How to REALLY Pack Like an Automotive Journalist
Recently, august buff book publication Car and Driver published a piece of content dubbed “ How to Pack Like an Automotive Journalist.”
The piece doesn’t appear to be sponsored content – it reads as if C/D polled staffers for recommendations, and followed it up with revenue-generating links for readers to click if they want to buy said items.
I’m not picking on C/D for running this type of content – we run buyer’s guides and place Amazon ads in some posts, so I’d be a hypocrite if I did. It’s how money is made in online journalism these days, and it harkens back to the days of print. If I have to work my way past a fashion spread of watches I can’t afford in order for Esquire to pay authors like Charles Pierce enough that I can read them while waiting for my haircut, so be it. Just like y’all can skip past similar content on our site (although we’d prefer you didn’t. Like Dax Shepard in Idiocracy, we like money).
No, no. That’s not why I laughed at the post when I saw it floating around the Twitters this week. I laughed because the number of automotive journalists who will buy things like the items in the post – regardless of whether they can afford to or not – is precisely nil.
Here’s how you really, truly pack like an automotive journalist:
- Backpack: You’re best served with an Ogio backpack that bears an OEM logo. I have one! Two, if you count one with a broken zipper that I buried in a closet after a repair attempt failed and forgot to toss out. It doesn’t matter which Ogio, but it’s best if you didn’t pay for it.
- Jacket: I like traveling with a light jacket available, no matter where I am going. It gets cold at night in certain places, even during the summer months, and having the extra pockets comes in handy. To be like a journalist, you need an OEM-branded piece. This is where I admit to you, dear reader, that I am a failure, having lost an OEM-branded light jacket in a cab after a night of revelry celebrating my birthday some years ago. That sucker was warm. Now I just wear something from Columbia like every other 30-something in my neighborhood.
- Suitcase: I have yet to see an OEM give out a suitcase, so you’re on your own here. You might get snazzy luggage tags, though.
- Ballcap: Do this job for a year and you’ll have so many you can open a Lidz.
- T-Shirt: Either an OEM shirt, or something from Blipshift.
- Water Bottle/Coffee Mug: Forget Target or Walmart. You no longer need to shop there for these. Although you can’t have my non-OEM-branded Contigo I paid for out of pocket unless you pry it from my cold, dead hands.
- Sunglasses: I buy cheapos because I tend to lose them or sit on them. But if you’re not as clumsy as me, you can get a nice pair from an upscale brand if you wait long enough for the right event.
- Shoes: If you don’t have a pair of Pilotis you got gratis, you must be a newb. If you wear them to drive a compact crossover across downtown San Diego, you must really be a newb.
- Cold-weather gear: Need a parka? Gloves? Winter hat? Scarf? Hope to be invited to a winter-weather trip in some cold, snowy place. The kind of place that makes California-based journos shake in fear.
- Notebooks/pens: The must-have tools of any journalist! But skip the line at Walgreen’s – you’ll be given these at the morning brief.
- Tablet: Accepting something of this value would be against TTAC policy (small items are one thing, but a tablet? C’mon). But that hasn’t stopped OEMs from occasionally offering them. You might be able to skip the Apple store, after all.
Some of you will note that I’ve disclosed taking swag home before. I am not trying to be hypocritical here. But that doesn’t mean I can’t poke fun at myself, or the weirdness of this industry I work in (also, I like Blipshift. Cool stuff there, and I’m not getting paid to say that). Other parts of the journalism industry aren’t offered the level of swag we see. When I covered sports, we maybe got free food or a free beer. And a whole paper stack of stats.
So you don’t need to follow Car and Driver’s lead and pile up huge credit-card debt to pack like one of us. Just sign up for every airline’s frequent-flier program, every upscale hotel chain’s reward program, and use a pile of gifts to outfit yourself.
I’d say you could use your savings on booze and shrimp, but that will be covered, too. Cheers!
[Image © 2019 Steph Willems/TTAC]
Tim Healey grew up around the auto-parts business and has always had a love for cars — his parents joke his first word was “‘Vette”. Despite this, he wanted to pursue a career in sports writing but he ended up falling semi-accidentally into the automotive-journalism industry, first at Consumer Guide Automotive and later at Web2Carz.com. He also worked as an industry analyst at Mintel Group and freelanced for About.com, CarFax, Vehix.com, High Gear Media, Torque News, FutureCar.com, Cars.com, among others, and of course Vertical Scope sites such as AutoGuide.com, Off-Road.com, and HybridCars.com. He’s an urbanite and as such, doesn’t need a daily driver, but if he had one, it would be compact, sporty, and have a manual transmission.
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