Have you been a victim of TDI? Our journalists are waiting.
The author writes:
When we founded Driven to Write, we didn’t exactly begin with a set of guiding principles. Our aim was to provide an alternate voice to the mainstream motoring press and perhaps hold their feet to the fire from time to time. Similarly, ‘Big Auto’ and their well remunerated leaders have frequently felt the sting of our pen. However, one thing we never set out to do was to cause a member of the public to feel belittled and hurt, which is what this piece unintentionally achieved.
My intent was to highlight the manner in which some journalists in pursuing a slant – (in this case Benjamin Preston for the Guardian) – will over-simplify and trivialise not just the larger (and quite serious) story but also the individual quoted in the piece. However, what emerged was rather unkind and unjustifiably snide and left the intended object of the article off the hook entirely.
Having been in contact with Ms. Scarpa – (who was exceptionally gracious) – I felt impelled to set the matter straight. Ashley pointed out her comment regarding her ‘relationship‘ with VW was intended to be ironic. In addition, the appearance of the Golf/Rabbit in the Guardian piece wasn’t so magical after all – it belongs to her. Naturally, it isn’t lost on me that in criticising a professional journalist for distorting the facts for the sake of being clever, I’ve done exactly the same myself. So feeling I have treated a dignified individual rather shabbily I extend sincere apologies to Ms. Scarpa for any distress this piece caused.
Eoin Doyle: 8/10/15
NOx-gate has already extracted a terrible human cost. Friday’s Guardian published one such story. It’s truly shocking.
In light of recent lurid admissions by VW executives over the falsifying of emissions data, I didn’t think I’d find myself sympathising with the perpetrators this early in proceedings. But a piece in Friday’s Guardian left me with a sharp reminder that journalism wears many faces. In an article that looks at the damage to VW’s reputation in the wake of the emissions scandal, the piece profiles Ashley Scarpa, a Florida-based restaurateur and environmental activist.
Ms. Scarpa purchased a US-spec Passat last year, under the misguided apprehension that she was making an informed choice to lower her carbon footprint. But now she’s angry. The article quotes her as saying; “I was partial to VW, and they had a little bit of an edge in the buying process, but that’s all changed… It’s like we’re breaking up. We can either be friends or hate each other. Maybe we’ll even get back together, but not right now.”
Now this deserves a little unpicking. Ms. Scarpa describes her feelings in terms of a broken relationship, which is cute I suppose if you’re part of the instagram generation, but comes across as lacking in emotional intelligence otherwise. She goes on to say; “I hope they make a decision quickly and figure out what to do to make this right… In my opinion, that will make or break our relationship.” Make a decision to do what exactly? Because I really can’t imagine what it would now take to put the relationship on a sounder footing. Might I suggest counselling?
“Lowering my carbon footprint was major for me and was a selling point, so I’m really upset,” she said, adding that she would have to drive to do volunteer work with an organization that helps sea turtles on Florida’s Gulf Coast. “I’m disgusted that I have to drive my polluting vehicle two hours on the freeway to get there.” Oh yes, Ashley saves turtles in her spare time. She’s an angel.
Scrolling down the article, the reader is presented with a photograph of Scarpa behind the wheel of her 2014 Passat. Well, a 2014 Passat anyway. This particular Passat was freshly valeted, and for some unknown reason, had its headlights on, despite it being broad daylight – in Florida, for heaven’s sake. Note too, the lack of windscreen reflection, allowing us to view Ms. Scarpa, looking really rather put out. It’s almost as though the photo was painstakingly choreographed – and meticulously photoshopped – which of course could never happen in the Guardian.
In another impromptu photo, we’re presented with Ashley, standing between her Passat (sporting a ‘Save the Sea Turtles’ tee-shirt) and for some unknown reason, a pristine mark one Golf/Rabbit the photographer just happened to have lying about. Of course, it’s a well documented fact that any competent photographer can pull Rabbits out of most standard camera cases but seriously, what were the chances?
I would point out I have little sympathy for VW’s management who clearly have presided over a venal and reprehensible fraud and deserve to fall on their swords for their pains. I even have some sympathy for VW owners like Ms. Scarpa who clearly feel they’ve been duped. However, articles such as these are equally deserving of our fervent disdain. What such a nakedly cynical piece was doing on a newspaper site like the Guardian raises questions about journalistic standards and who exactly is manipulating the current news agenda. This article made me quite cross. I think I deserve some recompense.