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Commentary: CNN Misses the Go-Fast Boat


Is there any more subjective an issue than taste? What floats my boat, so to speak, might well sink yours—and that’s exactly how it should be. The world would be a pretty dull place if we all liked the same things.

So I am not shocked by the recent CNN.com article, “Supercar yacht: Dream machine or ego gone mad?” that went live today. But I am disappointed in Sheena McKenzie, the woman who wrote it. The article about Gino Gargiulo’s 48-foot Marine Technology, Inc., Lamborghini-themed, high-performance catamaran isn’t just a weak example of journalism. It’s a poorly researched, unbalanced and, frankly, dumb example of journalism.

Let’s start with the headline, which poses a question that McKenize only provides half an answer to, courtesy of the stunningly arrogant, Quentin Willson, who according to the article is the former presenter of BBC TV show “Top Gear.” Willson declares Gargiulo’s cat, “a tasteless display of wealth that screams: ‘I’m rich and bored.'”

While I couldn’t agree less with Willson’s opinion that’s not what I have a problem with as a journalist. What troubles me—as in a lot— is that no other “expert” third-party perspective is presented in a story that, by its very own headline, presumes to answer a question. In short, the story doesn’t answer the question it poses and has zero balance. That leads any reasonable, thoughtful reader to conclude that the writer had an agenda.

Here’s something else I struggle with: calling a 48-foot MTI cat a “yacht.” Yes, the dictionary definition (“a vessel used for private cruising, racing, or other noncommercial purposes” from dictionary.com) allows for it, but that definition falls woefully short of what the general boating public would call a yacht. So while it’s not technically wrong to dub Gargiulo’s boat a yacht, it’s incredibly imprecise. How about “custom-made high-performance catamaran?”

Of course, to do that the writer would have had to make another phone call or two. Perhaps through that call she would have learned that boat has two engines costing roughly $400,000 rather than an “engine alone” that cost “$400,000” as she reported. I’m not suggesting that McKenize needed to become a go-fast boat expert to write her fluffy piece, but I am suggesting that getting the very, very basic stuff correct such as how many engines the boat has would have given her story a teensy bit more credibility.

I don’t know from the article if McKenzie personally attended the 2014 Miami International Boat Show where Gargiulo’s boat was displayed, but if she did she missed another Lamborghini/performance-boat combo in the Midnight Express booth and a Mercdes-Benz-AMG Gran Turismo concept car next to a 50-foot, like-themed go-fast V-bottom in the Cigarette Racing Team booth. I suspect from her article that McKenzie—and of course Willson had she tapped him for another expert opinion—would have been appalled at those gaudy, flashy displays of wealth and poor taste rather than happy to see a hard-hit industry (and learning that, too, wouldn’t have taken much research) on the mend.

And as she did in her article, she’d have completely missed the boat.

(Photo courtesy/copyright Jay Nichols/Naples Image.)