Based on the number of letters I have received from budding motoring journalists from all walks of life during the past decade, I always suspected there was a lot of interest in this genre of journalism. However, one thing has become apparent through the years, and that is that there exists serious misconceptions about what the career really is all about.
Most of my lectures’ attendees based their perceptions only on the end products of motoring journalism – glossy magazines and slick TV shows. My lecture aims to paint a more realistic picture of what motoring journalism is all about, so that the attendees can base their career decisions on facts, rather than perceptions.
Interestingly, I would say 90 % of the attendees did not wish to be “the next Jeremy Clarkson, Chris Harris or James May.” The overwhelming majority wished to establish themselves as respected writers with their own styles, which was very good to hear.
- I hosted 8 lectures in total, two in Johannesburg, five in Cape Town and one trial on-line “virtual” lecture using Google Hangouts
- In total, 137 people expressed interest in attending the lectures, and 45 of those did
- Out of the 45 who attended, only five were female
- The average age of the attendees was 30
As part of the lecture I gave each attendee the opportunity to write two pieces of content, which I then evaluated. The first was a formulaic news story based on a press release, the second a far more difficult column piece, theoretically to be published in Top Gear.
The first tested the writer’s news-sense and ability to contextualise, while the second gave me an idea of his/her creative writing talent, as well as general interest/frame of reference in the wider automotive genre. While most could, with some exercise and training, get the first task right, a disappointingly large number could not, pointing to a lack of general writing skills and deeper interest/understanding of the automotive market. With regards to the second writing exercise, I would say only two handed in pieces that were (near) publishable, and overall about five showed promise.
Evaluating the writing pieces made one thing clear – there is a great gap between how good the attendees thought their writing ability and automotive knowledge were, and what the reality is. Sadly, it also became clear that the majority wanted to become motoring journalists due to the perceived lifestyle the career offers.
I intend continuing with my lectures next year, but am also developing a second module, focused more on actual writing. If you’re interested, let me know.