By on January 2, 2009

Yesterday, I called Autoblog (AB) to task for blogging pistonhead paraphernalia without disclosing whether they received swag for their efforts. AB jeffe Damon Lavrinc revealed his team follows AOL’s strict policy: no freebies and return any review items post post. So I removed my post. And now I’ve found Michael Banovsky’s over-punctuated, redundantly-named blog Cars, Culture, and Etc. Banovsky asserts that he’s not on the gravy train, and when he is, he donates the resulting air miles to Doctors Without Borders (perhaps there’s a Barnes and Noble nearby?). Underneath the post, Carkeys.ca’s Kevin “Crash” Corrigan defends pocketing payola. “Whilst I applaud you for donating your air miles to charity, I think that I should say something from the flip side of the coin. Unlike the print guys, us web-based journos are rarely given ‘expensive’ gifts. In nearly 5 years of writing, the most pricey gift that I have received is a toy car. In fact, I’ve been given a few of them (Approx 6-7). Now I collect models cars, as do probably most most of us car guys, so that’s quite nice. On the other hand, does anyone truly believe that any of us could be brought off with a $10-30 model car?? Let’s look at this from another angle…I worked in the building trade for several years, and every year we were given bottles of booze from the suppliers. My father who owned a large company and often received crates of the stuff!”

“Now, like I said, I applaud you for handing over your air miles to charity (Mind you, I did note that you, as a newspaper journo, received more air miles in one year than I gathered in 5, but that’s another story!). Personally, I plan to use mine to take my wife along with me on one of the trips (we’ve managed one so far to New York). After all, I leave her to fend for the animals and shovel the snow when I go away, so I think that it’s only fair to her. You’re young Michael and you might change your view on this once you’re married and have to listen to, “You going away again and leaving me to look after everything again”!

“I think that you’re flogging a dead horse for no reason with this. Perks will always be a factor in business, so dig at the guys who get the fancy leather jackets, computers, and stuff like that by all means (I don’t know of anyone who’s received that kind of stuff, if you do, then by all means name them and shame them!), but leave us little guys out of it please. The general public looks down on us for all these “supposed freebies”, and all it does is create bad feelings for absolutely no reason.”

None whatsoever?

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13 Comments on “CarKey’s “Crash” Corrigan Swills Swag...”


  • avatar

    On one hand, I cannot imagine that a journalist can write objectively when he has been flown to Spain first class to drive the latest German uber-sedan. On the other hand, companies are trying to influence public opinion in a highly competitive market.

    As a person who simply buys cars and through my purchases has apparently reached some level of “knowledge” in the industry, I have been given perks even though I do not write about cars (outside of a few websites) or work in the automotive business. Audi gave me a TT for a weekend a couple of years ago (even though I’ve never bought an Audi), GM and Lexus have invited me to driving events (even though I’ve never owned a GM car and my last Lexus was bought almost 20 years ago), Maserati invited me to a very elegant wine-and-cheese preview of the then-new Quattroporte (never bought one) and BMW “gave” me $2k off the price of a new 3-series and the insurance for two glorious weeks in Europe in my new car (I did buy the car…).

    Somehow, all of this is rolled into marketing. The issue in the end is integrity. When Motor Trend trumpets a new car, I have real doubts about the integrity of the reporting, since it usually seems to come from a breathless 20-something “journalist” working to cull favor with a manufacturer to ensure he is invited to the next junket.

    If Robert Farago or Dan Neil trumpet a new car, I have seen enough honesty in their reporting to know that they would also call it a POS if that’s what they felt. When one of them singes a manufacturer, as Neil did with GM, I can admire their journalistic integrity, and that of the parent company since Mr. Neil kept his job.

    I don’t really have “bad feelings” about the freebies. I’d like to be invited to Spain to review the next German uber-sedan (please be listening in Stuttgart!), but if it happens, I promise to let you know what I really think!

  • avatar
    philbailey

    First, this an AJAC site, which makes it suspect right out of the box.

    Secondly and as an assessment of the site, I read Mr Corrigans’ “road test” of the Mazda RX8. A page and a half of unctuous going on about styling.

    A sudden realisation that SOMETHING should be said about how the car actually drives.

    Not ONE word about excessive oil consumption or the cost of rebuilding an engine (far more frequently required than you would think). So toys or no toys, irrelevant, sycophantic car reporting lives on, at least in Canada.

  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    Seriously, who cares about the airmiles if the trip itself is the pay off. If you are off to Spain, it ought to be to see SEAT. Otherwise, let’s disclose it all, and let the readers decide.

  • avatar

    Robert, I think your post was complimentary? But it’s “Banovsky”.

    I’ll eschew commas in the future.

    Cheers, ;)

    M!

  • avatar

    Yeah the miles are the least important part.

