I will be writing a deeper, more insightful, post about this topic, but I want to throw the idea out there to see what your thoughts are.
Thanks to Hooniverse and Carenvy/Bitcoin Pete, I will soon begin reviewing new cars. Driving cars-- whether big or small, fast or slow, ugly or gorgeous-- makes me happy. I am really looking forward to the opportunity, not only because it will be fun to try different cars, but because I'll be able to write about them as well.
And that's the challenge. I am mindful of two things. One, I want my reviews to be interesting and different. We have all read thousands of car reviews over our lifetimes and 98% of them are formulaic. How can I describe my impressions without it sounding like a dull Consumer Reports/Edmunds.com spewing of safety and reliability data? Or worse, how can I describe my impressions without it sounding like a florid and bullshit-ridden press release?
The second issue I am mindful of is related to the press release. There's always that conflict of interest that few automotive journalists/bloggers mention (other than the folks at TTAC). The car companies do not pay reviewers for the reviews. But subconsciously (or consciously), the journalist/blogger is always mindful that Car Company X may stop giving you press cars to review if you have badmouthed the last seven offerings from Car Company X. And more subtly, I truly believe that the freebies offered by car companies' marketing departments-- invites to car events, track days, fancy hors d'oeuvres, booze-- cloud the reviewer's judgment.
As I work these issues out in my mind and heart, I invite you to share your thoughts. What do you want to see in a review? What don't you want to see? How do you see the current state of the autojournalism landscape? I'm willing to bet that 15 years ago, we all subscribed to at least one car magazine. I'm also willing to bet the last time we touched a car magazine was at an airport newsstand or the doctor's office.
I'll end this ramble with three car reviewers I have always looked up to:
John Davis of Motorweek. I grew up watching Davis and Co. every week. His review of cars is the epitome of formulaic, but his honest persona makes it all okay.
Csaba Csere of Car & Driver. Just as I watched Davis every week on TV, I read Car & Driver every month as a teenager. I like Csere a lot mostly because of his name.
Jamie Kitman of Automobile. Kitman is hands down my favorite. He is bright, funny, and like-minded politically. He's also a lawyer who manages They Might Be Giants.