I’ve been reading some Road & Track magazines from the early seventies, and I’ve been enjoying them enormously. I finally realized that was strange.
After all, I HATE any discussion of politics… so why am I enjoying what, in at least part of every issue, seems to be a running battle between the entire automotive industry, (including magazines) and the US government because of the overzealous, rushed and clueless application of safety and pollution legislation. There was a war on the automobile in the early 1970s–a war that the automobile ultimately won, but at a huge cost to the consumer, the US auto industry and even, ironically, the environment (lowering smog in the 1970s meant that a LOT more CO2 was released).
So why in the world am I enjoying these?
To answer that, we need to fast forward to 2020. Over the past month, I got emails about Black Lives Matter from several newsletters I subscribe to and saw related content on a bunch of websites. I didn’t open any of those newsletters and I didn’t read any of those articles.
Why? Am I a racist?
Not at all. The problem was that the sites (and newsletters) were sports sites, automotive sites, and the SFWA newsletter. None of these are sources I look to for political news and opinion. When I’m reading the news, I definitely click on those articles. But when I’m on your literature site, I will click away if you’re doing politics. And if you’re a professional organization dedicated to working for writers, I’m not looking for affirmative action from you unless there is a specific case of discrimination, in which case, I’d expect the organization to protect its minority members with the utmost ferocity. But I’m a member for purely professional and not political reasons. So I didn’t open their Black Lives Matter announcement. SFWA’s opinion is irrelevant in these matters.
The thing Road & Track did extremely well in the 1970s is focus on the places where their opinion WAS relevant. Regulation that affected the auto industry in such a negative way was definitely something I look to R&T for. Other politics aren’t.
You know which word hasn’t appeared once in any of the magazines from the period I’ve read so far (including the two pictured in this post, which are the most recent I’ve read)?
I’ll let you think about it.
Got it? No?
OK. The word is ‘Vietnam’.
Think about that for a second. Journalists focusing on the stuff they actually know about and giving readers what they want instead of talking about politics.
Our modern everyone-has-to-give-their-opinion-or-suffer-the-consequences society could learn so much about professional journalism and giving people what they want from these guys.
Someday, hopefully, unrelated media will stick to what they’re good at and not publish content no one visits their site to see. Wouldn’t that be a radical departure?
I, for one, will welcome the day.
Gustavo Bondoni is an Argentine novelist and short story writer who doesn’t take his own advice. Probably best known as a science fiction writer, he also writes literary fiction. His book Love and Death is an excellent example. You can check it out here.