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This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Sun, Jun 27, 2004

By: The LACar Editorial Staff


Old Mobil Gas Sign

Most people think Kermit is singing about frogs. He's really commenting on the state of automotive journalism. Political party affiliations aside, when it comes to cars, automotive journalists gravitate toward libertaria - i.e., keep big brother off the backs of car makers and car drivers. Like all true automotive nuts, we want to drive anything we damn-well please and at any speed we deem safe. When it comes to the 55 miles per hour speed limit, we're singing Sammy Hagar's tune. Bring us the Autobahn, Mr. President. Corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards? Cafes are for coffee, not cars.

As car lovers, automotive journalists can't help but have this tendency to be drawn to the side that supports an unfettered path for our highway hobby. It's just the nature of the beast. The cars make us do it. Unfortunately, we do find ourselves looking a bit too much like lap dogs for car makers on the op-ed pages. Historically, we've been there defending manufacturers on emissions standards, gas mileage targets, SUVs, crash safety standards, and roll-over charges (see LA CAR's Chickens Come Home To Roost). You name it, we've been there. It gets to be a little too predictable at times.

On the other hand, the notion of a left-of-center automotive journalist is almost an oxymoron. The image I have of an environmentalist in the guise of a journalist is that he (or she) will just as well see automobiles supplanted by public transportation. The problem with this image is that the reality doesn't fit the stereotype. The number of left-of-center automotive journalists, I can count on one hand. If anything, however, they are as addicted to cars (and fast ones at that) as their right-leaning counterparts. They also bring some fresh thinking into the fold. The most shining example is Los Angeles Times staff writer Dan Neil, who was just bestowed the coveted Pulitzer Prize for critical writing. Just between you and me, it's unheard of for an automotive journalist to receive a Pulitzer. The handful of other critical thinkers that break the conventional mold of automotive journalism include Jamie Kitman (in particular, his pieces for CAR magazine) and John Retsek of KPFK's The Car Show. Whether they appreciate being labeled as liberal is another story. Clearly, however, they are not cut from the same cloth as their right-of-center colleagues.

Whoever said "variety is the spice of life" probably wasn't an automotive journalist. But what's good for the goose is good for the pages of our favorite car zines. Less predictability, more spice. Bring it on.

- Roy Nakano

This article appeared originally as an LA CAR Blog entry. To view the current Blog, go to Back Seat Driving.

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