Last year’s Detroit auto show wasn’t the first I’d attended, but my first as a working journalist. I freely admit to being a total country mouse about these things, but the most satisfying word in the event, for me, was “show.” You don’t have to suspend your journalist’s skepticism about the b.s. you’re being fed in the press conferences to appreciate the entertainment factor. The car companies go to great lengths and even greater expense to make their product roll-outs special, and I’m happy to appreciate them. Only 6,000 people — journalists, most of them — get to attend the press preview. By the time the public is admitted at the end of the week, the buffet lines will be gone, the liquor will be packed up and the celebrities will be back in Los Angeles. I think it’s important to let your readers know what the rollouts were like.
Nevertheless, there’s always someone who’s too cool for the room. Say, “I loved how they drove that Jeep through the front window at Cobo,” and he’ll say, “Oh, they did that 10 years ago.” Say, “Those cappuccino-flavored yogurt thingies at Maserati were delicious” and he’ll say “They totally ripped off that idea from some place in Milan.” And so on.
This year, Mercedes installed an ice-skating rink in Cobo. Really. Ice. With skaters twirling around the cars. Many reporters act as though this is simply the most boring thing they have ever seen. Oh, an ice rink. They did that in Berlin five years ago, didn’t they?
So when I saw this picture, taken on that very same ice rink…
…I thought, “At least the photographers aren’t afraid to smile at the amusing sight of Emmitt Smith and Cheryl What’s-Her-Name, reprising their ‘Dancing With the Stars’ gig.” And then I looked closer. All the “photographers” seem to be carrying the same camera. They’re also holding them wrong; you’d think someone could instruct someone pretending to be a photographer in how real photographers hold cameras. And they’re wearing ice skates! They’re shills, dammit.
No wonder reporters get cynical. I guess the real pros were on the other side.
(The guy in the upper right-hand corner, dressed in a suit? He’s a real photographer — correct grip, no skates. But I bet he’s not news media; looks like corporate PR to me.)
By the way, for the best mise en scéne reporting, I recommend the NYT auto-show blog. For car pix, Jalopnik. The Freep auto-show page is getting most of the breaking news, but seems to be having intermittent technical problems. Best all-around goes to the News’ blog, but they have no pictures; apparently those are all on the main auto-show page.
Meanwhile, as I seem to be working on a minor in alternative-energy vehicles, I paid close attention to the roll-out of the Chevrolet Volt concept, positioned as GM’s bid to reassert itself in the alt-energy field and something of a mea culpa for killing the EV-1. Wow. What a woulda-coulda-shoulda this thing is, even for a concept:
…a hybrid that could get as much as 150 miles per gallon of gasoline. From the hints GM has dropped, the Volt could be on the road in three or four years.
…The automaker faces a major hurdle in finding a supplier that can build a battery system GM wants.
You know? I’ll be a billionaire once I accumulate as much as a billion dollars. However, I face a major hurdle in finding a supplier. Stay tuned.