Housekeeping: We Don’t Use The “California No” Here, Particularly With Regards To Contributors

In the past few weeks, I’ve been contacted by a couple of potential contributors who never heard back from me about what they sent. I also had a commenter note that he sent in a contribution for the #BikesOutForHarambe series but never saw it published. This would be a good time, therefore, to reiterate my personal policy on dealing with contributors, commenters, and pretty much everybody who contacts me.

I don’t use, and I don’t believe in, the so-called “California No” where somebody just avoids your question or refuses to return your emails on a subject. If you sent something to me and didn’t hear back, it means that I’ve accidentally deleted, lost, or mislabeled your communication. Please send it again and don’t feel bad about doing so.

It’s embarrassing to have to make this request of my contributors, but the fact of the matter is that I get a lot of email, along the lines of 50-100 legitimate non-commercial messages per day, so I do make mistakes. If you’ve sent me something that I cannot or will not use, I’m going to tell you. If you’ve haven’t been told that by me, please contact me again.

Which reminds me… Last year, I read an article in a major print magazine that set a standard for incompetent writing and incoherent thought. As I suffered through this blimped-out bozo’s tale of narcissistic navel-gazing cross-country shitcan-driving, I said to myself, “I bet that a high school junior could do a better job with this subject matter.” So I asked a high school junior to rewrite the piece. Which he did. And he manifestly improved that garbage article. I’m not putting it up here, because I’m trying to play nice with the dimmer lights in automotive journalism at the moment. If you’d like to read it and judge for yourself, comment below, using a valid email, and I’ll send you a link. If enough of you like it, I’m gonna pay the kid a kill fee, just for fun.

91 Replies to “Housekeeping: We Don’t Use The “California No” Here, Particularly With Regards To Contributors”

  1. Avatarlink3721

    I’ve never heard the term “kill fee”. I’d love to read the difference in articles, please send a link my way, thanks.

    • AvatarFrank Galvin

      I’ve never heard of it in the publishing context, but if one was to follow adult film actresses on the twitter …. payment for booking and then canceling the shoot

      • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

        It’s used in publishing when a commissioned work is no longer wanted.

        In this case, the kid wrote it for free but I feel bad that he’s not even getting the “exposure”.

  2. AvatarChuck Krauss

    My mantra is “I do what I do, and say what I say, and let the chips fall where they may”. But, then, I’m not trying to get anyone to read anything I’ve written. I’d like to read the column Jack. Thank you.

  3. AvatarDave

    I find the whole concept of “my KID could do a better job at X than you!” delightful, would love to read it.

  4. AvatarWhiskeyRiver

    Let’s see the article. Too bad you can’t publish the original along with it. I need a good laugh.

  5. AvatarJohn C.

    I am in as well, though I must admit that blimped out narcissistic navel gazing had me worried you were talking about me. Then I remembered that I don’t (currently) drive a shitcan.

  6. Avatarsafe as milk

    i’ve never heard of a “california no” before but i’ve experienced it recently. on two separate occasions, i was approached by a corporate recruiter after applying for a job online. we traded multiple emails and on a phone interview, i was told i was the top candidate. after a couple of weeks, i followed up by email. radio silence. i waited two more weeks and followed up again. nada.

    wtf? is it so hard to write that the dept head wanted somenody else, and we will keep you on file?

  7. AvatarPaulyG

    I am in. BTW, my grandparents went to the premier of It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World. A great road movie featuring a who’s who of great early to mid-20th century comedians.

  8. AvatarCdotson

    I’d like to read the difference in the articles. I’m an engineer and a parent of home-schooled children so I could stand to brush up on writing critiques at a higher level.

  9. AvatarFrank Galvin

    I’ve never heard of it in the publishing context, but if one was to follow adult film actresses on the twitter …. payment for booking and then canceling the shoot

  10. Avatarmas

    I’d like to see the original piece in addition to the rewritten version.
    As a ESL person, I’d like to enhance my own writing.

  11. Avatar-Nate

    I too would like to read it .

    I was asked to write an 800 word article about my last Moto crash but I can barely write coherently when I’m writing DIY Tech Articles so I passed .

    Maybe I’d get some good tips from this kid .

    I sent you a blurb on my new old Moto to – day Jack, I’m back in the saddle again =8-) .


  12. AvatarMichael B

    If the California No is a skill that could be taught, it would show up in nearly every customer prospect’s bag of tools for dealing with salespeople. Same goes for recruiting/hiring process. Here’s how it goes:
    Customer – Hi, I’m interested in your generic suv, just looking right now.
    Salesperson – Great, let me help you get some info.
    [Conversation and sales process ensues]
    Customer – Wow, I love it, it’s so nice! Salesperson – So we have a super special going on for 149/mo but you have to buy it before the end of the month.
    Customer – Let me think about it and will get right back to you.

