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.