, which owns CarsDirect.com, AutoData.net, Autos.com (best mid-sized car: Buick Lacrosse, hmm), a whole bucketload of car forums I’ve never stumbled upon, wikicars.org, and many other sides not automotive. Not that it makes any difference, but their Board of Directors has this fellow named Roger Penske.

    David’s slingshot is at the ready, fire at will.

  • avatar
    Jordan Tenenbaum

    It’s people like him who help reiterate why I come here.

  • avatar
    sean362880

    Methinks Sam dost protest too much. TTAC readers are not average consumers; they are much more knowledgeable about cars and discerning about automotive writing than newspaper readers (on average). Frankly, we don’t need dry technical information because we already know it. We WANT subjective opinion, because car buying is such a personal and emotional choice.

  • avatar
    sightline

    You could fill many issues of autowriters.com with examples of horrible, inaccurate TTAC autojournalism that he thinks is clever and truthful—and I’d cite them if there were room here.

    This is the worst kind of writing, engaging in a petty little ad-hom remark then refusing to back it up. This indicates either an unwillingness to read TTAC’s reviews or an inability to find support for this statement. The writer threw this rhetorical device onto the page, hoping that the reader would just casually nod and continue on.

    I’d expect such a thing on the playground, but not in anything written by a putative professional.

  • avatar
    steronz

    RF:

    How does “[BTW: Keane also mentions that a Chrysler engineer accompanied him on the test drive. Nope. No bias shown there.]” (Frank’s words) all that different from “He says that to get information from an engineer is a sign of bias?” I mean, you’re splitting hairs and arguing semantics if you say that’s not what Frank was suggesting.

    I tend to agree with TTAC’s stance that any test drives should ideally be conducted in a production vehicle without the knowledge or consent of the manufacturer, much like Consumer Reports. However, I can see this guy’s point. I don’t agree with it, but I can see it.

    And frankly, I don’t think it’s that inflammatory. When I saw that you were all worked up over an article earlier today, I figured it would be something really bad. Now that I’ve read it, I’m thinking TTAC just has thin skin.

  • avatar
    seoultrain

    I agree with steronz. Frank took a shot, and it landed. But it landed because of the context, not the objective fact that the reviewer spent time with the engineer. To give the Chrysler Sebring such praise means that there HAD to be some kind of bias or incompetence in play. That was how I read it, and I thought it was poignant. Own up, TTAC.

    Hell, if I was the engineer of a crappy car, i’d talk a reviewer’s ear off about what is half-decent about the car just so that he’d be distracted from the crap surrounding him. Does an engineer’s (usually technical) information really add to your (usually emotional) enjoyment of a car? Or does the repeated “Isn’t this kinda nice?” cloud your ability to assess the vehicle? I hate it when salepeople talk on a test drive. Good cars speak for themselves. Power of suggestion can take a backseat.

  • avatar
    ihatetrees

    Holy Moses! This guy’s response is all over the place. Can’t Moses cut & paste Frank Williams’ remarks and rebut? I guess not.

    Also, btw, there’s NO ONE farther left than me when it comes to recognizing the threat of corporate media and non-critical reporting in pursuit of revenue.

    Moses would blow a .5 on a blood-KoolAid-content meter… The guy is so enamored with product he can’t see his own role in the problem.

    The day that demographics and Web2.0/Microsoft/Googlezon/Ebay demolish local newspapers can’t come soon enough for me.

  • avatar
    jthorner

    File Moses’ piece under the heading “there’s no such thing as bad publicity”.

  • avatar
    Strippo

    How does “[BTW: Keane also mentions that a Chrysler engineer accompanied him on the test drive. Nope. No bias shown there.]” (Frank’s words) all that different from “He says that to get information from an engineer is a sign of bias?” I mean, you’re splitting hairs and arguing semantics if you say that’s not what Frank was suggesting.

    And yet that’s not what Frank was suggesting. What he was suggesting is that Keane had a Chrysler lackey up his butt during the entire test drive doing his best to spin the company line to a passive writer with a deadline to meet. It has nothing to do with the fact that he happened to be a trade school graduate. It’s disingenuous for Moses to emphasize the lackey’s occupation instead of the lackey’s obvious motivations during the test drive. And to call Frank “an idiot” in the process of pulling off that intellectually dishonest sleight-of-hand shot Moses’ credibility to hell.

