Does motoring journalism still matter?
In a world where everyone has access to all the car information they could ever want, does the art of motoring journalism still matter?
Back in the 'good old days of the motoring media', journalists such as L.J.K. Setright, Dennis Jenkinson, G.N. Georgano, and Russel Bulgin roamed the earth and car enthusiasts relied on their skills to learn about the latest and greatest cars. This helped the reader to develop an opinion on a car without ever driving it and would more often than not, inform them on which cars to spend their hard-earned cash on.
However, do we now live in a world where the art of motoring journalism is becoming irrelevant?
Nowadays, any old Joe Bloggs can go onto the internet and Google anything they wish to know about a car and write about it. This isn't necessarily a bad thing but it does put the traditional journalism industry in a tricky situation. Anyone with a Twitter account and a strong opinion can be classed as a journalist – resulting in the rise of fake news and arguably a lesser need for 'real' journalists.
You see, in order to be a proper journalist, at least in my opinion, I think that you have to be fair, thorough in what you write and how you articulate yourself, be correct, have strong morals, be honest, and be a good writer – and that's just the most basic requirements. A combination of all these elements isn't an easy thing to accomplish but it has been done and those are the ones who shine through and rise to the top. Other times, it can just be pure luck or controversy, but then again, they often have many of the attributes mentioned above.
The craft of giving people the facts and offering an opinion is something which we need to stick around, especially in a time where electric vehicles are on the rise. For many people, this is a tricky time because deciding what car to move to isn't easy, with many people not knowing anything about the subject. This is when motoring journalists are needed more than ever, offering their expertise on which cars to buy and the pros and cons of them. A true car reviewer will tell you if a car is crap or not – this is something that is becoming increasingly phased out.
I don't want to point fingers at anyone but some 'influencers' these days do just say a car is good because they've been given one or invited on a press trip. This is wrong and I don't believe they should be swayed so easily. If a trip is about a car, speak about the car and be honest. Nothing angers me more than when someone is not honest, especially if that person knows their audience trust their opinions and could make a purchasing decision following on from what they say.
A lot of us still believe we want to hear solid advice from a trained professional who knows what they're talking about and can lay down all the information in a palatable format for the general reader as well as the enthusiast.
A quote that has stuck with me for years is something Autocar's Steve Cropley once said when asked about the importance of motoring journalism. "First, always remember you work for the reader. You do not work for the proprietor, you certainly don’t work for the advertising department, you don’t even work for the editor," Steve said.
Second, make sure you retain the reader’s attention to the last line of your copy. That, he says, is fundamental: ‘if you don’t do that you have failed," he added.
All of what Steve said is absolutely true and hits the nail on the head of what being a motoring journalist really means. But the reason I decided to write this article in the first place was to highlight other forms of motoring media that is out there and how it is a potential threat to traditional automotive journalism.
'Influencers' are a great example of a big threat to traditional motoring magazines. They often have much larger audiences than even the biggest magazine brands out there and they deliver their content in such a way that engages and excites a younger and developing audience.
How many 12 to 17-year-olds do you know who still read magazines? I am willing to bet very few to none. Video is seemingly a much more attractive format for the youth of today which is absolutely fine. If it's getting people to talk about cars then that's great but it does offer up some concern.
The good old days of the motoring magazine are sliding behind us but that doesn't mean the art of a true journalist is. A world where different strands of motoring media coexist is a world I want to be a part of, but only if it's done right. It is a very interesting time for the world of motoring journalism and as someone who is looking to crack their way into the game, it's a scary time too. Who knows what the future holds for this line of work, but all I know is I am excited to adapt to it as it grows.
And how will it grow? By people like you and I writing things on websites such as DriveTribe. Like James mentioned in the YouTube video above, this is the perfect platform to begin a motoring career, so if you haven't already, make an account and get posting. Who knows, you may get noticed and become the next Jeremy Clarkson.