In the course of obtaining my journalism degree, I remember being presented with a career path choice: Print or Broadcast. To me, one entailed the gathering and processing of facts into digestible chunks of prose accompanied by a photojournalist’s images. The other was wearing a yellow rain slicker while standing in a hurricane and informing people how windy it is (cut to the B-roll of some unlucky evacuee’s roof being blown off).
Growing up and reading motorcycle magazines in the bygone, pre-internet era, I regarded the editors beneath their full-face helmets with tinted visors as heroes and gods, recognizable only by the name stitched onto their leathers. Rarely did I or any subscriber see their unhelmeted mugs, and we certainly didn’t know the sound of their voices. Their opinions about the motorcycles they reviewed, indisputable – except for the handful of letters chosen for inclusion in a succeeding month’s issue. Still, these letters were comprised of factual corrections, thoughtful questions or intriguing counterpoints.
By the early ’90s I was a two-time college dropout with a career history of selling motorcycles, furniture and everything in between. Then, the proverbial light bulb illuminated and I re-entered college with a renewed vigor compelled by the goal of joining the elite population of skilled (and unbeknown to me at the time, humbly paid) motojournalists.
With the internet exploding around me, I chose print; embracing both the traditional dead tree format as well as the burgeoning digital version of the written word. Of course, the internet opened the door to anyone with a computer to create a website, a blog, a newsletter, etc., and claim to be a motojournalist. But that’s OK, the internet’s big enough for both the professional as well as the hobbyist.
Early in the game, websites emulated magazines; both were comprised of text and photos. Then Youtube happened. Now, with the lens of the video camera fixed upon us, a motojounalist’s enunciation is expected to be equal to that of his composition. However, and I think I speak for all motojournalists in our industry, having chosen print and not broadcast journalism, few of us have been groomed as on-air personalities. We’re all still the same troglodytic men owning a diverse set of motorcycle riding skills and the ability to stitch together a few coherent sentences while typing with two fingers.
Compounding the video review rigamarole is the lack of scripted dialogue, teleprompters, or even cue cards. We’re expected to dismount an unfamiliar motorcycle and spontaneously deliver a cohesive, insightful, factual and entertaining review. This on-the-spot filming exposes our true personalities, both strengths and foibles, to the scrutiny of all motorcycle enthusiasts.
No more can a motojournalist hide behind the pages of a printed magazine, cherry picking the letters to which they respond. The video review has changed the game, as has the accompanying unaccountable viewer responses. But what the video review really does, I think, is reveal the editors in front of the camera as the same bike crazy, gear-heads as the guys and gals watching the videos.
“These guys are doing a horrible job at comparison test and are clearly a couple of failure beer pongers, unfit for this job.” –Stjepan Klancir
“Idiots, it’s not a V-twin, it’s an L-twin.” Zwerfdude
“Probably one of the worst comparison review videos I’ve seen. Seems like it should have been called “miscellaneous” category motorcycles. How much time was spent on aesthetics?” –theforgottenorg
“Stop saying jaded AND shave the rest of your face…you ain’t no Asian Wolverine.” Richard Burns
“Less Tom Roderick please!” –Jon C
So, don’t be haters in the video comments section. We’re regular Joes, just like you, only lucky enough to have turned motorcycling into a career. And, without having to look very closely, you can see in our eyes that most of us are retrospectively wishing we had picked up a few of those broadcast journalism classes.