    Usually these trips include:
    Free air travel (usually not first class)
    Free hotel accommodations (usually very first class)
    Gifts (almost always an iPod)

    That’s why we pay our own way at Cars.com and if we have to we stay at an alternate hotel.

    That means we don’t do every trip, especially for the fringe/performance models, but at least we don’t feel like we’re beholden to anyone.

  • avatar

    Sorry about that Mr. Banovsky.

    Please keep TTAC in touch with your latest thoughts via [email protected]

  • avatar

    David, I’ve said this to you before, but I think the way cars.com handles trips is the ideal.

    If only we all worked for publications that would cover costs, or even maybe we could make enough so we’re able to pay our own way — even as a freelancer.

    In lieu of that, full disclosure is the only remedy. And a partial one at that.

    M!

  • avatar
    Greg Locock

    re punctuation, it is called an Oxford comma. It is not commonly used, but is acceptable, especially for emphasis. “Cars and etcetera” is a rather odd phrase, so breaking it up with a comma is a reasonable move.

  • avatar

    I enjoy reading the many interesting articles which are posted on here, so I figured that I should post a reply to this one, as it seems to be all about me and what I wrote.

    Firstly, in the way of background…I’m a freelancer who writes for several outlets, including my own new site http://www.carkeys.ca. After spending most of my life working in the industry (A City & Guilds mechanic, who until recently ran his own Jag/LR shop. I’ve also been in new & used car sales, managed 2 automotive detail shops, and 3 public automotive auctions), I was asked to contribute reviews to a local lifestyle magazine (I now pen for 2 such publications, and 3 automotive websites).

    I personally view this subject from a few angles. First, we seem to be assuming that all readers of automotive reviews are glued to the pages in search of their next vehicle purchase. What’s with that? I’ve read numerous reviews over the past year and how many cars have I purchased, er…none! This idea also tends to paint our readers as half-baked no-nothings who blindly follow our recommendations as if we’re automotive gods! Now there’s bound to be the odd anti-AJAC (The Automobile Journalists Association of Canada) who might say that I’m obviously one of those because I was allowed into the association (They turn down quite a few applications each year), but I don’t actually see myself as a god. (By the way, AJAC is an extremely professional association, and so is the IMPA to which I also belong). No, I tend to view myself as a lucky ex-grease monkey who finally, after over 20 years, managed to get the dirt from under his fingernails and into something which he enjoys doing.

    Now I could probably strip down a Jaguar V12 engine blindfolded, and yet my reviews are probably the least technical out there. My work has been called all kinds of stuff, “Fluffy is one which comes to mind instantly” (I’m quite proud of that one actually), and yet I work for several publications and get lots of positive feedback, strange that eh!

    Writing for lifestyle magazines taught me something which I think some of my fellow journalists are still missing, and that is, not everyone out there is a gear head, and there are some readers who simply want to be entertained whilst reading articles on their favorite subject (Maybe, that’s why the world and his friend likes to watch Top Gear and not The Engineering Channel). There are many really good product information publications out there which cater to the reader who is actively looking and comparing vehicles, but that’s not me. I typically try to mention the size of the engine and how many gears the vehicle has (Well you have to really, don’t you), and then I waft on about the history of the brand or some other little known related fact which I simply know through being in the industry for so long. It might not be everybody’s cup of tea, but it works for me (And obviously the for publications which I write). What’s get me upset, are the so-called journalists who basically read through the manufacturers handouts, shuffle the wording around, and then spit it back out again. Interestingly, most of these come straight out of journalism school with a piece of paper saying that they can write, and wouldn’t know a crankshaft if it came dancing through their front door with a sign hanging around its neck saying, “I’m an over bored crankshaft whose piston broke” Technically, their article might be perfect, but where’s the story, and what makes their work any different from any other Joe journalists out there? It’s boring and that’s why the Top Gear team by far outsells any other automotive journo’s on the planet.

    We now come to “The perks of the job”!! As a freelancer, I occasionally get to go on press trips (At least, whenever there is enough space left over after the print guys/girls have been accounted for). We smalltime freelancers never get the overseas trips, so there’s no point in even going there! Yes, the manufacturers pay our flights, food and hotel expenses, but that’s about it. Gifts at my level are almost non-existent, or at least rather petty. Personally, I would love it if the publications which I work for paid for these trips, or even better, let us pay our own way and then bill it back to them. After all, I’m sure that I could figure cheaper ways to get where I need to be, I could sleep in a car, and I actually might make some money out of being a journalist then. The fact is, we freelancers mostly do this for the love of it. Yes, if you’re really lucky, you might be able to make a passable living, but anyone who thinks that all journalists live the lifestyle of Jeremy Clarkson is sadly mistaken. The problem is simple…I write an article about cars and they pay me “peanuts”, and yet, if I write on another subject (Which I have in the past), I get pretty decent coin. Why is that? Well, maybe they see me as an endangered Brazilian Baboon, or perhaps it has something to do with the fact that every guy/girl who finds out what I do covets my job! Honestly, there was a publication a while back which was paying $25 (CDN) for car reviews!!! As we journalists (in Canada at least) have to pay for our own fuel, that wouldn’t even cover the gas to go and pick up the vehicle. Now with the World Wide Web, there are even more “I’ll work for nothing journo’s” out there. Oh yes, they might see it as a part-time hobby, but how would those people feel if I went to their bosses and offered to do their full-time jobs for nothing???

