The second in the run of Coventry Conversations was a talk by Steve Cropley; Editor-In-Chief of Autocar magazine. He has been the editor for fifteen years and a road tester for thirty five, and according to John Mair- 40% of jobs in automotive journalism in England are at his behest. Mr Cropley’s talk was mainly based around ways for a journalist to be noticed and stand out in the industry.
The first thing he stressed was how important this time period is for students- jobs are scarce and potential employers look for something special. “If there’s one thing you take from me today- you can forget the rest of what’s coming- this is your moment; retail your youth. Realise what your assets are and retail.” He said. Mr Cropley also commented on the difficulty of getting back on the journalistic path if you take a job outside of the media in-between as an interval. He mentioned that young people aren’t given the respect they deserve from employers and that this is something to just work around.
He likened journalism to a speech by James Galway- a flute player who dedicated a song to “the people who [had] been nice to [him] in Australia” and that it was “not for all of them, but for each of them”. Mr Cropley stated that this is a key concept of journalism, that “every time you type a paragraph you are aiming it at a person; the job is to communicate exactly with the person that you’re talking to, and your second job is to deliver those people that start to read what you write to the bottom line- if you do not get them to the bottom line, you’ve failed”.
Mr Cropley then moved on to a major point of journalism; that in his particular field, the job is not about cars. He stated that the job is journalism- “Deciding what goes into the magazine every week, how it will be accompanied by photographs, what sort of story will be on the page, who will write the story; who is the most appropriate author, what will the captions be like, what will the story actually say?” He stated that “the job is about journalism- it’s not about indulging yourself with your hobby”
One skill he declared as key is the ability to communicate well with your audience through your writing style, and that being a good writer is essential. He gave the advice: “At the beginning, don’t chase style- just go for clarity, brevity, you know- study the people that can get meaning across quickly”. Mr Cropley then went on to warn the audience about the reputation a journalist can obtain if they don’t look up information and instead simply try to work from memory- this can be very damaging.
The next topic discussed was the journalist’s one (or at least main) loyalty- the reader. “The thing you must carry from now until your retirement from journalism is that you work for the reader” he said, and that journalists must never forget that they are not special- they are a tool of the people that send them on their various endeavours. He rounded off this point by saying “The job is communication- it is SO important”.
Mr Cropley made a brief point on critiques- saying “Please don’t just tell me if something’s good or bad; tell me what it’s like”.
The last major topic Mr Cropley talked about was the career path most journalists follow-
starting with a learning period, moving into a more confident, pleasant period, then onto “Functioning at a full potential” section, before finally moving into a jaded period, making them become “less effective”. He said that he “Never want[s] to turn the corner” into the jaded section, and although some people may disagree, it is his belief that it is best to stay in the confident, full potential section.
He finished his points by saying: “The way to predominate in our job where there’s a high work ethic – all journalism has a high work ethic – be willing.”