Is it a uniquely South African Phenomenon? I don’t know, however I do know that there are few SA motorcycle journalists that I have respect for.
In the last year two local magazines have closed their covers for good. One now has aspirations of providing purely online content. We await the online content, due to be released in August. Oops, it’s August now……. I also know of one UK publication that has gone the same route – sadly, this was the one publication I would fervently seek out every month at the local newsagent as the content was vastly superior to any local publication.
Of the few local magazines still around one has become an advertising rag, albeit an obviously popular one since it’s been around since pa fell off the bus. The other is syndicated from a UK publication and has been through two changes of ownership (locally) in as many years. The syndicated content is fair, the local content lacking in quality, however this is improving with every issue as the editor and contributors improve their skills. Then there are the publications aimed at the offroad market. One is an offshoot of the aforementioned advertising rag, the others really just more advertising with short articles praising whichever bike or quad they’ve been given to test this month.
And some of the tests….collect the bike, ride it to the shopping centre, then to a friend’s house, than back to the dealer. Brilliant test, all of perhaps 30 kilometres? Test my butt, anyone looking to buy the bike would do more mileage than that prior to putting down their hard earned cash.
Wait till you experience the prevailing attitude. This is the part that really gets me down. Often it’s a question of “if I get it for free I’ll mention it in an article.” WTF?? This applies to accommodation, track days, skills training, accessories, rider gear etc! No freebie? Guess what happens? Get it? No mention whatsoever.
Then there’s the way the bikes are treated. A new bike – test bike has the shyte ridden out of it, the overriding attitude being one of “it’s not mine, why should I care”. No running it in nicely, just whack it. Then the review is full of the usual platitudes such as “pulls strongly”, “progressive brakes” bla-bla-bla. Read carefully, then go and read a review from 3 or 4 months ago. Ah, same verbage, different bike.
The crux – there are apparently no “bad” bikes being made anymore. Every bike review is positive. Small “negatives” are overlooked – statements like “the gearshift isn’t as good as Suzuki’s” is about as far as it goes.
I’ve yet to see anything negative, it’s glossed over almost as if it’s not there. It seems they are afraid of not getting another bike from the manufacturer if they point out the negatives?
Ah, and the way the “test bike” becomes their personal transport, except one they don’t have to take care of, rather one they can abuse, it’s the “company car syndrome” applied to test bikes. Dropped bikes, written off bikes, chains not lubed etc. etc.
Long term tests. The bikes do a few hundred km’s every month. The monthly report is more about what “bling” and modifications were added to the bike than about the actual experience of riding the bike. So prospective owners will know how much each essential modification costs, and how much extra power it gives, or how much better it makes the bike look, but nothing about what the bike’s like to live with for an extended period of time.
Meeting some of these journalists is yet another shocker. Rude, arrogant, downright unpleasant. Especially once they’ve got a few beers under the belt. Then they happily go home from the pub, inebriated, on the test bike. Small surprise some of the mags have shut down, paying the mandatory excess on crashed and/or written off bikes must surely eat into the small profit margins the magazine has. Even worse, when there is an investor funding the magazine…….
Overall a sad state of affairs really, journalistic integrity seems to have gone the way of “I’ll pen articles full of praise if I get it for free”.