Difference between motoring journalists and content creators

First, a definition of terms. A motoring journalist is one who produces automotive stories for a newspaper, a magazine or a news/feature website. A digital content creator is one who churns out posts for a blog or a social-media account. I consider myself to be the former, but since I also manage a Facebook page and an Instagram account, I have tasks that otherwise belong to the latter. A journalist does fact-based articles; a content creator shares messages, photos, and videos.

A journalist is fortunate if he or she is able to adapt to the times. These days, a journalist (especially an aging one) who cannot engage an audience in an interactive and meaningful way is often left behind by those who are able to attract a sizable following. It is this “following” that differentiates media practitioners and content creators in the eyes of companies that they cover.

PR executives will never admit this, but they take note of the hierarchy among media personnel. It is obvious in whom they invite to exclusive events and even in which table they seat a guest at a dinner. Make no mistake: Nothing is random in these things. They want the most notable media people to rub their president’s elbow and, in so doing, craft an interesting story after a social gathering.

In the past, companies needed only to know four kinds of journalists: TV personalities, radio personalities, newspaper writers, and magazine editors. Right now, they also need to familiarize themselves with the so-called “new media”: bloggers, vloggers, influencers, endorsers, and Internet celebrities (of which, there are nano, micro, macro, and mega). Modern PR work, in other words, is very challenging. And if they’re not careful, PR executives might offend media practitioners from either side of the fence.

This was apparent during a recent overseas trip in which some motoring journalists were displaced by content creators. The decision to bring vloggers instead of newspaper writers is a matter that I will leave entirely to the marketing teams. After all, it is their budget that pays for the travel expenses. Their money, their strategy. As simple as that. They owe no one any explanation.

So, if I believe that PR and marketing departments are free to choose between old media and new media, what’s the point of this piece? Why do I need to share these things with the public? Because there’s something that needs to be declared, which is for the benefit of those who consume the content that is produced by both journalists and content creators.

You see, some content creators in our midst now present themselves as being ‘handled’ by a manager. They even have a rate card to indicate the fees that they will demand in exchange for the service a company requires—appearance fees, photos, videos, social-media posts, you name it. Now, please note that I say “some” and not “all.” But this practice already exists, and it is alarming. If left unchecked, the practice could corrupt the motoring beat. It could permeate the ranks of journalists who used to frown upon payola.

Maybe some colleagues will sneer at me for calling this out. To each his own, right? Before I get attacked by critics, let me say it here and now: I do not care about what my peers do in their practice of their craft. This is not a witch hunt.

But I genuinely and sincerely care about the confidence that our readers and viewers entrust to us. They read our vehicle reviews because they trust us. They watch our motoring videos because they trust us. They listen to our car advice because they trust us. Imagine if these people found out that the content we had been feeding them was reimbursed by the car brands. I’m not talking about advertising—that one is legit. But a paid ad becomes legitimate if it is properly declared. Let’s not pass off paid content as editorial content. Our readers and viewers deserve to know.

To my colleagues (from both old and new media), how you earn your living is not my business. I don’t care if you become rich from what we do. Just be transparent. You cannot have the best of both worlds: the credibility of a journalist and the earning power of a celebrity. Choose.

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FILL YOUR TANK: “Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who deal truthfully are His delight.” (Proverbs 12:22)

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