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alex
alex Dork
7/8/10 1:47 p.m.

http://jalopnik.com/5582380/how-the-truth-about-motorcycle-helmets-got-a-journalist-fired

Dexter Ford, fine journalist and author of the single most important piece of modern motorjournalism, 2005's Blowing The LId Off, which called into question the Snell Foundation's science and exposed their standards as creating unsafe motorcycle helmets, has been fired by Motorcyclist after 30 years.

Ford recently wrote a piece for the New York Times in which he reported on Snell's changing standards for 2010, making salient points regarding potential consumer confusion: namely that helmets meeting Snell's 2005 standards can be manufactured until 2012, and that the different standards are only denoted on helmets inside the lining, while the exterior stickers are nearly identical.

According to leaked internal emails from Motorcyclist's editor Brian Catterson, mounting pressure from Arai and Shoei - major advertisers who pulled their money after 2005's article - prompted Catterson to fire Ford to save his own job by keeping their ad dollars, and therefore keeping his bosses happy.

Major print media is dying, and taking good investigative journalism with it in its death throes. Nothing new, I suppose, but this is a topic that caught my attention. I had the pleasure of corresponding with Dexter after the publication of "Blowing The Lid Off," as I was working in the motorcycle industry at the time, and that article turned my world on its ear. I'm glad to see he's still challenging the status quo, but sad to see it cost him his job.

But being known as an ethical person is always a good thing, unless one associates with the unethical. Here's hoping Dexter lands on his feet, and keeps writing the sort of articles that question accepted wisdom.

tuna55
tuna55 HalfDork
7/8/10 1:51 p.m.

Saw that - pissed me off - justified me for pissing my chief engineer off when we send E36 M3ty stuff to potentially kill people.

Trans_Maro
Trans_Maro Dork
7/8/10 2:08 p.m.

Wow..

Advertising dollars drive the stories in most (present company excluded) publications.

Who'da thunk it?

Car Craft has been the leading publication in this avenue for years. It's basically the Summit how-to catalog.

Shawn

triumph5
triumph5 New Reader
7/8/10 2:23 p.m.

In reply to alex: I knew Dexter Ford; worked with him on occasion, and found him to be a great guy. He had a great reputation as a journalsit and a bit of a rule bender, but his work spoke for him. If his publisher had any balls, he would have backed him up, and let this blow over. A couple of advertisers do not make or break a magazine--even in today's economy. For the same publishing company II wrote an article that showed none of the liquid mileage additives did anything. Pissed off STP big time. Did the same with a new "mileage saving" Holley carb.. In both cases the publisher stood behind the articles. Both advertisers came back after two months of no ads. Point is, there are publications and manufacturers that know Dexter. He will land on his feet, if not in print then on line someplace. Of that I have no doubt.

teamdixonracing
teamdixonracing Dork
7/8/10 2:41 p.m.

That's not right.

tuna55 wrote: Saw that - pissed me off - justified me for pissing my chief engineer off when we send E36 M3ty stuff to potentially kill people.

You probably don't want to say but my parents live in Wellford and I'm trying to figure out where you work over there. Maybe it's because I'm thinking motorcycles. Maybe you work at the large German company over there.

Xceler8x
Xceler8x Dork
7/8/10 3:15 p.m.

I haven't read motorcyclist in years. Their articles are/were fluff pieces. If this is an example of their journalistic integrity I can see why. I pay a premium to read great motorcycling magazines from Europe like Bike. Best motorcycle mag made.

jrw1621
jrw1621 SuperDork
7/8/10 8:58 p.m.

When does Sprockets go into print?

teamdixonracing
teamdixonracing Dork
7/8/10 9:26 p.m.
jrw1621 wrote: When does Sprokets go into print?

+1

alex
alex Dork
7/9/10 1:18 p.m.

Yep. Hire the guy.

Jensenman
Jensenman SuperDork
7/9/10 6:04 p.m.