    On the other hand, he does look spiffy in his little sailor suit racing garb. I pity his editor, though. That has to be a thankless job. He was clearly on his own for that piece and it showed. Apparently the only editing was the god-awful random bolding.

  • avatar
    picard234

    Strippo:

    I agree, that random bolding is absolutely god-awful! That’s what a bad writer does when he has nothing else creative to say! It’s like a second grader using too many exclamation points!!!

  • avatar
    Jonny Lieberman

    Well… I’ve been on launches and ridden with engineers on said launches.

    It goes like this:

    Head of Chevy SS tuning division: “We did this, this and this other thing — really cool, huh?”

    Me: Why don’t you have passenger grab handles? If you’re going to put this much power into a car, shouldn’t the passengers have something to hang on to?

    Head of Chevy SS tuning division: That’s a really good point. I don’t know.

    Me: You know the A-pillar is the size of my thigh. And I’m fat. Why would you make something that handles so well that you can’t see out of?

    Head of Chevy SS tuning division: Yeah, I can see that. Well, we had to work with [the Chevy HHR] as a starting point, so there’s going to be compromises.

    —————–

    Or this:

    Me: That twin-turbo inline-6 is an amazing engine. How come the twin-turbo V8 has so much lag?

    BMW Guy who designed both engines: I’m not sure. Might have something to do with emissions or fuel economy. Every thing’s a compromise.

    —————–

    Or this:

    Head of BMW X6 project: So, you like it?

    Me: I like the 6 better than the V8. But I wish it had a manual.

    Head of BMW X6 project: Yes, but who wants to sit in traffic with a manual?

    Me: Me.

    Head of BMW X6 project: Well, every thing’s a compromise.

    ——————

    Or my favorite:

    Me: How come every car mag in the universe is getting 340-350 hp out of your engine but you keep claiming it’s only 300 hp?

    Different BMW Engineer: Because it’s 300 horsepower.

    Me: Come on — You didn’t want to upstage the outgoing E46 M3 when the new 335i launched, right? So you underrated the horsepower.

    Different BMW Engineer: That’s impossible. Why would we do that?

    Me: 10 million reasons besides the one I just gave you. To keep insurance premiums down on your best selling car might be one.

    Different BMW Engineer: I’ve never heard of such a thing.

    Me: Detroit does it all the time. Er, they used to. And the Japanese did it for decades until recently.

    Different BMW Engineer: That’s crazy.

    Me: Come on — admit it.

    Different BMW Engineer: We don’t underrate horsepower.

    —————-

    And there you go.

  • avatar
    seoultrain

    JL, that is some hilarious stuff. I wish I could pick apart cars in front of the people who worked on them. I can’t even say a bad word about a car to a salesman.

  • avatar
    lprocter1982

    “I can’t even say a bad word about a car to a salesman”

    I can. I was looking at a Sebring at a Hyundai dealership one time, and the salesman said, and I’m not kidding, “This is one of the best cars you can buy.” So, because I had time to waste, and I really wanted to see how bad the Sebring was, I took it for a little test drive. Well, it was an 05, and it rattled and squeaked like a 10 year old rental car, among other things. So, when I got back, the salesman asked me how I liked it. I said, “That’s the worst car I’ve ever driven.” And left.

  • avatar

    steronz
    How does “[BTW: Keane also mentions that a Chrysler engineer accompanied him on the test drive. Nope. No bias shown there.]” (Frank’s words) all that different from “He says that to get information from an engineer is a sign of bias?”

    I have no problem getting information from an engineer, if you have an engineering question or want to know something about the development of the vehicle. However, I do have a problem with an engineer (or anyone else with a vested interested in seeing that the car gets a good review) accompanying a reviewer on a test drive — unless of course, the vehicle is either so shoddy you need someone along to put it back together as it falls apart or is so complicated it takes someone who designed it to explain how it works. If that makes me an “aggressively ignorant” “idiot,” then so be it.

    For examples of how a “better journalist” who recognizes “the threat of corporate media and non-critical reporting in pursuit of revenue” writes a review, may I direct your attention to Mr. Moses’ reviews of the 2008 Jeep Compass, 2008 Dodge Durango or 2007 Cadillac XLR.

  • avatar
    tommy!

    This has nothing to do with “thin skin.”

    C’mon, how would you take it if someone walks into a room, points at your buddy/brother/friend and exclaims “What an idiot!” It’s childish, cowardly, and if you take it apart, flimsy.

