For the past week, I’ve been thinking about the reaction to our selection of the 2015 Motorcycle of the Year, or more accurately, the reaction from some readers to our selection of the Indian Scout as the recipient of the MOTY. You’d think that, after so many years in the moto-press, I’d be immune to the vitriol spewed online by people who don’t agree with a choice or statement or evaluation I’ve made. For some reason, however, being accused of accepting bribes in exchange for the MOTY chapped me, where normally I’d laugh off this kind of dreck. Maybe it was because I was the one who initially suggested the Scout was the best choice for the award.
First, I’m all for discussion around differing opinions. They can be a ton of fun – especially when the sparks fly. (If only you could listen to some of the arguments that erupt when we’re discussing the competitors in a shootout.) Also, I used to hang around a few motorcycle forums “discussing” bikes and other issues before work and parenthood made me decide that my dwindling free time should be spent doing things like actually riding. (Ah, good times!) Second, anyone who knows anything regarding those of us who scribble about bikes for a living understands that we certainly wouldn’t do it for long if earning lots of money were a priority. The cliché about park rangers getting paid in sunsets applies here, only we collect apexes. While that may be a huge part of the initial attraction to this gig, those of us who stick around end up suffering from an almost incurable malady: We genuinely love motorcycles and can’t spend more than a few days without them. Those who don’t never last long.
Once the hook is set, the lifers in the motorcycle journalism biz (and I don’t see a single member of the MO staff that isn’t a terminal case) dutifully go about doing the best job they can of conveying the good and the bad of the machinery they can’t get enough of. Yes, it’s true, sometimes we’re invited to go to exotic locations to ride the latest bikes at venues any moto enthusiast would love to sample.
What do we do after a day on the track or some winding mountain roads and a fattening meal provided by the manufacturer? Generally, we retire to our hotel rooms after dinner and begin typing until the wee hours to meet a deadline. John Burns touched on this in one of his recent columns: “It’s a hard and dangerous business passing judgment on all these new motorcycles. Not so much physically dangerous (though there is that), but more like dangerous we’ll get it wrong.”
Sometimes that does happen, the getting something wrong thing (usually when rushing to meet a short deadline), and when it’s pointed out to us, we really do appreciate the correction. I know I do (I’m pretty sure this sentiment is shared by my coworkers), and I make a point of thanking the folks who pointed out my error. After all, we’re in the business of sharing the best information we can about motorcycling (hopefully, while beating our competition into submission by doing it in a more entertaining manner), and if we weren’t interested in constantly learning new things, we’d have chosen a field that required less annual churning of information. Working on a web publication means we can immediately correct mistakes, preventing them from being disseminated to more readers. In print, we’d have to insert the correction into the next production cycle, possibly waiting a couple months before the correction hits the newsstands, while the faulty information lives on in its originally published form forever.
Weighty stuff, no? It’s the type of stuff that makes us wake up in the middle of the night to check a fact about a story we’re writing when a new thought makes that leap from our subconscious.
So, let’s say you think I’m mistaken for lobbying my fellow MOrons to the cause of the Scout as MOTY instead of, say, your beloved Kawazuki-Davidsilia. Give your reasons for disagreeing with our choice. Make it a discussion. A debate, even. Then, after the cogent debate, you can insult me.
When you immediately accuse us of being on a particular manufacturer’s payroll, you do two things. First, you belittle yourself. If you truly believed that we’re on the take, it’s strange that you’d bother to come here. And if we produce a story that you believe is a product of this bribery, why are you outraged about a selection you expected to be dishonest? Popping off about something without providing any support is about as constructive as farting in a crowded elevator. Yes, everyone did notice, but how has it contributed anything productive to the topic you apparently feel so strongly about?
I understand the desire to vent your spleen on the unsuspecting soul on the other side of the computer screen. Lord knows, I’ve done it enough times, but the funny thing is, on a few occasions I’ve recognized an error and apologized for my cranial-anal-inversion, and I’ve gone on to become friends with a detractor despite our differences. Try it out. You might find the pleasant exchange of information about motorcycles to be more fun than trading insults.
Then again, you might not. In that case, just put a sock in it.