COVENTRY UNIVERSITY’S MA course in automotive journalism has grown from strength-to-strength since its inception in 2004, with the ‘Automotive’ magazine launched two years later in 2006 perceived by many as being central to this success. Journalism lecturer and freelance automotive reporter, Andrew Noakes has overseen the last four issues of the ‘live project’, the most recent of which has been launched in the past few days.
Noakes admitted that progress has been made, although the true extent of this is hard to analyse and compare as each issue has been written and designed by a new intake of post-graduate students. He said that the key aspect of the magazine that continues to stay the same is the facilities provided by the University, and the staff who are there to support the students’ work.
“We have experience to pass onto the next issue, and we are finding better ways of approaching the project, and better ways to support the project. However, the project’s progress ultimately depends on a particular group of students and how far they have progressed through the four or five months leading up to Automotive,” Noakes explained.
‘Automotive’ was initiated by senior journalism lecturers, Frederick Mudhai and John Lister with the collaboration of Autocar magazine’s editor-in-chief, Steve Cropley. At the time, a number of ideas as to how the course should be enhanced were proposed, with a publication mirroring a real-world title considered to be of more relevance and value.
People have to understand your students are doing a worthwhile project
Noakes believes that his knowledge of working on car magazines – which includes Fast Car and Classic Car, before deciding to go freelance – has enabled him to offer students an alternative view on how to approach the writing, designing and producing of a magazine as many MA students often have little prior knowledge of the subject matter.
“I think one of the key things I have brought-in having been involved with magazines is a greater attention and priority to the visual aspects of it, as that is how magazines work. They have to be attractive, otherwise you won’t win readers and the magazine won’t be successful. If students are going to do a magazine, it really has to be visually interesting and exciting, which is why we chose the Aston Martin story; this helped to make a reasonably striking front cover.”
Securing finances this year round hasn’t been an issue according to Noakes, although alternative sources have had to be approached for funding as more car companies continue to cut back on their advertising and public relations expenditure. Last year, Peugeot UK kindly agreed to offer monetary sponsorship for the project, but an evident lack of finance in the car industry is a topic Noakes believes – on reflection, at least – should have been covered.
“All the feedback I have had back on Automotive has been positive, and the only comment I have had that is a negative one is that there is not a lot that deals with the automotive financial crisis, why it is an important topic, and how it impacts on the motor industry. The counter-veiling argument is that it is supposed to be a magazine for the ‘Drive of your life’. What we want to do is an antidote to the crisis which is: ‘Never mind all that, cars are still interesting’.”
What may increase the level of interest amongst readers of future editions are those people from within the car industry who, having been sent a copy of the latest magazine, will hopefully approach Noakes and offer his students greater levels of co-operation.
“We have made contact with more people who are out there in the industry and who know what we are doing. Hopefully they will think it is good and perhaps next time round will want to become involved. It all helps. You have got to make people understand your students are doing a worthwhile project and some good will come at the end of it,” he added.