    Oh wait am I describing the attack on Frank Williams or Sam Moses’ car reviews?

    The irony of course is that the “truth” is being tossed around so many times in Sam Moses’ article. Truth? Please. I’d love to see if he has any more biting words when confronted.

  • avatar
    Strippo

    For examples of how a “better journalist” who recognizes “the threat of corporate media and non-critical reporting in pursuit of revenue” writes a review, may I direct your attention to Mr. Moses’ reviews of the 2008 Jeep Compass, 2008 Dodge Durango or 2007 Cadillac XLR.

    That’s probably the cruelest, most entertaining sentence I’ve read all month. Not bad for an idiot.

  • avatar
    mxfive4

    Having worked at a “newspaper company” for years here is my fundamental problem with these “journalists”.

    – Most “reviews” are warmed over press releases
    – If they actually test drove the car they feel obligated to marginalize the negative aspects and pimp the “positive” aspects – no matter the car.

    After all the dealers of those cars are their one of their biggest revenue streams (come on – you didn’t the 60pt “Sunday Sunday Sunday” heading on the back of the sports section was cheap did you?)

    Hence Sam I Am’s “modest interior materials and build quality” comment regarding the Compass.

    Saying the Compass has “modest interior materials” is like saying I am modestly tall (I am 5’6″). Sammy, short is short and cheap is cheap.

    I love the fact that the guy who wrote this article on the Chevy Aveo which spends this entire paragraph pimping the Aveo’s safety

    Aveo aced the Federal frontal crash test with five stars for both driver and passenger. The body structure is designed to provide as much crash protection as possible. The cabin is built like a steel cage, with steel members running vertically from the door hinge up the A-pillars to the roofline, then back to reinforced B- and C-pillars, and down to the rocker panels. Each of the four doors contains a side-impact beam which when hit directs energy up through the side rails to a large front longitudinal member, then through a flat crossmember to the front axle and wheelhouse and finally down to the fender-door support.

    Conveniently left out the IIHS scores for the Aveo, including its Marginal side impact test results.

    At best it is a horrible omission at worst it is misleading.

    Sam – where is the truth in that?

  • avatar
    lewissalem

    The “website” that he writes for looks like it was designed in 1994, and it uses an outdated programming language: ColdFusion. I have been a web developer for over ten years, that website needs some help.

  • avatar
    gamper

    Sorry I didnt take the time to read through all the comments, but I would have to agree on some level with Mr. Moses. Referring to your own words as the truth doesnt necessarily make it so, even entitling your website as “The Truth” doesnt necessarily make it so. There is a lot of good things about this site but the mandatory witticisms and tendancy to insert subjective politics into what would otherwise be an objective news article do tend to take their toll on “The Truth”. Anyone who follows the artles and reviews on this site knows first hand what I am talking about. The fact that I dont cite a particular incident(s) has little to do with the truth of the matter asserted. One has only to look through the majority of the comments to see exactly who the audience is, which in my opinion adds credibility to Mr. Moses’ little tirade.

    Lets face it, TTAC does a great job of making their reporting entertaining for the reader, regardless of whether you agree with the underlying premise or following conclusions. But that type of writing doesnt generally lend itself well to objectivity.

  • avatar
    Strippo

    NCTD.com has the dubious distinction of being the review site CarsDirect and Carmax both prefer when republishing whole reviews. There’s a reason for that.

  • avatar

    Robert – while I can understand your pique at Sam Moses’ shot, it is every bit as light and insubstantial as his car “reviews”. It more or less speaks for itself.

    And if you’re going to publish The Truth about Anything, be prepared for the slings and arrows. Truth is a rare commodity these days.

  • avatar

    edgett:

    And if you’re going to publish The Truth about Anything, be prepared for the slings and arrows. Truth is a rare commodity these days.

    We are situationally aware and combat ready. I printed this piece because it’s important to define TTAC as much as for what it ISN’T as what it is.

  • avatar
    William C Montgomery

    If you judge a man by the quality of his enemies…
    I think I’m embarrassed. If TTAC’s enemies are powerful then by the reasoning of this maxim, TTAC would be a worthy publication. But since Sam Moses is our enemy… uh, are we really this pathetic?

