Tips of the Trade: Motoring Journalism

Press Gazette asked leading motoring journalists what it takes to get ahead in their profession and what their advice would be to those aspiring to break into the field.

Peter Hall, motoring editor, The Daily Telegraph
It’s really the same as being any other journalist, but you must be interested in cars.

Advice: I would say you should enter the Daily Telegraph/Lex Vehicle Leasing competition for young motoring journalist writers. The 21-year-old lad who won last year did really well out of it. Apart from that, I would say you either need to be able to write very well or know a lot about cars. It’s also useful to know how the car industry works. Like anything else, motoring journalism is something you must learn over time.

Jethro Bovingdon, staff writer, EVO
It takes a bit of luck really. You must be really determined because it’s a really difficult area to get into. Of course, you must be a good writer, but it’s also important to be able to get on with anybody – you need to do this at car launches and interviews.

Advice: As it’s such a difficult industry to get into, I would say it’s really important to be determined. You’ve got to keep writing letters until you get an opportunity and then when you get a break, use it as best you can. You won’t get a job where you want to immediately; get a job somewhere else and try to move later. But don’t give up.

James Woodroffe, producer, 5th Gear
The best thing I can say is to be different. Lots of people go through the motions of writing about ride and handling for magazines, but they do it in the same old way. They use the same kind of road tests and the same phraseology. Nobody’s cutting it up and making it different. You need to find a third kind of way – something inventive that’s really interesting.

Advice: Read as much as possible. You’ve got to know the game and the people that write about it inside out. Once you know where every mag is coming from, then you can mould and pick your own way out of it. But know what you’re on about.

Peter Grunert, assistant editor, Top Gear magazine
Essentially you must be enthusiastic about cars. Every car that you drive needs to be a new, exciting event and this enthusiasm needs to be conveyed to the reader. You must be able to relate to normal car users and not be too much of an anorak.

Advice: Motoring journalism isn’t just about driving cars quickly; it’s about relating to your readers. To be a good motoring journalist means you’ve got to be a good journalist as well, but you’ve got to have a real interest in cars and be original in the way you write.

Robert Oxford, editor, Fleet World
You must be a good journalist first and foremost. Get the basic skills such as news writing and shorthand first. Also have an interest in anything to do with cars.

Being a motoring journalist is really just the same as being any other journalist – chasing stories and finding interesting ideas. I became a motoring journalist by working on a local paper and doing car reviews – it was a good way to get experience. It’s important to do this because it’s a way to find out if this is the job you really want to do.

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