- Image: Plymouth

DriveTribe Writers: please take your time

It doesn't take much to do some critical research

10w ago
18.4K

I didn't really want to write this, but as someone who spends a fair amount of screen time on DriveTribe and scrolls through the various bits of content people have written, I almost felt like I had to.

So anyway, there are a load of active writers on here, and that's a brilliant thing. Showing off your talent is a great way to get your name out there in the world of automotive journalism - and I fully support how this site treats aspiring writers including myself.

But as someone who has nearly finished a 3-year journalism course at what the Sunday Times calls 'the modern university of the year', there are some critical rules of journalism which have been missed by a lot of writers on here. If you are a keen writer, please read on to see if any of these apply to you.

1. Check. Your. Facts.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Image: Wikimedia Commons

It seems obvious, but you'll be amazed at just how many articles I've read in recent times that needed correcting because of vital misinformation. I'm not naming anyone, but some of the mistakes are blatantly obvious.

For instance, there was an article outlining the new (and hopefully arriving soon) TVR Griffith which stated that the car was 'first introduced in 1991'. Despite that being the answer after a 2 second Google search, it isn't strictly true as it was actually first seen in the 1960s as a result of the US-based Griffith Motor Company shoving a 289 Ford V8 into the MK3 Grantura.

Other examples include a piece that confused two different generations of Corvettes and one that captioned a photo of a 1970 Dodge Challenger as a 1967! (The Challenger wasn't even introduced until '70, keep in mind).

Image: General Motors

Image: General Motors

There are loads of other examples out there, but the moral is to anyone writing: please check your facts and make sure they're accurate. One of the first principles of journalism, in any form, is accuracy. And if you can't prove that you can perform basic research before writing up a story, then how can an employer trust you when looking through your past work?

It may seem needy, but if you've got tens of thousands of people looking at your content (which is normal for DriveTribe), the last thing you want to be doing is spreading false facts. It won't only be your reputation as a writer that'll dwindle, but ultimately DriveTribe's too since a lot of content is shared on social media.

2. Other forms of misinformation

Image: Mecum Auctions

Image: Mecum Auctions

Remember the car pictured above? In case you don't, it's a 1971 Plymouth Cuda 440 six-barrel convertible that spent 35 years of its life in a container before heading to auction.

Well, at the time, there was quite some misinformation that was being stated about the car. Namely, I believe this was because writers (not just DriveTribe for that matter) just took the information from the Mecum Auction site and went berserk with it without concluding a good deal of research.

I'm going to link Diego Rosenberg's article which outlines some of the general misinformation that was being stated: but people writing things like the 'desirable' chrome bumpers when they actually came as standard on '71 Cudas just sounds plain silly.

There were other aspects which were wildly exaggerated, meaning that so many writers got carried away with how the information was presented to them. It is therefore important to research these things rather than appearing a bit daft.

Image: Dodge

Image: Dodge

I've began to notice that misinformation is a reoccurring theme on the classic American car genre, and as Diego truthfully states at the end of his piece, it's because people tend to not know a lot about them.

When writing about these sorts of cars, you have to bear in mind that there were so many engine options and variants of a particular model - not just a single engine like some pieces I've come across in the past. They were variations back then like the BMW 5-Series is now; because you could never write about that car's capabilities as a singular because a 520D and M5 are different things.

Image: General Motors

Image: General Motors

Then there were a plethora of pieces I came across where examples of classic muscle and pony cars like the Dodge Charger, Plymouth GTX etc. were assumed to be disappointing because they had the automatic gearbox options. You have to understand that in this genre, units like the 727 Torqueflite and the equivalents fitted to muscle and pony cars were designed with performance in mind - meaning it's not necessarily 'bad' if they don't have the manual (or stick shift in U.S terminology).

I'm not against anybody who isn't clued-up on certain types of cars, but as mentioned previously, it doesn't hurt to spend more time doing research before publishing your work. For American cars in particular, I'd highly recommend browsing through the Muscle Car of the Week YouTube channel: they document all sorts of cars with fantastic, insightful information that will stop you from publishing misinformation.

Image: BMW Classic

Image: BMW Classic

Then there's the topic of value: of course, people will have different perceptions of what is good or bad value to them, but there have been some cases before which have been... rather odd.

It doesn't take a lot to do a bit of market research before writing about the selling price of a car. There have been cases on DriveTribe when people seem to be surprised at the price of a car before calling it cliches such as 'the bargain of the century', when in reality, it is at the complete top end of the market for that particular model or even beyond.

And exaggerating values isn't a good route to go down either; there have been a number of articles whose authors have written that a car could be worth an extortionate amount of money when in reality, it would be worth a lot less. This is probably a small gripe, but exaggerating things like that - and in other forms as mentioned - shows an extreme lack of research from that author. All of the things mentioned will look silly to readers in the know - and that is often DriveTribe's reader base. They are often clued-up car enthusiasts after all.

