Recently, I’ve been getting a lot of inquiries on how to become a motoring journalist. It’s hard not to be enamored by the motoring beat: driving new cars all the time, travelling all over the world (prior to the pandemic) to try out said cars, and even getting to visit traffic-free destinations filled with beautiful scenery all over our archipelago. These are experiences that money just can’t buy.
There are some basics of course. You need mastery of the written language (English is the most common for articles). Being able to shoot decent photos is a huge plus, and taking nice, catchy short videos is a real bonus too. But beyond these, there are things to keep in mind.
Writing is about upholding and protecting public trust. Even when it is just about cars, remember that a review should be fair, objective, timely and relevant. Honesty, as they say, is indeed the best policy. While we have our favorite cars and topics, our articles should ultimately help our readers make a better, more educated decision or opinion on a particular matter—be it buying cars or shaping ideas that should ultimately be for the benefit of all. We can’t simply write about what we want to. We need to write about what affects the greater majority of people. Otherwise, we might as well be singing praises to ourselves.
On a sidenote, I always tell this to people. Cars will always be in the top-three purchases a person will make in his or her life, after housing and perhaps education. Purchasing a vehicle is an achievement in life. As a motoring journalist, we must help people make informed and educated decisions to get the most out of their hard-earned money. So, even if a particular car isn’t your cup of tea, you should be able to evaluate it objectively and fairly. What’s right for you, might be the wrong car for someone else vis-à-vis.
Writing isn’t an avenue to fame. If you want to be a celebrity influencer/vlogger, start your own blog, website or YouTube channel. But writing for an established media outfit comes with responsibilities and certain moral and ethical limitations. We don’t do endorsements and get paid for it. We always carry the banner of our organization, and we don’t seek recognition for ourselves, but only that our work be of value to our readers. I have never won an award for any of my writing in my almost two decades of experience, and many of my colleagues as well, but it doesn’t bother us because we write for the benefit of others, and because there is simply immense pride and dignity in what we do.
Writing is also about being professional. A professional upholds the highest of standards for their output. You deliver the best-written articles, the best photos, and highlight the most important bits of information which you know is most relevant to your readers. And you submit your articles within the deadline. You research your audience profile, you find emerging trends, and try to get a pulse on the market. Nobody will tell you that, because finding these things out before anyone else is a competitive advantage. And you need to spend your own time, effort and resources for these things, immerse in the industry 24/7, and talk to your target audience. And since you represent your media outfit, you should always behave in a manner that won’t embarrass yourself and your colleagues.
Lastly, writing is about humility. As mentioned earlier, we don’t seek recognition for ourselves, but only that our work be for the good of others. We have met many hard-working individuals, many of whom have modest backgrounds but are now captains of industry. These people know a thing or two. Best to shut up and listen. You are there to hear, record and write about their knowledge, wisdom and experience. Sharing your own story to them comes much later.
Besides, you as a writer is only half the story. Without a team of editors, layout and graphic artists, and so many other people working tirelessly behind the scenes, your article will never come to light. Whatever success you will enjoy in the future is never truly your own. You owe it to everyone else who helps you from the background, and those who gave you a break when you started out.
Think you can keep these things in mind? Then let’s see your writing samples!