Journalist goes Social Media Consultant – Jimmy Dinsmore Interview

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, 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?

JDWe 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, 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.

JDAbsolutely. 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 (on Twitter @consulab). And, be sure to follow my oldest client on Twitter (@jameshalderman). Have I dropped enough names and Twitter handles here? Sorry.


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

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.

Motown’s Berry Gordy worked at a Lincoln-Mercury Plant

berry gordy

Some fans of this website might remember when I wrote about Martha and the Vandellas music video on the Ford Mustang production line.  Why did Berry Gordy, maestro of Motown, want to shoot a video on Ford Mustang assembly line?  Well Gordy actually had a job building cars for awhile working for Ford, well specifically Lincoln-Mercury at the time.

According to Berry Gordy's autobiography To Be Loved, he began working for Ford in a foundry, which is probably the Rouge River Plant, a job which actually only lasted one day for Gordy.  (I'm sure we all remember those jobs!) He was fired when he asked for a transfer due to strenuous working conditions. Later Berry Gordy got a another job at a Lincoln-Mercury assembly plant making $86.40 a week.  (A New York Times article from 1955 cites the Bureau of Labor as having the average hourly wage for auto workers at $2.24, which would be comparable given a normal 40-hour work week.)  His job “fastened upholstery and chrome strips to… [automobile] frames.”   It's not clear how long he worked that but his biography does say he worked at the assembly plant for two years, likely from 1954, 1955 to 1957.  He quit his job there in early 1957.  An interesting side note is that during this time working at the Lincoln-Mercury factory he was already writing music.  He composed in his head while on the assembly line using a tonal-to-numerical conversion system he developed, at least according to his book To Be Loved.

Technically in his autobiography Gordy does not specify exactly what plants he worked at.  It is likely that the foundry he worked at for one day was the Rouge River Plant.  The Lincoln-Mercury assembly plant would most likely be located in Wayne, Michigan which is the only area Lincoln-Mercury assembly plant was listed at the time.  In the book Wheels for the World, by Douglas Brinkley, he specifies the Wayne Assembly Plant as the plant where Gordy worked.

On the Motown Museum website it even has a little bit of history about Berry Gordy working building and assembling cars.  The well-tuned factory that pumped out so many great and memorable songs we all know and love was somewhat inspired by the automobile production process.

Berry Gordy believed in turning negatives into positives. He always learned from all his experiences and applied them to his business. The tedious time he spent working on the assembly line at Detroit’s Lincoln-Mercury automobile plant he put to good use: “Every day I watched how a bare metal frame, rolling down the line would come off the other end, a spanking brand new car. What a great idea! Maybe, I could do the same thing with my music. Create a place where a kid off the street could walk in one door, an unknown, go through a process, and come out another door, a star.” That little thought that came to him while running up and down that assembly line became a reality we now know as “Motown.”

He even applied the ideas from automobile quality control process to make his music studio turn out hits.  He took key advice from music producers.

From his experience at Lincoln-Mercury, he also set up a system at Motown called Quality Control, in order to ensure only top product would be released. Meetings were held on Friday mornings where producers would submit their product to be voted on. All were free to express their honest opinions. Gordy said these meetings were one of the key elements of the company’s overall growth and success. The competition was fierce––and so was the love. It was survival of the fittest. The artists flourished in that process, as well as the songwriter/producers like Holland-Dozier-Holland, Norman Whitfield, Ashford and Simpson and Smokey Robinson. They were all as distinctive as the artists they produced.

So that explains why they filmed a music video on an active production line.  That's part of Detroit and part of Gordy's past which he used to help cultivate talented musicians into making hit songs.  I've already mentioned this but if you haven't seen Standing the Shadows of Motown you really need too.  It's about the musicians that played on all those hit Motown songs that never got the credit or monetary compensation they deserved.

Anyway, what do you think of Berry Gordy working at a Lincoln-Mercury plant?  What do you think of him applying auto manufacturing techniques and principles to making Motown hit songs and records?  Does this show that you learn something even from jobs that might seem mundane and uninteresting?

