Plenty has changed since MAMA was founded almost 30 years ago, but we are fortunate to count several active longtime members—and even a few founding members—among our ranks. One of those founding members is Rick Cotta, Managing Editor of Consumer Guide Automotive. Rick has been with Consumer Guide since 1990, and he was there at the very beginning of MAMA. We caught up with Rick to ask him a few questions about the early days of the organization.
1. MAMA began in 1991. How did you hear about MAMA and what roles have you played since the inception?
As far as I know, Jim Mateja sent around a notice asking for interested parties to meet at a restaurant to discuss starting an auto-journalist association along the lines of MPG and IMPA, but focused on Chicago media. My boss at the time, Rick Popely (who later became the third president of MAMA), asked me to come along, and there may have been others from Consumer Guide there as well. Most of my “official” involvement since has been with the Rally Committee. And most of that has been organizing the Spring Rally’s go-karting event.
2. We heard through the grapevine that you suggested the name "MAMA." How did that name come about?
At that first meeting, the proposed name for the organization was the Midwest Automotive Press Association. Attendees were asked for their thoughts. Of course, I’d figured out the acronym before suggesting that perhaps “media” might be more encompassing than “press,” as some members might be PR folks and such.
It was Rick Popely who got it first. “HA!” he laughed. “Mama!” Then it started. “Come to mama” … “mama’s boys” … etc. It was voted in.
3. How has MAMA evolved over the last 29 years?
Probably the biggest change in the organization came with the advent of the Spring Rally. The late Bob Kocher had a lot to do with that, but he wasn’t alone. My personal recollection was that Mark Bilek (who was a co-worker at Consumer Guide at the time and at some point a MAMA president) was deeply involved with it as well.
It was at a press preview in the early 1990s that a fellow auto journalist pointed out that there were probably fewer than 200 jobs like ours in the entire country. And doing the math, that was likely true. After starting out with just a dozen or so members, today there are nearly that many auto journalists in MAMA alone.
4. What do you gain from being a MAMA member?
Overall, I’m a rather quiet, behind-the-scenes kind of guy. Yet at nearly every press event I attend, PR people and other journalists will recognize me and come up and talk about the Spring Rally. While their comments are inevitably favorable, I always take the opportunity to ask them what I feel is the only survey question that really matters: What could we do better? When pressed that way, they’ll occasionally come up with something I’ll pass along to the committee.
And of course, our monthly meetings are always interesting, providing speakers with insights I’d otherwise never have … not to mention a lunch that doesn’t consist of canned tuna and frozen vegetables.
5. What is your favorite part of being a MAMA member?Aside from the above, it’s an opportunity to talk cars with others who share that interest. Besides a friend who is similarly afflicted, I never discuss the topic with people unless they ask. If someone inquires as to what I do for a living (such as on an airplane), I always just say I’m an editor...which quite effectively shuts down that line of questioning.