By on December 13, 2014


Hey! Remember that movie Drop Zone, with Wesley Snipes? No? Well, there’s a character in the movie who won’t speak to someone until he’s jumped out of a plane with them. After all, his reasoning presumably goes, you can’t know what someone’s made of until you skydive with them. Luckily, he ends up doing a very daring jump with Wesley Snipes and therefore he can talk to Wesley Snipes from then on.

I felt the same way about Jalopnik’s Travis Okulski. Until he and I drove the inaugural AER enduro, I didn’t know or care much about him. Over the course of two days, I saw his character as a racer: fast, careful, intelligent, conservative when necessary. I grew to really like him. Which is just one of the reasons I’m so pleased to read his latest editorial on The Site That Reports On Cars Almost As Often As They Raise Awareness On Gender And Race Issues.

For a few years now, there’s been a kind-of-secret Facebook group called “Automotive Industry”. When I was on Facebook — I’m not at the moment, due to some complaints from two “motorcycle industry professionals” that I was being too mean to them — I would occasionally read the group just to stay in touch with the more barnacle-encrusted veterans of the endless buffet out there. Trust me, it would confirm anyone’s worst stereotypes of autojournos. There’s endless whining about free cars and luxury hotels and having to walk between concourses. One moment that stands out in my memory was when a fellow who used to write for TTAC (okay, it was Lieberman, stop twisting my arm) complained that one of his first-class flights to Europe was ruined by some condensation that dripped on him from the air-conditioning equipment overhead. He was told, with much commiseration, that this is a common occurrence on certain 747 upper decks. When I read that, I thought “Thank G-d that I always fly Southwest ‘Wanna Get Away’, and therefore will always be safe from condensation, even if the planes occasionally develop holes in the fuselage.”

Still, it was worth reading, if only for the time that one of the members posted a rather bizarre manifesto about bringing real strength and length and girth to the business only to retract it afterwards and blame the whole episode on the fact that he’d recently been diagnosed with a brain tumor. You can’t make this stuff up.

Since leaving Facebook, I hadn’t thought much about “Automotive Industry”, but now Travis has blown the lid off the thing.


Trust me, it gets even better after that.

While it would be tempting to point out that I’ve been beating this drum at TTAC and elsewhere for years, the truth is that I’m glad to see readers informed about the conditions and perks that inform the content they receive. It’s also important for me to keep thinking and writing about it. Since making the move to Road&Track, I’ve had the chance to experience a variety of things that simply aren’t available to online journalists, like, you know, renting an entire racetrack for a whole day for my personal use. Some “perks” are easy to justify: we couldn’t have written an article on comparing the McLaren 650S to the McLaren World Challenge GT car without, you know, driving both of those totally fucking awesome cars around a private racetrack. Others are tougher: some time ago I was at a press event and I ordered a rather extensive room service setup for two lady friends of mine at a hotel in Las Vegas. When I got home and looked at my credit card statements I realized that the bill hadn’t gone on the Amex that I gave the hotel but rather to the manufacturer’s overall tab, per the standing instructions for that event.

In my perfect world, cars would be delivered in competitive-set groups to Mid-Ohio and I’d personally test them back-to-back under controlled conditions before stopping by Wendy’s on the way home and sleeping in my own bed. Turns out that it’s actually cheaper for manufacturers to hold press events than to bring me cars at Mid-Ohio. Until that changes, we’ll continue to do our best to provide the most impartiality and integrity possible, even under conditions of mind-numbing luxury. We will not, however, demand free souvenirs. That’s for the folks at Autoblog to do.

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38 Comments on “T.O. Punks The Journosaurs...”

  • avatar

    What the manus need to do, is route around the issues with sucky upper level cabins, and have you drive the darned car you are testing back to mid Ohio yourself…..

    That way, we’d get a much more realistic picture of how it performs both on a track you know, and in the “real world.”

    But honestly, if the manus weren’t so concerned about ensuring opinion was formed under conditions they could control, they would provide a few hundred rentals around the country for prospective buyers some period prior to launch. Reimburse the rent for those who end up buying (either their car or one from a competitive set) within a reasonable time. The journos could “reimburse” themselves from ad sales, subscriptions or whatnot.

