Motoring journalism hasn’t really evolved much over the past 40 years.
I would suggest that it has regressed. The evolution has come in the end product with online replacing print and traditional journalists being ousted by “bloggers and vloggers”.
In five years it is unlikely that the shelves at W H Smith will feature more than half a dozen motoring related magazines. Presently they number nearly 30.
Today many people who claim to be motoring journalists are ‘jacks of all trades’ and masters of none. The traditional motoring magazines that remain no longer have a technical editor yet it could be argued that the high levels of technology now built into cars do require such a role. Very few focus on the business aspects of the motor industry and judging from comments published very few understand the workings of a car dealership.
Journalists used to ask probing questions and were generally reluctant to accept the claims of enthusiastic marketing managers. Today few questions are asked.
Motoring journalism is now more democratic in that anyone can become a motoring journalist, even those considered by some to be celebrities. Being able to cook, sing or dance and owning a Ferrari doesn’t mean you’re qualified to review a Ford Mondeo.
In the ‘good old days’ a motoring journalist usually worked on a national newspaper, a motoring magazine, regional newspapers or local radio. There were also freelance journalists, usually ones who had a previous career with a recognised media outlet but several that didn’t. These had credentials that did not usually bear close scrutiny and many had an inflated opinion of their own importance. Much like today’s bloggers.
Today you can set up a motoring website on a monday and be driving a Ford Mustang on a Tuesday! Well, maybe a Ford Fiesta. It is that easy. And because it is that easy, and the writers involved want eventually to drive that Ford Mustang, the reviews are rarely critical.
There are many credible, experienced and knowledgeable motoring journalists but there is an increasing number whose lack of credibility, experience and knowledge threatens to undermine the status and value of the ‘grown ups’.
They are readily seduced by the image of the brand which compromises their ability to question the credibility of the product. Generation Y, Millenials, the social media generation or whatever you wish to call them accept their opinions and reviews without question. More’s the pity.
While the motor industry, companies and PRs rub their hands with glee, I wring mine in anxiety over the rise of social media bloggers and the slow death of a knowledgable profession and titles or newspapers we actually need now more than ever to measure and test the claims of the motor industry.