Today, we found out that someone on the Motor Trend payroll also represents an oil company. What, exactly, is wrong with that?
Many of us grew up reading copies of CAR, EVO, C and D, Motor Trend and Road & Track if you had bad teeth. When you're a kid, you don't give a second thought to your favorite writers hyping the living hell out of some car brand or some measuring equipment or whatever. As you grow up, this praise becomes increasingly unsettling. Pauljones wanted everything cleared up.
There are a couple of things that the article doesn't give me a good grasp of one way or other:
1) Despite the fact that she is on the payroll of a Top Tier oil company, and wrote an article about gasoline from a Top Tier oil company, does that connection serve to skew the facts in question? In other words, is the argument that she is making on behalf of fuel additives factually incorrect, and is therefore intentionally distributing factually incorrect data because she is being paid to do so?
2) What is Jessi Lang's publishing history? What other articles has she written? Have they all been about oil companies and their products, or have they been on a wide variety of topics? What is her history with this sort of thing? Has she ever done anything that could be journalistically questionable in the past?
3) Does anyone in the industry consider a buff mag to be on the same idealistic journalism plateau as a respected newspaper, or are such magazines considered to be more entertainment-oriented?
4) You suggest that accepting some form of compensation, even if it is free or reduced lodging, is considered to be a journalistic no-no in most of the industry, with the exception of automotive and lifestyle niches. You also accurately report that Jalopnik does indeed accept travel compensation. If Lang is writing about the automotive industry, and her articles are factually accurate (note that I'm not asserting that they are; I have no idea one way or the other), then in what way does that differ from the practices of other automotive or lifestyle publications?
I'm not trying to portray the Devil's Advocate per se, but the answers to these questions would go a long a way towards helping readers like me who aren't exactly familiar with the content in question to establish an educated view on the topic.
Our editor-in-chief Matt Hardigree responded point-by-point.
1. She didn't write an article, that I can find, about additives, although MT has covered fuel choices in the past.
2. She's mostly written for Roadfly, a small outfit out of Virginia, and now MT since around March.
3. No, although she defined what she did as journalism.
4. The difference is between going on a fancy trip to write about the car industry, and being paid directly by someone in the car industry while writing about the car industry.
Several other journalists weighed in on the issue and the whole thread is really fantastic. If you want to understand the ‘journalism' side of ‘automotive journalism,' read the full discussion here.
Sadly, the last word comes from highmodulus, who speaks for the apathy of so many on this issue.
Forget it Jake, it's Motor Trend.
Photo Credit: Jessi Lang/Twitter