  • avatar

    As always Jack, informative and entertaining. Find a way to introduce some girls into these pieces and I may never look at any other website again.

    A fellow Ohioan

  • avatar

    To be fair to your former colleague the upper deck of most 747s is business, not first class. So it must have been mortifying to be dripped on AND be with the proletariat.

  • avatar

    I saw this yesterday on jalopnik and I have to say it wasn’t that surprising. To be fair a lot of the response were pretty reasonable, it only looked like a couple people were on board with the actual complaint.

    Also I was pretty much unaware of the fact that autoblog actually travels to launches and reviews cars, and I visit the site occasionally. I use it as a press release reference, because it seems like that is 90% of the content there. I’m not trying to be snarky either, that’s my honest impression of autoblog.

  • avatar

    I don’t know if it was Jack who wrote a while back about the standard auto journalist practice of currying favor with the manufacturers by heaping praise on new models and saving any criticism for outgoing models only.

    I noticed Motor Trend is raving about how the 2015 CR-V is their “SUV of the year” and lightyears better than the 2014. Meanwhile, Consumer Reports says the 2015 is worse than the 2014 due to a harsher ride, atrocious radio interface, etc.

    • 0 avatar

      Vehicle lifecycle in a magazine:

      1. Quicktake. “Insider buzz says the new Crossedanocoupe is going to be making some waves”

      2. First Drive. “The new Crossedanocoupe is fellatio from the angels!!! The old one was so worthless that anyone who would be openly seen in one today deserves to be stabbed in the throat!”

      3. Comparison test “A respectable 3rd place for the Crossedanocoupe. Although it had some great features the slightly too high road noise knocks it down to bronze.”

      4. Second Take “Road noise is now totally taken care of!”

      5. First Drive (next model) “The new Crossedanocoupe is a class-champion!! The road noise on the old one made our ears bleed!! It was also slow!!”

      • 0 avatar

        Thank you so much. I’ve seen this rundown every time I’ve ever read about any model, but I think the best example are/were Corvette reviews. The interior has been fixed six times, I think. The ride at least three. The only part that never needed fixing was the V8, other than the cross fire version.

    • 0 avatar
      Dave M.

      I think MT and CR are going to have two different approaches in their views. CR’s atrocious ride may in fact be MT’s sporting flair, etc.

      CR celebrates the car as usable appliance (ergonomics, capacity, reliability); MT is looking at the driving dynamic. Both serve a purpose…

      • 0 avatar

        Comparing CR and MT… You funny guy

      • 0 avatar

        Other cars that CR has recently raved about include the 2015 Mustang, the BMW 2 series, Porsche Macan, and Tesla Model S.

        I recommend CR’s “Talking Cars” show on YouTube for anyone who wants to hear real criticism of new vehicles.

      • 0 avatar

        CR looks at cars in the context of the purpose they serve. Their favorite sporty cars are the Camaro SS (affordable), CTS (sport sedan), Miata (cheap roadster), Boxster (pricey roadster), Civic Si (fuel efficient), Corvette (performance). Any disagreements?

        CR is about as real as it gets with regard to car reviews. You should actually read it sometime.

  • avatar

    If I have my internet outrage correct, I believe we should threaten to rape and kill them.

  • avatar

    Do people actually take the opinions of “auto journalists” that seriously? I don’t even take JACK all that seriously. I am perfectly capable of making up my own mind about various cars. Sometimes, my opinions are in line with popular opinion (I really like BMWs, and I think Cadillacs are not good enough for what they try to get for them), sometimes I am off by myself (I love old Peugeots and hate most Toyotas).

    If you can get a free luxury trip out of a car maker, take it and enjoy the ride!

  • avatar

    I heard a similar lament by an auto-journo who was flown to Europe to test a U.S. market car in glorified Euro settings; he simply preferred just to have the darn thing delivered quietly to his door. That’s his perfect world.

    In my perfect world, more auto media would offer some reality to their vehicle testing and observations. Screaming around a race track is irrelevant to most people’s daily lives.

    In an imperfect world, I find Consumer Reports a valuable reference. I applaud pointing out the built-in bias in car reviews.