I don't know Dexter Ford from a hole in the ground, but I salute him. Obviously he hit a nerve; like the old saying goes, the hit dog yelps. And I agree that Motorcyclist sucks. Never have cared for it.

DIRT BIKE magazine had no Yamaha ads for about 10 years. It seems that in a 125 MX shootout, they found that the Yamaha just wasn't going to make the cut and they said so. A copy of the article was given to Yamaha's brass before the issue went to press so they could answer any questions, instead they refused to do so and threatened to pull their ads if the article was run. DB's editors (the head guy at the time was Tom Webb) ran the article unchanged and Yamaha made good on their threat.

Most of the editorial crew from that time is long gone, so DB is now pretty much a slick paper catalog like all the rest of the offroad mags. But I fondly remember the days when they had balls.

tuna55
tuna55 HalfDork
7/9/10 8:45 p.m.
teamdixonracing wrote: That's not right.
tuna55 wrote: Saw that - pissed me off - justified me for pissing my chief engineer off when we send E36 M3ty stuff to potentially kill people.

You probably don't want to say but my parents live in Wellford and I'm trying to figure out where you work over there. Maybe it's because I'm thinking motorcycles. Maybe you work at the large German company over there.

Definitely won't say here. Not the large German company and not even the large French company. Much smaller but much more potential to kill people. E-mail if you really want to know.

pinchvalve
pinchvalve SuperDork
7/18/10 5:51 p.m.

GRM writers are safe, I mean, it's not like Megasquirt and used Miatas are big advertisers.

Otto_Maddox
Otto_Maddox Reader
7/19/10 11:22 a.m.

In reply to pinchvalve:

What about sawsall and rustoleum?

Trans_Maro
Trans_Maro Dork
7/19/10 2:17 p.m.

I don't think anyone hates a swazall though!

Shawn

alex
alex Dork
7/19/10 2:57 p.m.

My buddy who got the tip of his finger ripped off by a guard-less sawzall wasn't fond of them for a while. But he's over it now.

flountown
flountown New Reader
7/19/10 2:57 p.m.
tuna55 wrote: Definitely won't say here. Not the large German company and not even the large French company. Much smaller but much more potential to kill people. E-mail if you really want to know.

Not to make light of what you are referring to, but this sounds like Ed Norton when he is on the plane in Fight Club explaining his insurance formula, and he wouldn't say what auto manufacturer he works for just, "a big one."

MadScientistMatt
MadScientistMatt Dork
7/19/10 7:32 p.m.
pinchvalve wrote: GRM writers are safe, I mean, it's not like Megasquirt and used Miatas are big advertisers.

In a way they are: GRM's ad rates are low enough that Jerry can actually afford to run a full page ad for MegaSquirt products here every issue. The way they've kept their ads affordable also means that having a car company threaten to pull their ads isn't nearly as big a threat as they could make to Source Interlink.

tuna55
tuna55 HalfDork
7/19/10 8:29 p.m.
flountown wrote:
tuna55 wrote: Definitely won't say here. Not the large German company and not even the large French company. Much smaller but much more potential to kill people. E-mail if you really want to know.

Not to make light of what you are referring to, but this sounds like Ed Norton when he is on the plane in Fight Club explaining his insurance formula, and he wouldn't say what auto manufacturer he works for just, "a big one."

Favorite. Movie. Ever.

And yeah - it's similar, although not quite as black/white and in my case it's way easier for people to convince themselves that a sin of omission is better than a sin of commission.

foxtrapper
foxtrapper SuperDork
7/20/10 8:02 a.m.

Hmmm. I remember reading an article a good 20 years ago that said almost exactly the same thing as Fords 2005 article, a good 15 years earlier. Think it was in the old rag Motorcycle Consumer News, but I'm far from sure of that.

Enough to make me wonder about Fords article, and how much of it he may have lifted from that older article on Snell helmet standards.

alex
alex Dork
7/20/10 12:18 p.m.

Inspiration perhaps, but helmet standards change so much over the years that most of the old information would be irrelevant. Anyway, Ford and Motorcyclist actually hired a team and did extensive testing on their own for the article.

