It’s no secret that journalism, an important aspect of our society, is on the decline. Many journalists over the past few years have found themselves out of work as newspapers and news magazines make hard choices with budget cuts. While some lament over the decline in news others adapt and prosper. Jimmy Dinsmore is one of the latter.
Having changed gears in his career as a full-fledged newspaper reporter for the Dayton Daily News he is now a social media consultant for various clients large and small. More importantly for our readers, Jimmy also reviews cars. That means he gets to test drive new cars and vehicles every week and doesn’t worry about insurance, monthly payments, or repairs. Sound pretty good, right?
In my interview with Jimmy, who’s vehicle reviews appear on CarNewsCafe.com, we discuss his background, how his has shifted his career, advice for future auto journalists, and social media tips.
Adam Yamada-Hanff – So Jimmy, let’s start off with us learning more about you and your background. Where are you originally from? How did you get started writing and, more specifically, writing about cars?
Jimmy Dinsmore – Born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio. I have been interested in writing, newspapers and the such from high school where I was editor of my high school paper. I went on to become editor in chief of my college newspaper at the University of Cincinnati. That was a full-time, paying job as we were a daily newspaper. That’s where my passion really kicked in. After some non-journalist jobs right out of college, I landed a job at a community newspaper. After years covering various fields, including special sections, I moved on to my first daily newspaper at the Dayton Daily News. From there I covered real estate, health care and then eventually autos. I lucked into the auto job when the previous editor took a different position and I took over the Wheels section.
AYH - Have you always liked cars? Do you have motor oil running through your veins?
JD – Always liked cars. Hmmm, well I can’t say that. Who doesn’t like cars in some way? I do not have motor oil running through my veins, or at least I didn’t. It’s certainly contagious, and I have some form of motor oil in my veins now.
AYH – I noticed that you have “auto repair” listed as an interest. What’s up with that? You like fixing cars?
JD – I am interested in it. My full-time job involves dealing with many automotive educators who are each brilliant automotive technicians. So I glean a lot of knowledge from them. But I’m not a wrench turner by any stretch of the imagination. But my auto repair knowledge has grown over the last year for sure.
AYH – I know this is probably difficult to talk about, but can you tell us what happened with the regional newspaper in Ohio you were working for? I think it is useful for readers to hear about the state of journalism currently. (This means you can send money to Jimmy and myself, by the way!)
JD – By all means send money!! My story is not an unusual one for many other unfortunate journalists. The department I worked in was being eliminated by 50 percent due to budgetary cuts. I was not one of the employees who made the cut, but the paper treated me with dignity and gave me freedom to find other employment (which I did) and we negotiated the continuance of my automotive reviews in the papers and some of the other subsidiaries.
AYH – How have you found that you and your colleagues have coped? I know you have shifted to being a successful social media consultant, in addition to still being an auto journalist. Can you tell us about that?
JD – Advice to any and all journalists still out there is simple. Have an exit strategy and obtain as much extra talent and ability as possible. By having the social media ability and by embracing emerging technologies (instead of fearing them or rejecting them) I was able to parlay that into another career. Don’t be a one-trick pony!
AYH – What services do you offer as a social media consultant? You not only help with managing social networks but compiling and writing email newsletters for clients too, right?
JD – I come up with digital strategies for brands. That means social media and email marketing campaigns. They are inter-related. A good brand will have many facets and that’s where I step in. I also help with all writing and content production as well as editing needs.
AYH – You have some pretty nice clients. How did you get them and what advice do you have for freelance consultants about acquiring and keeping a client happy?
JD - My client base is all about relationship building. People I know who had needs. Friends of friends who recommend me. As for keeping a client happy, that’s simple. Be honest, fair and don’t over stretch yourself or over commit. Also, establish and grow a relationship of trust where you can make suggestions and have your advice trusted and respected.
AYH – If you weren’t an auto writer and social media consultant, what other job would you be doing? Would you still write about cars or work as a journalist or be doing something entirely different?
JD – Simple, I’d be the next Matthew Berry. I love fantasy sports. I consider myself an expert and I do write about it (see @fantasy_geek on Twitter). I even get paid for that advice, so it’s a start.
AYH – Next time I’m in a fantasy sports league I’ll ask you for advice then. With the internet creating new revenue models and destroying old ones, what do you think the future of journalism looks like for traditional news publications? Good or bad?
JD – We need true journalism. We need those skeptics who will fact check, who will vet stories, who will investigate. Without it, we are a much worse society. I truly believe that. But whether that journalism comes in the printed format or in some kind of digital delivery format is irrelevant.
AYH – I’ve noticed you are pretty active on social media. Can you tell our readers what networks you have found to be most effective and why?
JD – Obviously Facebook is the king, but I love Twitter the most. I love the atmosphere, I love the people I’ve “met” on Twitter. It’s right in my wheelhouse. I also like the business atmosphere and idea sharing that is found on LinkedIn. Look me up on all of those formats, I’ll friend and follow!
AYH – What tips can you share for efficiently managing social media profiles?
JD – Don’t overstretch your hours and resources. Make sure you budget your time wisely so that you can offer everything your client needs. There are resources and apps that help with time management and social media management. TweetDeck and Buffer are two of my favorite tools.
AYH – Yeah, I like using TweetDeck as it makes Twitter much more manageable. Too bad they stopped support the TweetDeck mobile apps. What about social media tips specifically for the automotive field?
