For those who missed the memo, that is NOT the new M3. But when the February 2007 cover of CAR dropped two weeks ago, the automotive forums were alive with glee, even if the majority felt that what they believed at the time to be the new M3 looked a little on the weak side. Either way, the fourth-gen M3 was—and still is—one of the most anticipated vehicles of ’07. And, before 99% of you figured it out, I knew. Our photo director Tony Harmer had just returned from visiting his family with the issue fresh off the British newsstands. As he brandished the cover out of his backpack, I was shocked that CAR managed to pull what might have been the exclusive of the year, and it was only January…cheeky bastards, they did it again! But something felt wrong. First, why weren’t there any static photos? The wheels are always in motion. So I looked to the photo credit—the giveaway. It was actually an “image” credit which in magazine parlance means “altered.” Or, colloquially, a fuckin’ photochop.
I need to say this; I love CAR. It’s what inspired me to start 0-60. Possibly the only magazine I still get exited about as I bring it to the cashier. Usually, I find myself just posted up on NYC streets reading it on my way back to the office. Yeah, it’s that good. So, you can imagine my utter disappointment, it was like being told Santa wasn’t real all over again. As the blog posts went up and the threads amassed, I kept quiet. I was aware that at that moment, I might have been the only American privy to the unfortunate fake-ness of CAR’s cover car, but I didn’t want to be the whistle blower—part of me didn’t want it to be true. Regardless, I knew eventually upon closer inspection the truth would come out.
Now, I understand the need for speculation, and most of the buff mags’ front sections are littered with it. But is putting a Photoshopped image on the cover and clearly bamboozling your reader an example of journalistic integrity? Seriously people, what is going on? I know things are getting tough for the print world and truth be told breaking news no longer has a home in between the sheets, now that the internet is on the clock like birth control. But, I don’t think deception is the answer to regaining the love of the readers. Hold on. I am not saying anyone straight out lied—it is clear no actual E92 M3s were harmed, driven or even spied during the writing of this article…but still…anyone who was expecting to see “real” photos of the new M3 got hosed—even if they were based on official drawings!
To add to this debacle, Autoweek apparently paid good money for the same images, which they rather openly admitted as being illustrations (Kudos guys!). And since I’ve never actually seen Autoweek on newsstands or know many people outside of the industry that subscribe to it, you can’t accuse them for trying to pull the wool to sell a few extra covers. But was it really a “first look?”
Maybe I could be wrong, but is getting the exclusive at any cost really what people want? In recent years it appears that at least the American rag’s sole purpose is to beat each other on the next exclusive, but it appears to serve more for their own bragging rights than actually providing content any enthusiast cares to read. I fear that this quest to be first is cutting into the actually quality of what’s making it into today’s auto glossies. Again, this is why I hate to call CAR out for their front-page faux pas, because just after the ersatz M3 feature is an excellent previous-gen shoot out and then a great diagram of the most important BMWs over the years.
Apparently the auto journo world needs to think about the future, and consider how print and the web can live together. Magazines can’t live on news alone anymore. Something has gotta break, or at least go back to what it once was (eg. ’60s-’70s C/D). Either way, I’ll sleep sound, I know 0-60 has a print plan…
Disclaimer: Obviously the views and opinions of Brian Scotto are not not necessarily the views of 0-60, he is the Editor-in-chief, but if it makes the lawyers happy, he doesn’t speak for the rest of Harris Publications.