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The Journalist’s Day at the Car Show

Journalists have all the luck.
Credit Alain Morin

Journalists have all the luck. Whereas members of the public have to line up to buy tickets to go in, then wait again to get close to a particular car, with little hope of even getting to sit in it, auto journalists are invited to attend the day before the official opening – two days before if it’s an international show – and get as close as they wish to the latest models and to the industry’s most radical concept cars.

First, it should be noted that journalists covering an international show – like Frankfurt, Geneva, Paris, Detroit, Tokyo, New York or Los Angeles – are usually there as the guest of a manufacturer, and invited to attend media day. They are accredited ahead of time by the show’s organizers. 

It is easy to imagine our journalist friend strolling unhurriedly from stand to stand, admiring the latest Ferrari or the concept that could become the next Bentley, joking with the stunning young ladies loitering around the cars (especially in Europe), talking about the latest hot setups with the engineering elite, and so on.

Sorry to disappoint, but the journalist is just a face in the crowd of 6,000 or so media people. To get a good spot at a press conference, you have to be at the manufacturer’s stand at least 45 minutes before it begins. The latest Ferrari and the Bentley of tomorrow are surrounded at all times by a phalanx of journalists looking for the ultimate exclusive photo. Sometimes, if you’re really patient, a gap appears and the car of everyone’s dreams deigns to pose for a portrait. The pretty women have neither the time nor the inclination to talk to mere scribes, but if you’re lucky, you may get a smile in addition to the ones they are paid to deliver. As for the engineers, they are hard at work in their offices far, far away.

If a journalist just had to attend the show, it would be a dream assignment, but there is a lot more to it than that. At the last show in Los Angeles, for example, the author of these few lines had to produce two articles, photograph five or six new vehicles and some classic cars, attend a press conference hosted by the manufacturer who had invited him (in this case, Nissan/Infiniti), and take part in two round table discussions with the Nissan/Infiniti brass. All in less than 24 hours.

Am I whining? No, of course not. I am reporting. You should know that the moment a press conference ends, the crew remove the chairs, the platforms and the rest of the furniture, tear down the set, move the car that has just been presented, and bring in the rest of the maker’s lineup and place them so that the stand will be ready when the doors are thrown open and the waiting public hurries in. They will have paid a steep price for admission, had their toes stepped on in the crush, gotten too hot in their outdoor clothing, and will have to use their elbows to get a picture of the latest Ferrari. But they will eventually leave the show happy to have enjoyed themselves. So will the journalist – who didn’t even pay to get in.