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.
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?
I’ll disclose mine when you disclose yours.
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).
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.