Weekly Roundup: Scrap Lover, My Brother Edition

There was a whole year of our lives — some time in the late Nineties, I think — where brother Bark and I did not speak to each other. I cannot remember what started the argument, nor how it resolved. Our friends were not surprised; if anything, they seemed shocked that we didn’t argue more often than we do. Two men, cut from the same cloth, both of us disagreeable and contentious and prideful. How could we not argue? We are also both prone to consider ourselves the smartest person in the room, which makes our shared time in a single room slightly awkward.

Bark and I are not as alike in person as we are on the page. He loves to travel, he goes to church, he enjoys social events, he has a better handle on the world as it truly exists in any given moment. Bark is a team player, a great salesman, a great motivator. Most people, having met both of us, like him better. He is more wholehearted in his enthusiasms, more forthright with his opinions, quicker to anger and quicker to forgive. Plenty of people confuse us as writers but that’s simply because they don’t care enough to look at the byline or because they aren’t paying that much attention. Which is fine. We’re in the entertainment business, not doing pediatric heart surgery.

I mention all of the above because Bark’s contributions to TTAC have been absent from these Weekly Roundups and it’s led to some speculation that he and I are in some sort of conflict about said contributions. It ain’t so. I no longer read TTAC so I wasn’t entirely aware of what he was writing — and he was loath to remind me because he knows I ended my time over there on relatively unpleasant terms.

Everything’s square now, and the Roundups will now contain Bark’s TTAC articles as they’re published. Which raises another question: how is that Bark still writes for TTAC and I do not?

Here’s the deal: I was on some sort of retainer/contract arrangement with TTAC for more than eight years, starting on the month that Ed took over from Robert Farago. During that time, I didn’t “pitch” stories and I didn’t accept more than a bare minimum of editorial oversight. I wrote whatever I wanted to. I think there were maybe three stories that got squashed, and in each case I got paid for them anyway. It was a good deal for me, as I earned a few hundred thousand dollars and enjoyed some outstanding opportunities in the process.

It was also a good deal for TTAC. I wrote the lion’s share of the site’s all-time most popular stories and I provided a consistent editorial voice across five different management regimes. In a business where much of the content is both incompetent and indistinguishable, I was a guaranteed source of clicks and comments. A nontrivial percentage of the site’s visitors didn’t even go to the homepage; they simply had my author page (https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/author/jack-baruth/, if you’re curious) bookmarked.

When Tim Healey took over at TTAC, he reshuffled the budget to hire a few full-time people at the expense of contractors and freelancers. I had the biggest piece of cheese, which made it very tempting for him to move said cheese. Tim also resented the fact that I didn’t “pitch” the site, and he repeatedly complained that I was saving my better work for Road&Track. The irony here is that my R&T work was always heavily bowdlerized in the cause of inoffensive political correctness, first by Alex Kierstein then by Bob Sorokanich, so I distinctly preferred writing for TTAC and usually put more effort into my TTAC pieces. Oh well.

Tim tried to fire me twice. The first time I just plain bullied him out of doing it. The second time he was more resolute — and I happened to have my son in the car with me, so I couldn’t share my unfettered opinion with him the way I had previously. Brother Bark was a little miffed about this and he stopped pitching TTAC as a result. Eventually he and I had a discussion about it and I suggested that he return for two reasons: it wouldn’t do me any harm and it would do the site some good.

Which is where things stand now, and that’s the end of the story. Except for two things. The first is that I tried to buy TTAC twice in the past year, with Robert Farago in late 2018 and then again a few months ago as an agent of Hagerty. The owners don’t want to sell. Which is a shame. I think I could resurrect the site. I don’t think I’m giving away much of a secret (Alexa hints at the situation) when I tell you that Hagerty’s traffic increase since my first day on the job is actually larger than TTAC’s entire audience.

The second thing is that I’m doing what I can to resurrect the original Truth-y vibe at my current home. You all know that Robert Farago is on the contributor’s list, but I can also now reveal that Sajeev Mehta’s “Vellum Venom” is moving to Hagerty as well. In fact, I’ve had discussions of one sort or another recently with almost every one of TTAC’s best contributors. The only guy I can’t hire, sadly, is my own brother. At least not right now. So I am humbly requesting that you visit his author page: https://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/author/barkm/ .

