"HOW ARE YOU GOING TO ACT?"
The answers are in our mission statement:
"TAWA (the Texas Auto Writers Association) promotes quality and accuracy in journalism and professionalism among its members."
The Texas Auto Writers Association is composed of members who cover autos, crossovers, light trucks and the automotive industry in print, on air and online. Each spring, we hold an Auto Roundup where we review and select the best car-based products, including crossovers and minivans. In the fall of 2013 the Texas Truck Rodeo celebrated its 20th anniversary. Get-togethers, or other official meetings, are held on media days at the Texas State Fair and at the Houston and Dallas Auto Shows.
Here are the ethical "code of conduct" guidelines for new and veteran members alike:
- BE ACCURATE: Take extra steps to make sure you've got those specifications and/or quotes correctly and in context.
- BE FAIR AND BALANCED: Report on automobiles as seriously as if you were covering city hall or the White House. We should always strive to be honest and reasonable in our coverage. While we're not the auto industry's cheerleaders, neither should we repeatedly slam a vehicle or company just to be negative or "entertaining." Finding and reporting faults are part of the job -- just be prepared to back up your criticisms. Do not let personal bias and/or financial relationships such as advertising support creep into objective and factual evaluations.
- BE CONSIDERATE AND APPROPRIATE: TAWA events and the business of automotive reviewing provide many special opportunities and access to industry people and products. Observe the courtesies expected in any professional setting. Examples include: Wait for an invitation, don't solicit or demand one; report on a press vehicle rather than simply borrowing it; keep the vehicle clean and in proper running condition; respect the challenges and responsibilities of those who manage the press fleets and the new-model introductions.
- SOLICIT ADVERTISING, SPECIAL FAVORS OR SPONSORSHIPS AT PRESS EVENTS. "Press" means news and editorial coverage. Any discussions concerning advertising or other form of financial gain should always be with a business representative and never at any type of press event.
- ASK, CAJOLE OR WHINE TO BE INCLUDED ON PRESS TRIPS. It's the manufacturer's prerogative as to whom, when and where to invite. If, however, you suspect an invitation was sent but misplaced or misdirected, or your outlet was overlooked, you can certainly direct a polite and confidential inquiry to the communications team. Accept their response graciously and professionally. If you accept an invitation to attend a launch, honor that commitment and adhere to the automaker's program. If you have an emergency that prevents you from attending, let the manufacturer or its representatives know.
- THREATEN (OR IMPLY) THAT POSITIVE COVERAGE RESTS ON BEING INVITED TO PRESS EVENTS, ACCESS TO VEHICLES OR FINANCIAL GAIN.Not only is this unethical and unprofessional, it's repugnant. Anyone who does not understand or agree with this policy has no business being in TAWA. Auto manufacturers have their own policies and limits as to who gets certain vehicles, including when and where. Pointing out, however, that you can't write about a vehicle you haven't tested is not the same as the aforementioned examples of editorial extortion. If you want advertising consideration, wait until AFTER the event to contact the public relations or communications personnel for a referral to the appropriate department.
- DO OR SAY ANYTHING THAT SMACKS OF SEXUAL INNUENDO, SEXUAL HARASSMENT, GENDER BIAS OR SEXISM. It's not just being politically incorrect. It's not "funny." About the only thing it is is wrong.
- Remember that TAWA's board members are elected to serve the members and run the affairs of the organization. Please help the board be more effective by alerting them to problems as soon as possible.
The golden rule, "Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do Unto You," is an effective code. Apply it to all matters related to TAWA events and members, test vehicles, media trips and relationships with the manufacturers' representatives.