3. With that in mind, please be careful when writing news stories

Image: BMW Group Press

Image: BMW Group Press

Look, I understand that in the world of journalism: it is hugely beneficial if your article is amongst the first to be published. It means you might get the first set of eyes reading upon the new information. Your article may be the one first shared to other people and yes, it's exciting to get attention.

However, a true art of news journalism is ensuring 100% accuracy, interesting information alongside the main points while also getting it published promptly. It's no secret that a number of people on DriveTribe cover news stories, but a lot of the articles promoted to the homepage first have been met with inaccuracies and some misinformation. So, it's therefore important that if you come across a press release on a topic you're unfamiliar with, it would help if you performed some research first.

I say this because talking from experience, press releases can sometimes misinterpret information and those companies occasionally pray on vulnerable journalists in order to get widespread media attention. So, it really helps to educate yourself on the topic and what they're referring to before judging what exactly they want you to release. It may not even be worth it!

There was a recent case of DT creator, Squirrel With Antlers (your parents were creative with that one...) who wrote up an article about SVD technology on motorways, only for someone from Highways England to tell him that what he wrote was pretty much incorrect based off the information he received. You can check out the story here.

(He gave permission for me to use that example!)

I only mention this because DriveTribe is usually my first source when it comes to news from the industry - and probably will be for tens of thousands of other readers too. So, if you don't want to risk getting called out and/or embarrassed, ensure everything is on point!

Enjoy!

I'm not wanting to slander anyone for their efforts, because I appreciate that writing can sometimes be tricky, but the best way to ensure quality is to follow one of the most basic forms of journalism: know what you're talking about.

If you display your research and knowledge, there's a good chance that everyone else will enjoy your content over the next writer's who didn't do his/her homework.

Take this as constructive criticism and on a concluding note, know your worth!

Join In

Comments (25)

  • Excellent points, Aaron - as I mentioned the other day, social media is never far from accusations of fake news. This doesn't have to be; and especially not on a platform that has an emphasis on hand-picking content for promotion and improving its creators.

      2 months ago
  • Equally there’s the dangerous world of audience reactions. If like me you enjoy massaging your own ego, check the Facebook comments section if your post makes it to Facebook. Often you can see what people do and don’t like about a piece. I avoid interacting with them, but you can often learn from what the audience for your work wants and might want to better suit how you write.

    I found this with a history piece I did on an old Morgan. I generated a sarcastic long name for it, but the joke missed. That was a fault of mine for not having made the tone of it clear or not setting it up well enough.

    Equally don’t be too down beat if someone doesn’t like your work, you might well have put a lot of effort into it, they don’t know that and the anonymity a screen offers sometimes means people will be more critical of something if they can’t see who it’ll affect.

      2 months ago
    • I do browse through the comments on FB if any of my posts make it there. It's good because the audience there aren't repeat readers who follow you personally, so you can get a real sense of what they actually think. Luckily, I've had a fairly...

      Read more
        2 months ago
    • You can also tell who skim reads and who actually reads what you’ve written. Sometimes they’ll mention a point you’ve missed. It’s all part of the fun.

        2 months ago
  • I took a stint in radio broadcasting back in high school, and much of what was said here was key pointers back when I was starting to write news scripts. More than arranging the info, it's important to have a solid base of facts, which is why one must check other sources to see if they all match, as well as to see if your angle is already taken by someone else (this is why I kinda get a Matrix feeling when the same car gets three news items).

    I'm still dealing with these problems myself, even if I try as much as possible to pick and choose my battles because it's often better to drop the story than run it even if it's wrong or hard to verify. Fortunately, the fall-back is easy: just keep digging until the right information is found, then use it to attack a story from a new slant. Thanks a lot for this, Aaron.

      2 months ago
    • You're welcome; and I can relate. I worked at a radio station based at my university for a year and a bit and I can relate exactly to what you're saying. Accuracy and angle is the most vital thing in the business!

        2 months ago
  • Well written!

      2 months ago
  • Getting the facts right is very important, but in a time where many contributors are here for the clicks and Internet points there is the even more annoying problem of posting copy-paste articles with clickbaity titles.

    These people typically add quite a few new articles per day, it's thrown together in less than 15 minutes, adds some scooped photos, catchy title and be done with it, to hell with quality..

    I wish Drivetribe could give us an [IGNORE] button for certain "contributors"

      2 months ago
    • That sort of thing happens all the time in the standard news industry (even the BBC for that matter...) but ya, clickbait is a pet hate of mine...

        2 months ago
25