[Source – Motown Museum]


8 Secrets Auto Journalists Don’t Want You to Know

There are a lot of myths about the Automobile Journalism profession and Auto Journalists that somehow get circulated and make it into the minds of mainstream car lovers and gearheads.  My colleagues and I are not sure where these perceptions come from but to be honest with you, we sometimes pretend and play along when talking to “regular folk” that our lives are awesome.  That just isn't the truth and these are the secrets that Auto Journalist's keep but readily don't want to admit.

1. Auto Writers don't always like our Jobs

People looking in from the outside tend to make the auto writing profession a lot more glamorous than it truly is.  I'm not sure why this is, perhaps because they hate their jobs?  The truth is auto journalists and writers have good days and bad days just like anyone else.  Sometimes we have fun in cars that are not ours and some days we have to worry about meeting a deadline for a story to get paid.

2. We don't always get our requested Review Cars

lisalla montenegro

Often times an auto writer will request a certain vehicle from an automaker, or company that manages fleet review vehicles, and they won't get it.  This could because you are too low down on the totem pole which means they can't make time for you in the vehicle schedule.  Most of the time auto writers take whatever fleet vehicles they can get when they are offered to them.

It does depend upon what magazine you work for and how well your “name” is established in the business.  Even at major automotive publications they don't give out Ferraris, Aston Martins and Lamborghinis to the new guy to test drive for a week.  You might get 45 minutes in it but not a whole a week or two.  Hell, if I could request exotic and supercars for weeks on end I wouldn't be sitting here writing this article.

3. We don't know EVERYTHING about ALL the cars out there

bmw m5 front

I know a lot more about cars than the Average Joe walking down the street but I don't pretend to know EVERYTHING about EVERY single car that's ever been built.  It's always odd to me that gearheads and people ask us questions and expect auto writers to have some sort of supercomptuer backlog of knowledge about every single car that's been made out on the planet.

We don't expect stock brokers to know about every single stock, photographers to know all models, authors to know about every book in publication.  We try our best to keep informed and updated but cars are extremely complicated and there are new technologies that come out all the time.     

4. Most of us don't make much money


Depends on who you work for and what you do for that particular auto magazine.  In general though the auto writing profession does not pay that well and for some reason most people don't understand this.  John Davis gave some pretty spot on advice if you want to be an auto journalist, “Well first of all decide that you want to starve to death because it is not a profession that pays well.”

The reality is that a lot of people want articles and content about cars, but they do not see the value in paying a lot for it.  Also there are a lot of ‘auto writers' out there more than willing to provide articles (even if they aren't very good).

I've fortunately been able to get some decent paying auto writing gigs but by no means have I made a killing doing this.  I have other profitable projects and ventures and I've continued to do auto writing as a side-gig.  This is pretty common nowadays with a lot of major newspapers and magazines cutting and reducing staff.

5. We drive crappy cars (or don't own a car)

car crash

Since I established with secret number #4 that we don't usually make that much money, most auto writers usually buy and drive used cars.  Often car guys will refer to the cars we drive as “Crappy Cars!”  Personally I have no problem with the Honda Accord I own and think it's great for my needs.  I spend more time working on building content than driving.  (That's why I'm successful and you just make excuses and complain why you could be a good at this.)

Some auto journalists… don't own a car.  This is one secret many don't want to let out.  If you get a new car to test drive each week and don't need to worry about paying for insurance and maintenance, why would you own a car?  Sometimes when they drop off a car at your house they even leave it with a full tank of gas.  So we don't even worry about paying for gas, which is nice since you may not be able to afford it. 🙂

6. We don't buy New Cars that often

2013 nissan gtr

Just because you see us driving new cars this does NOT mean we have the money to purchase them, pay for insurance, and maintain and repair the car.  Too many of you car lovers and gearheads do this math in your head;

Auto Writing + Fun = Money for All the Cars I want

That's not how it works.  Reread secrets #4 and #5 again if you still are having trouble grasping what you just read.