    Same thing goes for hiring process except the job seeker is the salesman, selling their skills and qualifications, and the HR department is the one who ghosts them, with either a black hole of lost resumes and no contact, or a series of interviews followed by a message that says “if your skills are suitable for the job you will be contacted,” which means at precisely no point in the job search will you receive any human contact.

    Evasion is easier than looking someone in the eye with a shred of courage and saying “I’m not interested.”

    That said I AM interested in reading the kids article. Send it over!

    • Avatarsafe as milk

      as the job seeker, i get that but it still seems ridiculous. if you are short listed, they send your info to the dept. head. you’ve already talked money. if i email after 2 weeks, they don’t even have to tell me why. just say no, and we are do e. these people are so pathetic.

      at my last job, they tried to ghost me when they let me go after 3 years. cancelled my freelance hold via an email from rhe staffing company. i forced them into giving me an exit interview.

      oh and yes, please send me the rwo reviews.

  13. AvatarShortest Circuit

    Agreed. It doesn’t bother me when there is a typo, or heaven forbid a comma missing… but when the same errors crop up all over a site, one has to ask himself a question, what did the contributors/editors do in Literature classes, play co-op Bejeweled?

  14. AvatarCritically Critical Critic

    Would like to see the article.

    Also, if the ads aren’t covering expenses, have you thought an optional subscription that *would* cover expenses?

  15. AvatarWill

    Come on, this is passive aggressive; either call the person out and publish the article or say nothing at all. Don’t let the only “interested” parties know who it is. If it’s bad republish it with the kid’s correction. You’re better than this.

    • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

      I was asked to not put the dude’s name out in public. By people who sign my checks. Simple as that.

      • Avatarbluebarchetta

        In the June 2018 Road and Track, Sam Smith wrote:

        “EVs are almost noiseless in traffic, so you listen more and focus on what you hear. Which is largely the collective grumble of thousands of dirty little explosions, exhausting under nearby bumpers. If you possess an ounce of logic, you think, Hell, what are we doing? Digging up large bits of the planet just to burn them? Pipes pumping stinko gases into the air? Who thought this madness was sustainable? Of course it should come to an end. No matter how much we like it.”

        Smith is a gifted writer, but that is HERESY. It is tantamount to a Christianity Today columnist writing “John the Baptist was full of crap.” Nothing your unnamed writer penned could be worse. I’d rather read a poorly-written piece celebrating gas-burning, meatbag-driven cars than a well-written piece of eco-tripe, especially when I’m paying to subscribe.

        • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

          Sam contains multitudes… he is at MidO today with the ALMS M3 GTRV8 joyously recording those stinko explosions.

          As for me, my opinion is simple. Electric cars are a great option for people who don’t care about cars. If we could make every CR-V in the world electric tomorrow there’s no harm done. I’ll stick with my ZX14R.

          • Avatarblue barchetta

            That’s why it felt like such a betrayal to read Smith’s words. He has raced old Bimmers with his dad and driven GT350s and ALMS cars and the Ruf Yellow Bird. He should know better, and that column smacked of “Internal combustion for me and not for thee.” I expect the David Hoggs of the world to try to force me out of my Miata and into a Google pod. Not the Sam Smiths.

            Agree 100% on EVs for non-enthusiasts.

          • AvatarSean Goldstein

            I think it will surprise you not in the least to learn that I am absolutely LOVING my Tesla Model 3. If you want a reader review, I’d be happy to oblige.

            And while I get the historical passion for the sound of dinojuice power and I do miss driving a stick, this thing is a generation ahead of anything else on the market. Every time I pass a BMW or Audi I think “Huh. Another overpriced, slow, poor handling and cramped version of the Model 3 with last century’s technology. Enjoy that.”

            Horses for courses, I guess.

          • AvatarCJinSD

            “Sam contains multitudes… ”

            Containing multitudes is apparently to hypocrisy what environmentalism is to misanthropy. The next time I’ll have a use for Sam Smith is when his remains can be refined into gasoline.

            How often do you cover 1,100 miles a day on your motorcycle? I’ve done 1,100 mile days back-to-back in my Honda. CR-Vs built up until 2014 were all well suited to it. Electric sport bikes and full sized trucks make much more sense. They’re either too uncomfortable to go further than a Tesla can or already so overweight that batteries are incidental. Do I wish such sacrifices on motorcyclists or pickup drivers so I can pretend I’m benevolent in my totalitarian approach to making other people less inconvenient? No, I don’t. Don’t wish it on people who drive practical cars. They probably demand far more functionality out of their CR-Vs than people who need a plethora of vehicles and still have to rent because they’ve shamed themselves out of lives of simplicity and reason.

          • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

            The most reasonable thing to say in response here is this: you’re the outlier among CR-V users.

            The vast majority of cute-utes do relatively little mileage and only occasionally leave a 50-mile radius of their home bases, which makes them ideally suited for electric use.

            I’ve done six 600-mile days in a 7-day stretch on an Indian Chieftain as part of a ride to Sturgis from the West Coast. That’s about all I can say in terms of long-distance motorcycling.

