Yesterday the twitterverse and blogosphere were in an uproar over recent announcements by Hyundai and Nissan to conduct a contest where the winner would win a trip to the New York Auto Show along with press credentials and a chance to conduct their own report. Sounds rather harmless right? That was until the automotive journalist (or automotive entertainers) decided to question the objectivity and biased of the winner’s reporting.
To these part-time writers extraordinaire Regular Joe doesn’t have the journalistic fortitude and immunity to temptation that comes with years of hard nosed journalism (read regurgitating press releases). To many journalists a Joe, or Josephine to be politically correct, would be blinded by the glamor of an all expense paid trip to New York leading them to feel obligated to say absurd things like “the GT-R is impressive” or “I love the new Hyundai Elantra”. How dare their objective views on styling be influenced by an OEM’s offer to wine and dine them. Very few have mentioned Nissan’s contest requires the applicant to currently own a Nissan vehicle. Biases all around; journalistic blasphemy!
You see press days, press events and special drives are reserved for those press-pass carrying members of the automotive journalism club. They are the only people in the world uniquely qualified to capture in words what a car feels like, smells like, drives like and can reword a press release in ten different ways making sure not to sound like the guy sitting to their left and right. Most of these guys drive bland late model cars and have an income equal to that of a certified mechanic. They don’t do it for the money though they do it for the love (and access, free travel, food and whatever other swag and goodies an OEM throws their way). I find it hard to understand what makes auto journos more resilient to handouts and freebies than Regular Joe.
At the end of the day automotive companies want positive brand recognition and they want to sell cars. If plucking an enthusiast from the crowd of fans, pampering that person and then promoting their “story” as a marketing tool – then good on them! Please take a deep breath cause OEMs aren’t pulling their press fleet, nixing their press budgets or striking your name from their press release listserve. Your perks are safe……..for now.
I do see the future changing though. As OEM marketing dollars start to touch more& more people and they increase their personal conversations with customers in public forums – it almost begins to negate the need for unbiased automotive reviews. Cars will become activley and publicly peer-reviewed. Pretty soon the only type of automotive journalism left will be the one where reporters go out and get NEWS by asking questions, doing research and god forbid coming up with their own creative ideas.
The days of regurgitating press releases and aggregating news stories are coming to an end. All that will be left standing are those who provide automotive news and automotive insight and those that produce very entertaining material.