  • avatar

    William C. Montgomery:

    If you judge a man by the quality of his enemies…
    I think I’m embarrassed. If TTAC’s enemies are powerful then by the reasoning of this maxim, TTAC would be a worthy publication. But since Sam Moses is our enemy… uh, are we really this pathetic?

    Well, now that you’ve pointed that out you’re our enemy, restoring our lost honor. Just kidding. Your ed’s in the queue.

  • avatar
    Gotta Chime In

    To focus on the issues at hand: as a longtime reader (seldom commenter) I better appreciate what TTAC is up against. Sam’s article serves to attack Frank’s journalistic integrity and defend the flawed institution in question. And he labels his article as the truth.

    The first paragraph of this site’s FAQs hits the nail on the head. Status quos be damned.

  • avatar

    Judging by the Aveo review mxfive4 posted, we have another Texas Auto Writer in Sam Moses.

    And to think that Bill and I used to wonder why the Texas Auto Writers Association jilted us on several occasions. Same song, different tune.

  • avatar
    Ingvar

    Wooohoooo !!!! Cat fight!

    *fetching the popcorns*

  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    “If you intend to speak the truth, have one foot in the stirrup.”

    You must be doing something right guys, keep it up.

  • avatar
    mlbrown

    As a multiple award-winning journalist, I can tell you that you’re not doing it right until everyone is pissed at you.

    Keep up the good work.

    And count me among those who do not come here looking for car stats. I come here already knowing all that shit. I come here because I want your take on all the subjective stuff.

    -Matt

  • avatar

    I tried reading the new car test drive review on the 2007_Porsche_911…
    I stopped and decided if I wanted to read a price list I may as well go to Porsche for it.
    Mr Moses should keep satisfying his ten readers and not venture forth imho.

  • avatar
    philbailey

    If Moses is right about a pop-up ad for the Dodge Journey suddenly obscuring the text while he was reading the article – that’s letting the side down and definitely embarrassing.

  • avatar
    Gregzilla

    OK….so Sam wrote “Fast Guys, Rich Guys, and Idiots”……which of those is he now?

  • avatar
    Strippo

    If Moses is right about a pop-up ad for the Dodge Journey suddenly obscuring the text while he was reading the article – that’s letting the side down and definitely embarrassing.

    I do hate when that happens. OTOH, NCTD considers the Journey “a crossover SUV with big utility” and “with intelligent cabin design and the availability of family friendly entertainment features. For the young family on the go, the Journey will offer a pleasant ride, plenty of room, and enough storage and entertainment options to keep the kids occupied.” Yet TTAC calls it cheap, forgettable, and doomed to failure (paraphrasing), alleged annoying ad notwithstanding. So I guess I’m not getting the joke Moses finds so funny.

  • avatar
    benders

    I like TTAC because we can all read about every car’s new features (in local newspaper reviews) that say this car has a retractable hardtop or a redesigned interior but TTAC is the only outlet that tells you if the retractable hardtop sucks or the new interior is dull and unwelcoming or if transvestites will hit on you in this car.

    And TTAC does it with the flair and daring wordplay the other reviews won’t (mostly because you can’t copy and paste ‘flying vagina’ if it doesn’t appear in the manufacturer’s press release). Mr. Moses seems to think that auto reviews should be nothing more than lists of numbers and available features. Any moron can do that. It takes real writing to write to people who actually seek out the ‘good technical information’ for themselves and know how a car stacks up on paper against the competition.

    And WTF is a Clog?

  • avatar
    jthorner

    “to Mr. Moses’ reviews of the 2008 Jeep Compass, 2008 Dodge Durango or 2007 Cadillac XLR.”

    I spent a few minutes trying to read them. Wow, his stuff is simply horrid. Typical of the manufacturer friendly pablum you find in the “Drive” advertorial sections of the weekend newspaper. And the writing, damn it’s bad. I need to go read some Calvin and Hobbes strips to cleanse the mind.

  • avatar

    It doesn’t matter
    autowritersdotecom google rank zero
    SamMosesdotcom google rank zero

    TheTruthaboutcar.com googlerank seven

    I doubt if they attract as large an audience in a month what TTAC attracts in a day. I believe TTAC is possibly in the top 25000 websites which is phenomenal.

    TTAC is already the 800 pound gorilla that cannot be ignored. (Although they might pretend to ignore TTAC)

    It would not totally surprise me if Mr. Moses’ attack is simply a proxy for others who feel their meal ticket is perhaps being threatened.

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