    Now I’m not exactly crying here, because I love my job, but we need to get real on this subject. Number 1, it’s all about personal opinions…A vehicle which I rave about, you might feel is the worst contraption since GM brought us the Cadillac Cimarron (Any automotive journalist who needs to Google that one doesn’t deserve to call themselves one. I might see the Mitsubishi EVO as one of the best vehicles in production today (Possibly because of my rallying past), but does that mean that my Grandmother should rush out and buy one? I basically try to get into the feel of the vehicle and view it how readers who like those types of vehicles would see it. Read my reviews if you wish, I hope you enjoy them, if not, use the time-honored tradition of censorship (The on/off button).

    Number 2, as far as the perks go, by all means, have a dig at the big-time newspaper journalists who receive the big ticket gifts (If you can find any, because I don’t hear much about those nowadays), but don’t tar us all with the same brush. Just about every business on the planet has some kind of perks to it. Whether it’s free trips and hotels, or unlimited supplies of pencils and bathroom tissue.

    At the end of the day, there’s an awful lot of jealousy which goes around in the auto journalism world. My advice is this, anyone who wants to give up their well paid day job and work for a pitiful amount of money writing about cars can give me a call, because I’m looking for staff members for my new website. You’ll get the occasional 1 day/2 day trip to some exotic, or not so exotic place (Detroit), you’ll eat well while you’re there (Although, not so good when you return), and then if you’re really lucky, you’ll get a poster or a toy model of the new bla-bla-bla Minivan. Of course, you’ll have to learn how to live on less money than a Tasmanian Desert Ant, and you’ll have to put up with every wannabe journalist on the planet judging your every move, but hey, “You too could be one of the chosen few” :-)

  • avatar
    rhino26

    In the medical field there is alot of perks that come with the job. My mom has worked in medical billing for as long as i am old. When she was a buyer she would get fruit baskets, free dinners at swanky restaurants (100.00), they would send her birthday presents, christmas presents, for someone that worked on not much more the min. wage it was really nice. She is now a manager of billing and the insurrnce companies send her stuff, the pharm reps send her stuff (she also manages the office for 14 doctors). My friend that worked at the local hospital they were giving a huge christmas party every year. They rented a venue for about 1200 people and it was completely catered. I think that this kind of stuff is nice when it does not go way over board. every job has there perks some just have better ones then others.

  • avatar

    Rhino26, you hit the nail right on the head! In fact, my wife now manages a clinic of 11 doctors and exactly the same goes on today. However, those are minor perks compared to what some of the doctors receive. Many attend so-called medical conferences, which typically take place at swanky resorts (often overseas with nice golf courses). The flights and accommodations are paid for by the drug companies (sound familiar to anyone?), and most are for the duration of at least a week (Not 1 or 2 days like us lowly auto journalists get). Of course, they’re not actually “paid” to attend the events, but they are handsomely financially rewarded for their “professional opinions” at these events!! (Now there’s a suggestion for the car companies :-)). They also usually receive some pretty nice welcoming gifts (I know, I used to help my wife choose them). How do they get invited to these you might ask…Well, its all down to how much of that particular drug companies products they have been prescribing lately (Arr, but that’s an industry secret) :-)

    Isn’t that nice eh! But how does this differ from the automotive journalists press junkets you might be thinking. Well, I see it this way…If you purchase a new vehicle after listening to me rave about it and you don’t like the thing afterwards, then sell it on and buy another one. On the other hand, next time that your doctor recommends some “new fangled super drug that’s just come on the market” and it causes your hair to turn green and fall out, remember what I’ve just told you!

    Now, does that put this whole thing into perspective for everyone :-)

  • avatar
    TaxedAndConfused

    Motoring journos accepting perks shocker ?

    Meanwhile it has been revealed that standing in the rain makes you wet.

  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    Crash,
    Of course, much of the healthcare legislation aimed at reducing the costs has been to stop the freebies from flowing to doctors. So, someone in Congress must disagree with you.

    Wait, that likely means you are correct. Damn!

    Seriously though, I still like transparency. And, car models are like dogs named “Checkers”. Let’s at least hear about the real perks.

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