            As far as electric full-sized trucks… twice in the past year I’ve run to Alabama and back towing a trailer in a day. When they can make an electric half-ton that can cover that mileage in that time period and pull, say, 7,000 pounds while doing it, then PLUG ME IN!

          • AvatarCJinSD

            On what do you base your assertion that people don’t put miles on ‘cute-utes?’ They’re pretty much just cars now. There isn’t some new group of buyers who swallow up three million new cars a year that they don’t drive. Until CVTs, turbos, and direct injection, CRVs were often purchased because they made such practical and durable high mileage vehicles. Is there some database that indicates that they don’t equal the average annual mileage of private vehicles in general? I’ve seen nothing to support the theory, and I look at about sixty-five to eighty cars a week.

          • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

            For precisely that reason — they are just cars now. And most people don’t put miles on their cars. Only in rural areas is the average mileage above 12,000. I wrote a lot of 2 year / 24,000-mile leases for new Fords and rarely did the customers find it difficult to stay within those boundaries.

            Take a look at these numbers:


            Now consider that women make up the leviathan bulk of crossover purchases.

          • AvatarCJinSD

            Anecdotally, there are plenty of people who drive few miles a year but take some long trips that make up a meaningful percentage of those miles. Today I talked to a retired guy getting read to drive his 43K mile 2013 CRV on a trip that is six hundred and sixty miles each way. Saturday, my parents’ low mileage 2012 CRV will see its eighth state since memorial day weekend. In an average month, I buy gas for my personal car(a Civic Si Sedan rather than a CRV) twice. On some days I fill the tank four times. The options provided by such a car are freedoms I won’t surrender willingly.

          • AvatarDaniel J

            Yeah..not sure about that. We have a CX-5, not a CR-V, but it still applies here. While its used as a standard to and from work go-getter, its also seen 6, 1200 mile round trips to Florida. Two dozen or more trips to Nashville or Birmingham. Several handfuls of trips to Atlanta.

            I’d be perfectly happy with an EV that would get me 80 miles or so on a charge and was the size of an Accord, the price of a gas powered accord, as fast as an Accord, and cost me nothing to have the charger installed in my home.

        • Avatarsafe as milk

          @Sean Goldstein – i am a tesla skeptic but i will say that i was impressed by my first sighting of a model 30 over the weekend. it looks great and it was bigger than i expected. that it’s compared to the chevy bolt and nissan leaaf seems ridiculous. i’m not an early adopter of things that my safety depends on but it’s great to see an american startup company lead the way. i hope musk can make it work. he’s already gone further than either tucker or delorean.

          • AvatarSean Goldstein

            Here’s the thing about Tesla that no one has figured out yet: as of this week, the #1 selling car in America by revenues is the Model 3. It took Toyota decades to get the Camry to #1, and a startup took it away in just a year.

            Next up are a midsized crossover, and then a pickup. TTAC may have to go back to their deathwatches for all the other carmakers soon.

  16. AvatarJSM

    I think I know the article you are referring to. Yikes, I would love to see an improved version. I’ve never understood why some people are drawn to do what they are completely unsuited for.

  17. AvatarT Burns

    Okay, I’m in. Please send me both articles, Jack, if you feel so inclined. I’ll step up for a contribution to the kid’s kill fee, too. Count me in for $100, at least.

    Many thanks.

  18. AvatarRyan

    I’d love to read the revised article whenever you can shoot it over. The publication in question gets binned on a bi-weekly basis, so feel free to include the original article if you have it handy.

  19. AvatarPaulyG

    I viewed Mr. X’s LinkedIn page (I use anonymous mode when doing LinkedIn searches). His picture says it all, with the word pompous immediately coming to mind. Or as my mom would probably say, “Oy vey!” And his writing is pedestrian at best.

    Mr. S’ rewrite certainly made the article much more entertaining. Either you have the gift of writing that invites people into your world or you do not. And plenty of people, by the time they are in high school, find their voice. I wish young Mr. S the best of luck using his talent.

  20. Avatar-Nate

    Both articles seem good, one is noticeably better and written for a younger, more involved audience I think .

    I had a 1967 912 five gauge five speed that was hammered and rusted out, my broken back never had any issues with the seat and it cruised far faster than 80 MPH ,I know to properly tune and maintain the engine .


  21. AvatarJoe

    I would like to see both articles, I am sure I could learn a thing or two! Regarding bikes for Harambee, I should put something together for my Dyna!

  22. AvatarJ Edwards

    I absolutely want to read it. Not just to see what the junior could do, but the incompetence upon which his work was based.

    I hope he earns something for it. Maybe if support enough quality up-and-comers, we can oust some of garbage out there.

  23. Avatarsafe as milk

    the kids got talent. he really gave me the impression that he was an experienced driver who was passionate about cars. the original was so bloated that i couldn’t finish it. the language was so wrong that i suspect that english is not his mother tongue.


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