  • avatar

    Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain and according to a hacked Sony email Angelina Jolie is a no-talent brat… So what? It’s all just entertainment folks. You have credible sources and you have Fox News and it doesn’t take a genius to tell the difference, but when it comes to buying a car the best source of information is a pretty simple one, “Ask the man that owns one”

  • avatar

    If swag is going away I’m guessing that it has more to go with the manufacturer embarrasment of seeing it hawked in realtime on eBay than integrity.

  • avatar

    They call the group ‘Automotive Industry’? Me thinks there’s an important omission there. Should be ‘Auto Industry Lapdogs’.

  • avatar

    I wonder what Autojournos got back in the 90’s, back when tinny Hondas got rave reviews.

  • avatar

    Before Robert Farago here at TTAC and Roger Simon at Pajamas Media asked me to write about cars for pay, I’d been credentialed to the big auto shows for years, in part so I could get press kits and swag to sell on eBay. Some day I’ll do a post for TTAC about the swag biz. As the Facebook post that Travis Okulski highlighted indicates, though, the golden days of swag are long gone. Even the press kits are mostly just thumb drives. The last piece of really nice swag that I got was a Bluetooth enabled powered speaker at a Toyota event in 2013. Chrysler gave out a combination phone charger 8 gig thumb drive at the Charger Hellcat reveal. Heck, some don’t even give out thumb drives, just a link to a media website.

    Plenty of automotive writers like Paul Abelson and Doron Levin have treated me graciously and mentored me as I made the transition to writing professionally, but there are still some that know that I was a swag dealer and resent the fact that I was hitchhiking on their gravy train.

    A couple of years ago, while asking some GM media folks for a Cadillac thumb drive at the NAIAS, I had the great pleasure of being called “a parasite” by an autojourno named Tom Appel, who rewrites press releases for some supposed “consumer” publication. He’s never reviewed a Miata because guys who weigh 350 lbs can’t fit in a Miata. He did, however, name the Dodge Durango one of his top 3 cars of the year, praising the amount of interior space. The fact that he was loaned a Durango for a year for a “long term test” gave Chrysler no purchase on his affections, I’m sure.

    But I’m the parasite. His use of that word is quite telling.

  • avatar

    If you think the other “news” you read isn’t the product of PR and message massaging, you’re naive. Short of a reporter standing with a mic and a cameraman outside of a burning building, by the time you see it, “public affairs officers” etc and so forth have already started crafting the narrative.

    In addition to shaping the story, there’s also the problem that a lot of people write about stuff about which they are ignorant. There are automotive topics like finance and transmissions that I’d rather not write about because I don’t feel comfortable trying to explain or comment on something that I don’t understand.

    Michael Crichton on physicist Murray Gell-Mann on the unreliability of “news”.

  • avatar

    Thanks for the new word to add to my lexicon “Journosaurs.” The epithet fits perfectly and there is no need for explanation. Bravo.

  • avatar
    S2k Chris

    I said it in Facebook and I’ll say it here; most industries have a $25 rule, an I am 100% in agreement with that. If your integrity can be bought for $25, it ain’t worth much anyways. If it’s more than $25, turn it down. If this guy is truly bemoaning not getting little matchbox cars and other such trinkets, it’s not necessarily a worthwhile gripe, but the blogs making mountains out of molehills by screaming “gotcha!” at it are ridiculous, probably in an effort to elevate themselves.

    In reality, I treat all automotive “journalism” as entertainment only, and don’t expect or care if they’re unbiased. In fact I WANT some bias, I want a guy to say “yeah, car XYZ is faster but the car I actually want to buy is car ABC.” If it’s because ABC is giving him kickbacks, it will become apparent when I drive it. Otherwise, it’s some car guy speaking from his gut, and I respect that. Even if I don’t agree with him, take a damn side, form an opinion, and make an argument to support it. The mental exercise of evaluating that argument is the enjoyment anyways, not reading the spec sheet.

  • avatar
    S2k Chris

    Another comment eaten. Come on guys, figure it out.

  • avatar
    Domestic Hearse

    Hotel. Las Vegas. Two lady friends. Extensive room service.

    For God’s sake, man. How many times must I remind?

    Pics or it didn’t happen!

  • avatar

    Nice read Jack. I only have one question: Were you ever able to get that Vegas room service SNAFU sorted out?

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