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TheCarConnection’s been attracting attention from all sorts of places and people, but the attention we’ve received from one must-be fan is turning sour—so of course, we thought you deserved to know about it.

Robert Farago is a writer who has been appearing of late on the Jalopnik blog, as well as his own site, where he’s been trying to gain fame with his “GM Deathwatch” pieces.

A few months ago, Farago inquired about writing for TCC. We declined his reviews, judging him to be too full of venom to write clearly about cars—the same judgment a newspaper client of his in San Francisco had made before us.

Now, twice in recent weeks, Farago’s gone after my writing. From calling me out for florid writing in my Jaguar XK review, he’s progressed to picking bones with TCC for taking manufacturer-sponsored trips to evaluate new cars. Like every other outlet that has a story about the new XK, I went to Cape Town, South Africa, to drive it. Likewise, for the new Volvo C70, I went to Maui.

Farago wants to give CPR to an issue that the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and ABC’s 20/20 have all investigated and editorialized upon—to no effect. The story’s been a red herring ever since I joined the business in 1991. The presumption by Farago and others who don’t have enough credible outlets to get invited, is that by going to South Africa or Maui, I’ve traded away my impartiality for a good review.

You can read my original stories on the Jaguar XK, and Volvo C70 as well as a Maui travel piece and my recent Dodge Caliber review on TCC and judge for yourself. And you can follow the email trail below if you wish - and let us know what you think by sending email.




Robert,
I can’t ask you to cease criticizing my work, which is your American-granted right, though I might wish we were in a society where I determined whose opinions were worth reading and whose deserved a good stoning. I can ask you to please, sometime soon, for the love of all auto journalism, please remove the stick up your ass or at least align it in a more comfortable position.
It’s one thing to attack me as you did, uncredited, on Jalopnik for florid writing re: the XK, another thing here to say it’s unethical to say Volvo underwrote my trip to Hawaii.
It’s really uninformed and unfair to your readers to call me out for taking a trip to do my job, and not disclose your own intent to land in the same circle. Our publisher, TCC Team, and many PR people can attest that going on an event with 30-plus journalists is far from my favorite use of time. I go on these events, like most other writers, because it’s the best, earliest opportunity to get into a new vehicle. If I waited to drive a GM car after their event, I’d have to wait three to six months.
Meanwhile, sites like yours lob criticism in all directions but create no real news of your own. Being a meta-critic is pleasing and certainly draws Web traffic, but it’s not journalism. And my gut feeling is that this criticism of me and my writing comes from your aborted attempt to write for TCC, which I still was open to until reading this last column.
I understand the need to catapult yourself into view of PR people for work’s sake. In fact, in your Jalopnik column, you said you were open to the same kind of treatment I received in Cape Town and Maui – and unknown to you, such stellar places as Galena, Illinois; Fort Stockton, Texas; Veracruz, Mexico; and my own backyard. I’m sure my travel agent buddy won’t be asking if he can get on the same “fam trips” to those locations.
If I can offer any advice, other than re-oriented that stick from graf one, it would be to stop throwing bombs that can’t be lobbed right back at you with equal accuracy.


Thanks for your email.

1. My BTL on your article was not uncredited. Note the RF at the bottom.

2. I do not wish to be in your circle or travel to exotic locations. I simply want access to press cars to review on behalf of my readers.

3. Are you saying Volvo did or did not underwrite your trip? If they didn't, I will remove all mention of your site and print a full retraction.

4. My writing about TCC was not motivated by any desire for "revenge". This is an issue that needs airing. For consumers.

5. I understand your point about having to go on junkets to get your slice of the action. This was mentioned in my piece.

6. Right from the start, I pointed out that your site did not mention the manufacturer's contribution. How hard would that be?

RF


Marty wrote:
I’ll disclose mine when you disclose yours.



Deal.

From now, whenever I review a test car I will print the following: "The vehicle reviewed was provided by the manufacturer, who also paid for insurance and one tank of gas."

You will disclose any and all expenses provided by the manufacturer for a gfiven story (e.g. car, insurance, gas, airfare, transfer, accomodation, meals).

Deal?

RF


No actually I meant, you disclose your true reason for doing the stories – that you couldn’t write for us. Your story isn’t nearly as interesting when all the facts are presented by you, the “impartial” author.
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Comments (29)
  1. I've only come across Mr Farago once, on a manufacturer-funded trip to Spain. He arrived with a lady assistant, who seemed to be more than a secretary. I wonder if he paid the cost of transporting and feeding her or whether the manufacturer concerned coughed up.
    Maybe he doesn't get on too many trips because it's too expensive to subsidize his 'staff'.
     
