I completely agree with Joe’s editorial and your response. And the horror with the situation is that in my opinion (having freelanced for them for a number of years), the Star Wheels section has the best ethics policy around.
I personally still follow the Star’s policies, including not accepting gifts over $40. And the air miles issue was still…up in the air…but I decided a few weeks ago to donate the miles accumulated at the end of the year to a charity.
Despite the Wheels writers (and some select freelancers) holding themselves to a high standard, where is AJAC in all of this? Why shouldn’t automakers and journalists come together to revamp the system? They’re all members of the same (fucking) organization.
The fact that nothing has changed yet is proof that the voting majority of AJAC members don’t feel their ethics can be bought — but fail to put concrete systems in place.
I was explaining to a good friend just last week the perk issue, and her first reaction was, “You write about products. Perks are part of the process. What’s the problem?”
I said the problem is that for the car buying public, the wrong (or a bought) recommendation can put them upside-down in an expensive loan for years. Cars can emotionally and financially strain people to the point of breaking.
Consider for a second a single mom with an old car, who turns to a reviewer for a new car recommendation. Reviewers not stating depreciation, residual value, fuel economy, projected reliability, and an honest review of the vehicle can unwillingly put her thousands of dollars in the hole.
I went on to say that although it’s consumer reporting, perks — especially gifts — should simply not be offered anymore. The simplest way to do this is for journalists to say no to gifts, but I maintain the question (and choice) of accepting gifts shouldn’t happen in the first place.
Automotive journalists, when doing their jobs properly, protect consumers from making what is generally the second-biggest purchase of their adult lives.
But throw in the usual turnover of a new car entering our 1.5 car families every 3-5 years…and doing our jobs takes on much more significance.
I just wish I didn’t get slapped by our advertisers every time I’m honest.