Oh yeah — if you thought the title of this Roundup was a Big Daddy Kane reference, you’re right.

* * *

This week at Hagerty, I shamelessly stole the work of my commenters to discuss the Cutlass Ciera.

At TTAC, Bark talks about gypsies, tramps, and thieves.

25 Replies to “Weekly Roundup: Scrap Lover, My Brother Edition”

  1. AvatarSteve Lynch

    Interesting, I contributed about 75 stories to TTAC, many about subjects never before published (i. e. dealers scamming car companies on Lemon Law claims.) When Healey took over, I emailed him several times with story ideas and got ZERO response. Screw him.

    Reply
    • AvatarTomfromparma

      Steve – I really enjoyed your book about Honda and feel like you would add a lot, possibly to this site, with your experience. A lot of us really don’t know the whole picture and “Bark” has been tight-lipped about it. Maybe he will loosen up now that he’s transitioning out of the field. Think about it!

      Reply
  2. AvatarCrancast

    Enjoyed both pieces, but this back story and barks red balloons repost here were better. Thank you for tying up the loose ends, good read.

    The dismantling of TTAC is like watching a game of Jenga with the blocks of contributors and readers/commenters moving to another game.

    Reply
  3. Avatarmas

    The way I read this:
    You are buying TTAC, one writer at a time, without actually paying the owners of TTAC.
    Which works for me.

    Reply
  4. Avatararbuckle

    Sadly (I’ve been reading there a long time), TTAC is definitely dying. The interesting vehicular discussion that made up the Farago Era is long gone. The only thing with any traffic are Trump posts and you can get that kind of political angst anywhere these days. IMO, the technical issues are killing the site as much as the recent content. Disappearing comments, disappearing articles, random log outs, needing to log-in multiple times and always having to enter some lame ‘bot check’ math problem. No one is going to put up with that for long and it makes “new blood” impossible. They don’t seem to give a sh*t though.

    I’m glad to see Bark back, but they stuck him in a Friday afternoon slot which I expect is going to limit his readership.
    ______________________________
    Kind of along the same lines, I’m not sure how much commenting/reader participation you are hoping for at Hagerty, but your current interface over there isn’t great. Honestly, aside from the lack of an editing feature, the setup on RG is much better.

    Reply
    • AvatarBark M

      In fairness, I could publish whenever I want to. I just don’t have a lot of time during the week to write.

      Reply
  5. AvatarRobert

    Jack,

    What do you think about including the works of the other Riverside Green contributors who write for Hagerty now in the weekly roundup? I’m not sure everybody here knows about them.

    Reply
  6. AvatarHarry Oettinger

    I have noticed that the comments section on the articles at Hagerty is not used much. Is it a choice to keep that at a minimum, is there going to be an attempt to create a commenting culture?

    Reply
  7. Avatarrnc

    I go to TTAC on Monday’s to see the junkyard find and that’s it. I used to spend a lot of my free time at work there. Oh well.

    Reply
  8. AvatarDisinterested-Observer

    It’s a shame you and Farago couldn’t get the site back. Those idiots in Canada have destroyed the brand equity. I don’t know why they bothered to buy it.

    Reply
  9. AvatarShocktastic

    I go to TTAC more for the comments of some of the readers than for the reviews or the articles. Better commentary here.

    Reply
  10. AvatarJohn C.

    It was interesting reading what you made of the Ciera discussion over at Haggerty. Glad I could contribute in a small way, or at least act as the straw man. Your commenters over there perhaps weren’t ready for any discussion of Honda that didn’t involve rose colored glasses. This is surprising to me in that the early small Accord had so many fans that surely some must have been unhappy to see it bloat larger into a midsize. Imagine when the Ciera came out in 1981 and the Honda engineers were giving each other high fives for getting their engine all the way up to 1.8 liters and adding a glorious 3rd forward gear to the Hondamatic. Management then points to the Ciera and says we must build one too, and by the end of the decade. Our own moonshot. The look on their faces must have been priceless.

    Reply

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