‘THERE HAS never been a better time for graduates to make it into the profession’ was the standout message from Steve Cropley, editor-in-chief of Autocar magazine, at an automotive themed Coventry Conversation, on how to make it in the cut-throat world of journalism.
“We don’t hire 28 year olds anymore. We don’t hire 35 year olds anymore,” said Steve, founder of the Automotive Journalism Masters course at Coventry University. “Now we hire people in their early twenties, you guys out there.” Writes Mark Rainford
For the audience the news came as a welcome boost after a year which has seen large numbers of journalists around the country lose their jobs due to the recession.
Steve also batted away suggestions that the magazine media would soon be killed off by the rise of the internet: “When television was invented the radio didn’t go away,” he said.
“We very much believe the same with magazines. They’re not heading for the stratosphere but they’re not going away.”
In order to become a successful journalist Steve highlighted four key factors that would prove essential for any budding journalist; the relationship with the reader, a dose of luck, determination, and adaptability.
An ability to write is also essential and Steve says that reading books and the work of good journalists is the best way to learn how to write well.
Steve’s love and passion for his profession was clear for all to see as he said: “In 30 years I wouldn’t change a thing. I don’t want an office or a secretary; I just want to do the job.
“For me, the joy of it is the fact that no day is the same. I don’t know what I’m going to be doing in a fortnight. It’s a privilege to be able to live your life like that,” he said.
Further to the uniqueness of each day, the office camaraderie ranks high on Steve’s list of reasons to become a journalist.
“We have a real unit,” he said. “Part of the joy of journalism is working with these 15 to 20 people who you know you can rely on to do the job.”
Steve calculates that he has been responsible for hiring over 50 new staff at Haymarket and one key quality he looks for is trust.
“I want to know that you will die for the flag and that we’re all pointing in the same direction,” he said.
Two people have made an impression on Steve during his 37 years in the business and both in unique ways.
One writer well known in motoring journalism is Chris ‘Monkey’ Harris who Steve fondly recalls having an overactive mouth but a thirst for working.
“You would get into work at 8.45am and Chris would be stood at your desk saying: “Has anybody got a job which they don’t want to do.” ” said Steve.
Gavin Conway turned up to Autocar with a bucket and sponge and offered to clean the cars with Cropley pointing out that “what he managed to do was make himself special.”
Making it in journalism is not quite as easy as that though. Cropley said: “You might be friends with the people around you on your course but remember that you’re in deadly competition with the guy next to you.”
For Steve the competition is long in the past and he remains as committed as ever to a career which has recently seen him win several awards for his journalism.
So after so long in the industry, which was the car Steve would pick above all else?
“I always said the car I would be buried with is an E-Type.” he smiles.
By Mark Rainford