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  2. Marty,

    You don't deserve to have your name mentioned in same breath as Farago's. The age of cookie-cutter sites with brainless reviews is coming to a slow end. Your junk gets attention because you've been online since 1996 and you get propped up by AOL and AutoSplog. If everyone out there knew about the quality review sites out there -- like Farago's -- no one would ever come to this rag again. Look, your Alexa ranking is already falling.

    Do you really need all the freebies the automakers give you? But I digress . . .

    While I don't think you have to be arrogant like the fools over at Gawker (i.e. rejecting ad offers from a great company like Ford) to be impartial, you do need to be honest and thoughtful. Farago is both.

    (READERS: I've edited this comment to let you know it's posted by Nick Aziz from LeftLaneNews, a blog that Robert Farago is associated with, and to take out personal comments pertaining to me.)
     
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  3. Since you won't disclose who you are, I'll remind you I paid $19,000 for my cars each, not $15,000. I wish I were that cheap.
     
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  4. I should also point out to readers that your site has linked to TCC on more than a dozen occasions - so our content must be worth something to sites that don't create their own news.
     
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  5. And one last point - our Alexa traffic is far above your own.
     
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  6. Wow - the more I read, the more I find out about LLN. They link today to a TopGear piece on the Volvo C70 but show no disdain for their accepting a trip to report on the car. Situational arrogance strikes again!
     
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  7. TopGear knows what it's doing. They are so used to these trips that it doesn't cloud their vision. Moreover, they are insightful enough to actually offer something useful in the first place! If you read this review, you'll see they offer lots of criticsm and praise.

    And I'll admit that not all of your content is useless, but your reviews don't compare to Farago. Like much of the auto press, many of your reviews are far too passive and lack depth. (BTW, it takes a site like LLN to dig through the nonsensical layout of your site to find the useful news to bring to readers).

    And as for the association with Farago, there is really none to me. I like the guy and I link to his site. He is associated with Jalopy, not I.

    As for Alexa, yes, your site is bigger. It's been around since 1996. LLN has been around since September. Plus, my point was you were on a downward trend, that has only been partially saved by AOL and AB. Speaking of which, I'd love it if AB/AOL and TCC would disclose their true relationship, because something is obviously going on!
     
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  8. So they're allowed to and we are not. Interesting. Does someone coherent want to try to argue a point?
     
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  9. Downward trend? You need to look at the numbers again. And our relationship with AOL is no different from yours with Farago, only we're pretty sure they won't turn on us with personal attacks.
     
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  10. Are you implying Farago turned on you? From what I can see, you were never on the same side.

    As for Alexa, your 3 month average is down 1,289 places.

    I am not convinced you have no relationship to AOL, because AB and TCC are the only sites linked in the AOL autos section, which brings a very large amount of traffic to AB.

    AB also links to TCC needlessly. The only other explanation for this is what they don't consider you competition, and they're simply doing it to make themselves look nice. Which is most certainly possible. But that's doesn't explain the AOL end of things.

    As for Top Gear being "allowed" to take benifits... I don't even think that's really the issue. I think the issue is whether or not you allow the companies to influence you. The C70 review on Top Gear was very fair, even slightly negative. So you can't say they are being influenced.
     
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  11. Oh and speaking of personal attacks, you're clearly trying to damage his career in a real way.
     
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  12. and Farago is trying to damage ours. And you need to read Alexa properly - our traffic has been humming along stable or increasing for the past year; relatively, it hasn't increased as much as some other sites, so our overall relative ranking has fallen some. Like Farago, you see what you want to see and not reality.

    That's the last post I'll allow here since it's just us shouting at each other and no real new opinions are being offered.
     
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  13. I think of the growth of the overall internet as inflation. Therefore stable traffic over a year is not the same as stable positioning the in the market.

    And Farago goes after a lot of other journalists -- not just you. That's part of his angle. And I think a lot of people like that, because he is very insightful.
     
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  14. Wow, I have just be reading this lovely long "conversation" that has been going on. My question is why can't this Farago guy take the higher path and not attack other journalists about their work?

    I know a lot of journalists go on trips to get into cars, but it is most often done to put the car into the proper environment to show off the vehicle it the fullest. It isn't done to persuade the media to write a nicer review just because they were in Hawaii or wherever.
     
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  15. Some of the greatest journalists in the world are the ones who look at the rest of the media with a critical eye.
     
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  16. It sounds like the cheap way out to me. You can be insightful without making attacks on other journalists.

    It is just sad when adults get into these mud slinging, name calling games that kids grow out of when they are in 4th grade.
     
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  17. In all fairness, I wouldn't say Farago "attacked" anyone. He's far more careful with his words than I. He simply analyzes and criticizes other articles in an intelligent way.
     
