What is an Automotive Journalist and how do I become one?

One of my favorite questions to be asked is “how did you get into automotive journalism?” Or some other variation of “what exactly do you do and how do I get your job?”

I answer that I grew up around cars, have always loved writing, and when I found out I could combine both passions into a single career I did everything possible to get into the field. This meant working for free doing it as a hobby for two years before I secured a full time paid position as a journalist.

During this time, I didn’t have anyone to show me what to do, who to talk to, or make introductions. I just went out and did it. No one gave me assignments, deadlines, edited my work, or helped me improve along the way. The one thing I did receive was a lot of criticism as I learned. Not all of the feedback I received was particularly helpful, but it did become more apparent to me that I am pretty driven and I have a strong commitment to my craft.

Sure, the traveling is fun, meeting celebrities is cool, and of course, the cars are fantastic, but none of that is why I do what I do. I wholeheartedly believe it is my responsibility to present reliable, accurate facts in an unbiased and meaningful context so that my readers can come to their own conclusions.

One of the biggest differences between a “blogger/influencer” and myself is my commitment to the truth. For example, because I strive to uphold the highest possible standards of integrity and ethics, I present the facts – regardless of if they are good or bad, facts are facts. An influencer, on the other hand, might be more inclined to say whatever they think their audience or advertisers will best respond to and often dilute facts by interjecting their own thoughts and opinions into the subject.

That said, it is never a journalists’ intention to harm. What we publish or broadcast may be hurtful, but we are aware of the impact of our words and images on the lives of others and we try to be fair. I do my best to correct errors as quickly as possible, and I listen to the concerns of my audience. Its also part of my job to be familiar with laws regarding slander and libel and I am protected under “freedom of the press.”

Essentially, it’s not my job to tell you what I think, to sell or to deceive, however, it is my responsibility to tell you the facts so you can create your own informed opinion. At times this methodology can come across a bit dry or dull, but I’ll take dry and boring facts over losing the trust of my audience with fake news any day.

As a journalist, I practice a lot of self-discipline. And I mean a lot.

Most people see the “perks” of what I do, but don’t have a clear understanding of what I must do to be able to have those opportunities. It ties back into the idea that “journalism is a calling.”

Sure, I get to be on track at different motorsport events, it’s fun. But did you know I most likely got there two hours before everyone else to get prepared and sit through media meetings? Or that I stand outside in the 120 degrees Arizona sun, on track, all day, wearing long pants, and closed-toe shoes? Rarely is their shade, the water supply is limited to what you can carry with you, and you must be 110 percent alert always so that you can run out of the way of a car coming in your direction.

Often, I am just yards away from a car going past me anywhere up to 200 miles per hour. The sound is deafening, and the experience is thrilling but very exhausting. At times, it is easy to forget I am at the event to work. I’m not there to hang out with friends or socialize, I have a job to do – and that job isn’t over just because everyone went home and the event is over. That’s when the real work begins.

Even so you are tired, smell bad, and sunburnt, you have hours of writing to do along with hours of editing photos, and if you’re an editor like myself, often this is accompanied by editing other team members work and uploading stories and pictures to the site.

As Editor-in-Chief, I am responsible for the type of content that is produced, the look and feel, and what stories are published when. Additionally, I assign stories, I fact check each article, ensure it meets the style of the publication, I check the spelling, grammar, and punctuation, and offer word changes when needed. In addition to standard polishing and story refinement, I direct the focus of the story and cut out what doesn’t fit, what is nonessential to the purpose of the story, and enhance the major points, drawing attention to places where the audience should focus. I also write a lot of stories I don’t get credit for.

As a writer, I dislike about 70 percent of what I write because I don’t like the topic or I have zero interest in it. I don’t get to pick and choose my assignments, and everything I write goes through multiple rounds of editing before it’s published. Sometimes the editorial process turns the story into something I don’t even recognize and nothing is worse than living with a byline on something that doesn’t feel like it’s mine.

But let me be clear: I love what I do and wouldn’t have it any other way. I truly could never do anything else because automotive journalism is my calling. Elements of the job can suck at times, but at the end of the day I feel good about what I do, who I work with and for, and I love being able to create stories and share the news.

The best way to get into the field is to study the process in school, learn the laws and ethics around it, and then just write. It’s a lot of work with lots of long hours but you will have one hell of a good time, so do it because you love it.

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