JD – For me it’s all about staying in the voice of @driversside. I don’t talk politics or my personal life on Twitter. I stay on topic, make good use of hashtags and retweet good ideas that I agree with. I don’t cross my Twitter handle brands (or even my clients handles). Consistency is social media is vital.
[Also] there’s a strong auto community on LinkedIn. Several good groups, some public, some private. I also love autobylines.com, it’s a place I store my stories where the OEMs can see everything I’ve written and that I have scheduled.
AYH – What’s been the most memorable fun experience you’ve had in your career working as journalist?
JD – Definitely the friends I’ve made. I haven’t burned a single bridge or a single relationship. You never know when paths may cross. Even though I’m not at the paper I still text, email and interact with my friends who I called family for years. That won’t change.
AYH – What do you like about writing car reviews? Besides getting a new car each week and experiencing “new car smell” obviously.
JD – The new car every week never gets old. When I get emails from the fleet managers with a new schedule, it’s always exciting. Like opening a present on Christmas. But I like the uncertainty of it. What color will it be? Will I like the car? Will it disappoint me? Those are the things that always jazz me up when they deliver my vehicles.
AYH -Describe what you typically do you when get a press fleet car? What’s your process for making sure you understand the good and bad features of a car, truck, or whatever?
JD – Honestly, I just drive it. I treat each vehicle like a test drive. If I were a consumer and I was on the car lot and wanted to take this vehicle out, what would I look for? How would I drive it? Where would I drive it? That’s the approach I make every time. It’s a simple formula, but a successful one.
AYH – For someone that wants to be an “auto journalist” what advice can you share?
JD – Network! And don’t be too snobby that you won’t do some work for free. Sometimes building the audience and the reputation is worth more than a small paycheck. With quality content and good connections and a solid reputation the rest will come.
AYH – Since you are one of those lucky auto journalists that fell into writing about cars, do you believe going from being a full fledged newspaper journalist into autos was a good way to do it instead of the other way around? We get a lot of auto enthusiasts contacting us all the time about wanting to be “Auto Journalists” or “Auto Writers” but honestly… their writing skills are lacking to say the least. Sometimes they even admit they don’t like writing.
JD – Absolutely. You have to put in your time. Cover the “boring” event, before you review a car. Cover a presser. Write a human interest story. This is what makes so done a true writer, not just an enthusiast with a blog. And I’m not demeaning the bloggers out there. That means putting in your time honing your writing skill and getting used to being edited. No writer is above editing!
AYH – In my interview with Geraldine Herbert who founded the website WheelsforWomen, she told me, “the key to a successful website is define your niche and stick with it.” What are your thoughts about finding an automotive niche and what is yours?
JD – My niche is consumer-based reviews. I try not to be a jaded, negative auto journalist. The industry is dripping with the cynics. Let’s be honest, we’re driving and writing about brand new cars. How bad can they be?
AYH – Yeah, I guess that’s true.
In my interview with Tim Esterdahl he said, ” When I first started writing in college it became apparent to me that I can either write what I love or write what pays the bills. Rarely, do you get the chance to do both…I think far too often, people get the idea they will only write what they love.” As someone who has experienced working as a professional newspaper journalist, the good and the bad and in different sectors and industries, what are your thoughts about Tim’s statement?
JD – I subscribe to the theory that writers write. I could write about feminine hygiene if I was assigned and I’d soon become an expert on it. Would I be passionate about it? Maybe not at first, but if I’m going to put my heart and soul into my writing (and everything with my byline has that) then the passion will be there.
AYH – We like to ask everyone this, what was your first car? Can you share a found memory of it?
JD – A good question and indicative of how I still approach things. My first car was a 2012 Ford Taurus SHO. I was less than excited with the initial lack of sex appeal on a Ford Taurus. But was way impressed with this vehicle and grew to still appreciate the SHO line of the Taurus. I’ve had two others since and each has made me feel reminiscent.
AYH – What is currently in your garage? By that I mean what cars do personally own. No press fleet cars.
JD – I don’t personally own my own vehicle (new car every week). However my wife owns a 2012 Honda Pilot. It’s a good vehicle for us, and does a good job of towing our camper too.
AYH – What’s a dream car, truck, or vehicle you’d like to own one day?
JD – We are supposed to be unbiased, but I’m a sucker for the Audi brand. So, I’d love an R8 (never driven one) and then would also love a Ford F-150 Raptor too.
AYH – Have anything on your automotive bucket list? For instance, maybe getting a chance to drive an IndyCar? Driving a particular super car?
JD – I’ve yet to drive any Porsches or Maseratis, so I’m waiting to complete those two brands so I can fill my test drive dance card. Come one Porsche and Maserati, help me out here.
Adam Yamada-Hanff – Anything else you want to share about yourself, your job, or your life Jimmy with our readers that we did not discuss?
Jimmy Dinsmore – Please follow me on Twitter (@driversside) and if you have a fantasy football question, hit my alter ego up too (@fantasy_geek) and if you’re curious about my full-time employer and interested in seeing some amazing technology in the field of automotive educational technology, please check out www.consulab.com (on Twitter @consulab). And, be sure to follow my oldest client on Twitter (@jameshalderman). Have I dropped enough names and Twitter handles here? Sorry.
END OF INTERVIEW
I hope you learned something from this newspaper veteran. If you enjoyed this interview we’d appreciate if you let Jimmy know via social networks by Tweeting him, prefrably @DriversSide. If you’d like to contact Jimmy personally and thank him for taking time to do this informative interview email him – jimmydinsmore AT yahoo.com.
If you have any questions for Jimmy please leave them below and we will do our best to have him come back and answer them when he can.