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Automotive journalism: do the perks poison the product?

The American Journalism Review asks, is automotive journalism fundamentally corrupt? Car manufacturers pay for lavish trips and grant extensive seat time in their most desirable cars – in exchange for good reviews. Journalists who write critical reviews are blacklisted. Among the worst offenders is Porsche, who blacklisted journalist Jack Baruth after lukewarm (or simply balanced) print and video reviews of the Porsche Panamera in 2009. Since then, Baruth, who owns three Porsches, has taken to compiling lists of Porsche’s deadly sins (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, but not 7), fabricating Porsche test drives, bashing fellow automotive journalists who he sees as being too soft on Porsche, and borrowing privately-owned cars in order to write reviews. Baruth writes mostly for The Truth About Cars, which guards the independence of its writers so fiercely that its reviews of the Prius, for instance, ranged from the unremittingly hostile to defensively positive to relatively balanced. But what about journalistic independence in mainstream outlets, which often rely on freelancers who simply don't have the funds to be functionally independent of car manufacturers, and which don't want to displease advertisers?
posted by Dasein on Oct 3, 2011 - 85 comments

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