Whatever made him question the Snell standard, no one can say for sure but the man himself. But he (and the test team) certainly did the leg work on the final article.

foxtrapper
foxtrapper SuperDork
7/21/10 6:08 a.m.

I disagree, Snell stanards have fundamentally been for a very hard helmet that transmits larger forces than DOT helmets to the neck and body. Been that way for all the decades Snell has existed.

There is also the failure of Snell to deal with a second hit. Helmets, particularly motorcycle helmets, do not receive one, single, solitary hit in a crash or fall, there will generally be several hits. This was also covered in that decades old article.

In fact calling it an article is doing it a disservice, it was many pages in length, and I think spanned several issues. It involved various safety councels, including Europe and Australia. It was no light weight "Snell is bad" article. It was a very extensive and well researched and documented article.

Dr. Hess
Dr. Hess SuperDork
7/21/10 8:40 a.m.

FT's comments on transferring larger forces to the neck are very important. A 5 lb helmet at 10G's becomes a 50 lb force pounding your neck. And you can bounce some of the things like a ball. Try it.

I have never seen an objective (or otherwise) research paper on MC helmets from an injury standpoint. That is, analyzing motorcycle accident victims, their injuries (brain, neck and everything else), helmet status/type, rider experience level, fault, EtOH, etc. I thought that might have been a good area for research back when I was doing that stuff, but try to get funding for that (not a berkeleying chance).

JG Pasterjak
JG Pasterjak Production/Art Director
7/26/10 6:00 p.m.

The whole thing just smacks on unpleasentness. I know these are private conversations but both of these guys sound like they've lost a bit of perspective on their role in the community.

While Catterson may have been uncool to cave to pressures and fire Ford, I was equally unimpressed by Ford's enthusiasm at doing a "torch job" on a fellow journalist or preparing to "ambush" the hosts of a press conference.

The thing I think a lot of "enthusiast press" journalists forget at times is that (and I'll put this in all caps for emphasis) THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE BETWEEN US AND OUR READERS OR ADVERTISERS EXCEPT THAT WE HAVE A COPY OF INDESIGN AND THE PHONE NUMBER OF A BIG PRINTER. Any auto writer with Woodward and Bernstein delusions is sorely mistaken.

We shouldn't be out to "get" anyone. Rather, we should be using out position to create an open conduit between out readers and advertisers that otherwise might not exist. If Matt and Jerry send us a Megasquirt unit and we think it's a piece of crap*, the correct response is not to write that it's a piece of crap because that does not serve the reader in any way. Rather, the correct response is to contact Matt and Jerry and try to figure out why we came to the conclusion that we did, and figure out whether the problem is on our end or their end. By doing this, we not only solidify our relationship with an advertiser, but we are able to better report to the readers what they might experience when using this product and help make their buying and using process easier.

In other words, there ain't no "us" and "them." It's all just "us," but some of us happen to do different stuff than others of us.

jg

  • Just for the record, we like all things Megasquirt. Just using you guys as a convenient example.
minimac
minimac SuperDork
7/26/10 7:39 p.m.
JG Pasterjak wrote: ..... the correct response is not to write that it's a piece of crap because that does not serve the reader in any way. Rather, the correct response is to contact Matt and Jerry and try to figure out why we came to the conclusion that we did, and figure out whether the problem is on our end or their end..... jg

So when are you doing a report on the mega-turbo exhaust spinner thingy?

JG Pasterjak
JG Pasterjak Production/Art Director
7/26/10 8:37 p.m.
minimac wrote:
JG Pasterjak wrote: ..... the correct response is not to write that it's a piece of crap because that does not serve the reader in any way. Rather, the correct response is to contact Matt and Jerry and try to figure out why we came to the conclusion that we did, and figure out whether the problem is on our end or their end..... jg

So when are you doing a report on the mega-turbo exhaust spinner thingy?

As soon as we think you can handle the truth...

jg

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