QUALIFYINGThe aspiring autowriter who asked in our last issue for suggestions for getting started may have meant it as evidence of his great desire to get published when he wrote: "At this point I'm willing to write for free because the perk for me is getting to drive the cars." But it garnered some crusty comments along with some helpful suggestions and one offer. Retired Popular Mechanics editor Joe Oldham responded: "It's people like you who ruin the reputation of automotive journalists as being 'lunch buckets and car glarmers.' (sic) Love cars and love to write about them. That's the reason a legitimate person would have given, not the "free car perks." My advice to this person would be go * * * * himself and leave the automotive journalism field to people more dedicated to the craft." . . . Less tart was freelancer Peter DuPre's observation, "Although I make a living writing about cars and the automotive industry, I'd rather wash dishes than supply free auto reviews to newspapers and magazines. Doing a good review takes time. Manufacturers need their ink, but when you work for free, you are telling the publisher exactly how much your work is worth. . .If we all demand fair compensation for our work, maybe we stand a chance of weeding out the wannabes who are willing to work for nothing just so they can borrow a new car every week or two and tell their friends." . . .Tom Collins, who hosts an Auto Answerman radio show in Colorado asks, "Do you know anything about cars? Just because you want "to drive new cars for free" does not make you qualified to review them. Forget voice training, it's WHAT you say not how you sound saying it." . . . Michael Cooney, Automotive Editor, Business Life Magazine, offers a rationale for persuading publishers to use reviews. "Publishers are interested in two related things: revenue and reader interest. Therefore they must be approached along those lines. Auto dealers prefer to place advertising next to auto reviews because they know that many readers love cars and will read auto reviews. So, placing advertising next to a review makes sense from a dealer's point of view, and can be said to add revenue to the publication because more dealers will want to advertise around a review. Next, most readers own cars. They love new cars. They enjoy reading about new cars. It is in the publisher's interest to print what his readers want to read. The reviewer can offer a weekly column or review, without charge, for, say, two months to allow the publisher to gauge the response. If the writer is good at what he does, the publisher would want to keep the weekly review in his paper on a paid basis. . . . Patti Schmidt, managing editor of Autowriters Ink, writes: "I'd suggest the newbie write a well-crafted letter addressed to the top decision maker in the editorial department and - this is important - send a copy to the paper's automotive advertising manager, too. If he doesn't know who those people are, he should call the paper to find out. Get their names and the correct spelling of both their name and title. The letter should say he'd like to write reviews for them and, if necessary, that he'd write them for free. He should attach a few published examples as well as a resume. The examples must be flawless; the resume should emphasize any writing or editing experience. If he has no experience, it should detail a consistent work history, leadership and a positive attitude. Also, if he hasn't written many auto reviews, there are a few "rules." I've attached an article my company provides to new writers to tell them what we're looking for when they write reviews for us. (AutoWriters Ink sells packages of automotive-related reviews and columns to newspapers across the U.S. Their biggest client is Journal Register Newspapers, with an audience of 6 million.) If he needs help with any of these things, please refer him to me: email@example.com . . . . Freelancer Terry Parkhurst's recalls that his first paid auto writing job was based on clips of free reviews he wrote for the local Porsche Club of America's newsletter. He suggests trying an ad in the aspirant's state edition of Editor and Publisher or similar newspaper trade newsletter but observes: "The outlets that were available just aren't, for the most part" and "be prepared to have someone want to tweak your copy to help sell an ad." . . . Veteran journalist Russ Dodge suggests, "If you can't run the ball up the middle, try an end around. I've been an auto journalist for 25 years, but I started as a general sports writer, gravitated to motorsports and then entered the production auto arena. It was easier for me to convince my editors that they should carry an auto column by me since I was covering football, basketball, politics, and motorsports. They knew me and trusted I would do well by them." . . . A firm chance to acquire online clips came from Robert Farago: "The Truth About Cars is always on the prowl for new talent. First and foremost, we're looking for people who can write with humor, passion, courage and coherent paragraph structure. Read the site, then send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with a sample of your work. Spelling counts."
DRAFTINGRelated career advice includes, "Get out of the newspaper business." This from Los Angeles Times motorsports writer Shav Glick upon his retirement after 52 years of writing for Los Angeles dailies. He is the only writer for a general circulation daily enshrined in the Motorsport Hall of Fame of America. Marvelously adept at writing well without calling attention to himself, Shav would keep on doing it if his health at age 85 would permit. Although writing for the Internet, the likely future for his craft, does not appeal to him and probably is the basis for his bleak advice. . . . Autowriters.com’s reference to Dan Neil’s “corrupt” comment brought this retort from Parkhurst: "We really need to hold our work to the same standard as any other kind of journalism. That's what the late Leon Mandel (former C/D editor and AutoWeek's late Publisher Emeritus ) used to feel. We owe that not only to ourselves, but to the people who rely on our opinions to buy product." . . . Freelancer Steve Parker chimed in: "RE: The inherent corruption of automotive journalism. I don't see it any different from the inherent corruption of ALL news journalism today. There are no "pure" news outlets left --- even venerable PBS and NPR today seem like never-ending Lexus-sponsored commercials for the local philharmonic, interrupted occasionally with newsy tidbits."