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  18. It sounded like Farago was attacking people's reviews (in particular Marty Padgett's) because the automaker flew the journalist in for their program.

    Well, I am done commenting on this anyway. I do enjoy Marty's reviews though.
     
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  19. Nick, I really don't want to extend these personal wars, but I have a very serious issue with someone defending Robert as being "more careful with his words." Someone who starts describing Steve Harris as "Twisted Sister," is not exactly the definition of the word, "careful."
    We seem to have a battle going on with someone who is picking yet another fight, this time with us...and I have concerns about the timing, which I will get to in a moment.
    But more immediately, there's a tremendous irony in Robert championing journalistic integrity. What I cannot decide is whether his bilious tone is designed to vent a spleen or to entertain, or both. But when Robert chooses to follow journalistic practices, he'll be in a better position to take others to task. Emphasis here, I have NO problems calling GM or anyone else on the carpet, including other journalists, nor in taking legitimate hits myself. I stand by my reputation for integrity, which I have honed for 26 years. And I stand by TheCarConnection's as well.
    As to a point I said I'd get back to, I am deeply disturbed by Robert Farago's sudden assault on TCC, in large part, because of his timing. Robert talks about appearances, so perhaps he should be more concerned about the appearance of acting out of vindictiveness.
    Some months back, Robert approached me directly about writing for TheCarConnection.com. His specific opening line suggested we "marry our fortunes together." What followed is not really relevant here, though I did openly discuss the possibilities with Marty Padgett. Mr. Farago, along with his second-in-command. also repeatedly approached me personally about writing for TTAC.
    There was absolutely no discussion of the concerns Robert Farago has suddenly decided to showcase, none whatsoever. Quite the contrary. My work was openly flattered (thank you for that, Robert). So was the site's.
    In a note to us, Robert has insisted that the decision not to use his work or to contribute to TTAC had no bearing on his recent, vituperative campaign. Really? I'd say that a reasonable observer would have a very different perception.
    And are we not talking about perceptions? Maybe a disclosure in his original piece, ie “I must make it perfectly clear to my readers that, until very recently, I had been actively seeking to contribute to TheCarConnection.com, and that I was personally asking both Mr. Padgett and TCC’s publisher, Paul, to regularly contribute to TTAC. I realize that the fact I proposed our sites “marry our fortunes together,” and that I did not consider the issues raised in this article a problem during our discussions just might lead to some mis-perception by our readers. I felt it too important to contribute to what I described in my past e-mails as one of the web’s most important sites (TCC ed: TheCarConnection.com), and would have raised this issue anyway, once I had more influence, I absolutely promise you, the readers of TTAC.”
    You cannot pick and choose which journalistic practices you decide to adhere to and which you ignore. You cannot demand others address perceptions while you ignore others potentially unflattering to yourself. And name-calling is just that. I refuse to play in this game, not with those who want all the rules bent to favor and flatter themselves.
    Sadly, Nick, your own assault simply comes across as bitter and resentful and both distorts and negates any real concerns you might have. What in god's name is your problem about any affiliation deal TCC might have with an AOL -- other than that you have not established something similar?
    As to Alexa, we're up, we're down, we're up. We're actually following a fairly conventional, seasonal trend on the auto side of the internet. TheCarConnection has, in fact, been running above a number of the traditional enthusiast publications, despite having no corporate promotion machine, nor a print side to constantly ring our bells. Incidentally, if you know anything the Alexa research tool, you also know that it significantly undercounts AOL traffic, so we are actually quite under-represented, something that Alexa has acknowledged in writing. If you think the fact that our traffic grew 250 percent last year is something to be ashamed of, or that we now top 1 million unique visitors monthly, well, then I’ll be pleased to be ashamed.
    If you really wish to turn this into an old-fashioned Internet flame war, please help yourself. You have open access to our Forums and our Blog. We have no interest in censoring your point of view. Short of name-calling, a discussion of legitimate journalistic issues is always valid and indeed, a necessary part of the process. I just have no interest in turning this personal and mean-spirited.
    Thank you.
    TheCarConnection.com
    PS: In the interest of full disclosure, I still believe that Robert Farago is an entertaining writer. I think I’ve already made quite clear my countervailing concerns. Unfortunately, those heavily outweighed my interest in forming an affiliation with TTAC. Though I have some issues with his practices, I think there is a place for his work on the Internet, as there is for TheCarConnection.com.
     
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  20. Well this is interesting.
     
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  21. Farrago writes entertaining stuff but doesn't provide the accuracy, fairness, context or perpsective required of a professional journalist. all journalists take trips to review cars. its a level playing field.
     