AUTOWRITERS SPOTLIGHTConnecticut based automotive columnist Keith Griffin started with a journalism background but pumped up his media outlets by pitching car review columns to publications that never had them before, including a daily newspaper and its associated weeklies in Southbridge, Mass.; lifestyle magazines, a travel newspaper, a monthly business magazine and other community publications including the Connecticut Jewish Ledger. Griffin is an automotive gourmand who writes for the average consumer and not the hobbyist with intricate knowledge of a vehicle's mechanical minutiae. (He notes that he is also almost 80 pounds lighter after a long stretch as a true gourmand.) He first worked as an automotive reviewer in 1987 for a nationally-award winning Connecticut monthly called Automotive Extra. In 2001, after helping launch three magazines aimed at households with income in excess of $125,000, he created a car review for the publications. Knowing he had to grow beyond the affluent, but limited, circulation of the lifestyle magazines, he syndicated his column, "Local Motion" so that four years later it appears in 13 outlets with a combined circulation of more than 175,000. An award-winning investigative writer, Griffin also freelances on non-automotive topics for newspapers and magazines in New England. In addition, he has been the volunteer webmaster for the New England Motor Press Association (www.nempa.org) since 2004, another example of an opportunity he created, because at that time he had limited knowledge of web design.
PASSING SCENEFor the uncool among us, Kimatni D. Rawlins, president/publisher of Automotive Rhythms advises: "Whip" in the urban community means a vehicle. "Flip" translates to customizing. "Flip My Whip" means customize my ride. His publication is a sponsor of two "Flip My Whip" promotions at the Washington Auto Show. One involves "Flipping A Whip" for the D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams. . . . Transtock (Transportation Stock Photography) has expanded its image library in a deal with Edmunds.com. It can now offer 3500 high resolution images of 2005-2006 cars, trucks, SUVS with more to come. . . .Former British Car owner/editor Gary Anderson, working with publisher Barry Brazier of CarGraphics, Inc. has launched a new magazine for Mini owners called MC Squared. The first four issues will be quarterly and after that, bi-monthly. . . . Vintage Motorsport, The Journal of Motor Racing History, has won five of the many IAMA annual awards presented at Sardi's in New York City. The IAMA Awards honor writers, publishers and media relations professionals in the automotive industry. . . . Legacy Motors Art Gallery has moved to Studio City, Calif. and added a new artist, Michael Irvine. . . . Blue Sky Productions, Inc. has produced an hour-long DVD titled "A Car Is Born." It shows how the auto industry designs, engineers, develops and manufactures new vehicles. It also traces the 100-year history of product development in the auto industry. . . .Retiring President of the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, Brian O'Neill will receive WAPA's Golden Gear Award for outstanding achievement in the Auto industry. It is one of four recognition awards the press association will make during the Washington Auto Show week. The other three: a "John Lynker Award" for Excellence in Responsible Design, a "Lifetime Achievement Award " to a WAPA member and a "Golden Quill Award" for an outstanding piece of auto journalism in the Washington/ Baltimore area.
CHANGING LANESJim Peltz, a business writer at The Los Angeles Times the past 18 years, moves to the Sports Department replacing Shave Glick as the motorsports writer. Glick comments: "James Peltz has worked with me on several stories in the past involving business deals in motor sports. He is also an avid NASCAR fan." . . . Earle Eldridge, an auto writer at USA Today for 10 years before he took a crack at automotive PR , is back writing for Patuxent Publishing which puts out Maryland's Howard County Times and the Columbia Flier. It's a subsidiary of the Tribune Company, which owns Chicago Tribune, LA Times and Baltimore Sun among other dailies and broadcast TV and radio stations. "The good part about the job is," Eldridge says, "I get to do freelance - including auto reviews like those I am currently doing for African American on Wheels." He is looking for other freelance assignments. . . . Jay Binneweg moved from the Sante Fe New Mexican to the San Antonio Express News. Succeeding him as auto editor in Santa Fe is Jeremy Wood. . . . Marshall Wilson has replaced assignment editor Michael Taylor as Auto Editor for the San Francisco Chronicle. . . . Freelancer Ann Proffit has returned to Long Beach, CA after a stint in the Midwest. . . . Lafayette C. Hight, Jr. is an Automotive reporter for the San Gabriel Valley Newspaper Group in California.
MOTORING PRESS ORGANIZATIONSThe 13 regional automotive press associations provide information and background not easily found elsewhere. If they are too distant to attend their meetings, belonging usually gives you access to transcripts or reports of these events and other benefits.
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