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  22. Snoopy and Lucy are having a fight!!!!!

    (repeat a couple times)

    Sitting back complacently, hoping for a continuation of the verbal warfare.
     
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  23. I'm with you, TCC guys. Farago IS full of venom, and he will NOT allow any contradiction to what he says in his weblogs. Contradict once, and you get a warning. Twice, and he bans you. This is not a guy with a full deck.
     
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  24. Farago is full of his own image. Literally trying to become a legend in his own mind. Besides being full of barely repressed anger towards just about everyone except himself, he engages in provocative, profane, and poorly chosen verbiage in his postings. His excessive simile use, is just his way of trying, in vain, to cover his lack of depth in the grasp of use of the English language. Further, he decries how his own ethnicity was disparaged as he suffered the ravages of discriminatory actions.
    Yet, he does not hesitate to vent remarks that are obviously anti-semitic while expressing gratuitous items towards those individuals he describes as "being a WASP". That in and of itself is an insult to the readers, and constitutes an assault on credibility. Mr Paul is being way TOO KIND of Farago's credibility.
    Though Farago will tell you he is perfect, infallible, and sole arbiter of what gets posted within his TRUTH about cars. If he doesn't like it, it will be deleted. If you attempt to discuss the failings of some of the contributors, such as the recent posting about Jeep, he will delete your post, and threaten to BAN you if you even ATTEMPT to do so again! The Jeep article, BTW, failed to take the vehicle off road, even though it was equipped to be able to do so. Many other reviewers and road tests have done so, with subsequent postings of the results. When questioned about the lack of mention about the off road capabilities, Farago responded with his favorite lead in to what he considers an answer: "LET ME BE CLEAR." That is akin to the braying of wild jackasses out west who have the same sort of banality.
    To me, when you express something such as he exerts as being "THE TRUTH," I expect to see that. I also expect to see a free exchange of postings. Farago represses ideas, practices censorship of things that he doesn't like while he hides behind his exercise of First Amendment rights, and is far and away anything BUT the truth! Mr. Paul does express that he has a place on the internet. I grudgingly concur, however, vehemently disagree that he is "THE TRUTH!"
    Farago only exists in his present status due to the country in which we live and the provisions of it's Constitution. To my point, I see Farago as trying very hard to be like Peter DeLorenzo of AUTOEXTREMIST. Mr DeLorenzo does a far more credible service, with source material, proper credentials, and makes truth a center point of his commentary.
    That sort of attempted flattery does NOT make Farago in any way more correct, wise, credible, sole source, nor "THE TRUTH."
     
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  25. I know it's been a while since anything was commented on this site, but I just wanted to agree with g c Struggles. My main complaint with the truth about cars is it's seeming inability to acknoledge its mistakes.

    If Farago wants the Truth About Cars to be legitamte hournalism, when they make a mistake in a piece, they need to acknoledge it and put a note in the piece that the information was originally in error. On more than one occoasion (okay, twice) I have posted a comment on one of their pieces pointing out an error. Farago then changes the piece to reflect the error, deleted my post and sent me an e-mail acknolweding the change. While I appreciate the e-mail, to have credibility a journalist needs to acknowledge their mistakes publically, not jus tto the person who pointed them out.

    And then the most glaring example of the 'we never make mistakes' mentality was when a piece on the economics of car rental companies and how the tax laws effect their buying decisions and the resall value of cars. Within a few hours the entire piece was pulled down since it's premise was based on a misunderstanding of tax laws. There was no acknoledgement of error, no retraction. It was as if the piece had never existed. It sounds like something the ministry of truth would do.
     
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  26. Mr Farago is Anti-American Cars

    A hyprocrite who doesn't want to see other criticism about his reviews on TTAC. A man who is looking for his Niche on a place that he doesn't belong.

    The American Auto Industry should ban him for life. No Press cars for his reviews.
     
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  27. I don't think anyone associated with that site gets press cars. At least one manufacturer has banned him, anyway.

    How can you give legitimate reviews if you don't get press cars? Do you go rent them or something? That's no way to run a reputable auto review site. Wonder what his loyal following would think.
     
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  28. Farago certainly is ill informed and appears anti-american. I will bet he does not attack Toyota for their engine sludging, engine stalling, FJ cruiser bodies that break apart. He is an ignorant, angry man and does not deserve to earn a living as a journalist. It is rewarding to learn that he has been cancelled. He deserves journalistic death.
     
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  29. TCC leaves Farago and TTAC in the dust... i received a nasty email from Farago himself the other day threatening to ban be because i disagreed with comment left by another person on Farago's website. What an ass.
     
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