7. We have limited time to Read other Auto Magazines

car magazines
Win a Motor Trend Subscriptions!

I wish I had all the time in the world to read all the auto articles that are published on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.  The reality is that I don't since I'm either working on my own articles or working on other ventures that produce revenue.  It's not possible to read every auto magazine and auto blog if you want to be successful writing about cars.

I do try to keep updated with industry news and other car blogs.  Using an RSS reader is major time saver and helps most of us check what others are saying about a particular sotry.  Understand that no auto writer can keep up with the massive amount of articles generated each day though.

In addition many auto journalists that are successful are pretty well-rounded individuals.  Some of us read other news or topics that interest us outside of cars.

8. We are Prima Donnas (give us free stuff)


To move a certain well-chiseled butt from his comfy desk chair you are going to have to offer him something.  Perhaps a test drive in a car he wouldn't normally have the chance to drive, like a concept or prototype.  Maybe an invite to a “Luncheon” with free food with lots of free swag.

We are Prima Donnas and expect free stuff and invites to cool events to get a story out of us.  You public relations professionals reading this should keep this in mind.  Remember we can always write bad stories about you. 🙂


We are poor and cranky bastards that get to test drive cars once in awhile and write about it.  What else do you need to know?

If you are an auto writer or auto journalist feel free to leave your thoughts below.  Think I missed a something, let me know.

Google’s Auto Suggest shows What a Car Says About You [INFOGRAPHIC]

Ever wondered what the type of car you drive says about the type of person you are?  Well Google Auto Suggest can show you what people are typing in when they are searching for a certain automaker.  Unsure of how many times people search for these phrases but if it's something Google is suggesting other people have probably typed-in the same thing.  Thus meaning they have had have these thoughts.

Warning to BMW, Audi, and Prius drivers before you checkout this infographic… you will probably be offended.

google auto suggest automakers


This infographic was put together by carwow.

CarNewsCafe asks MotorWeek’s John Davis “How to be an Auto Journalist?”

John Davis who is the creator and host of the hit PBS show MotorWeek is well known in the auto industry and among auto journalists.  Since MotorWeek is a production of Maryland Public Television and filmed in Owings Mills, MD John Davis frequents many of the local radio shows around Baltimore.  Yesterday he was on Midday with Dan Rodricks on WYPR, the local Baltimore NPR affiliate station, talking about MotorWeek's latest Driver's Choice awards which are given out each year at the Chicago Auto Show.  Listeners of Midday were encouraged to send in questions.  Since the CarNewsCafe teams gets this question quite a lot, I thought it was a great question for a veteran like John Davis.

The question was asked on air by Dan Rodricks and we think John Davis gave some great advice.  Here is the transcript of his reply to the question and we have edited the Midday segment down so you just listen to the answer.  He talks for just under 2 minutes about getting started as an auto journalist.

Well first of all decide that you want to starve to death because it is not a profession that pays well.  The reason the business is prospering is because of the internet.  15 years ago journalists, like myself, sat around wondering where the next generation of writers was gonna come from.  We didn't see a lot of enthusiasm from younger writers, what was happening and that we didn't see was that they were not coming to print or television they were going to the internet starting their own blogs.  The blogs get noticed by editors of major magazines.  So if you want to get into this, start your own blog, do your homework, see if you can offer something different to other blogs.  My advice is, know what you are talking about don't just redo press kits like a lot of these blogs do.

*Dan Rodricks makes a few comments that he got good and credible info about an auto recall on blogs.

Blogs have come a long way.  When they first started up they were a place for people to complain or like I said, “Hey, I get a free test car if I write about cars.”  so I'll reprint the press kits and say I'm a journalist.  That's not very helpful.  Now you've got folks that are either doing it as a sideline ,or whatever, that are very serious about it and we check a half-dozen or so of them everyday.

FYI, if you asked us this question this is what we would tell you but maybe phrase it differently.  Except the part about starving since you'd be surprised how little auto writing pays. 🙂

You can listen to the whole Midday show with John Davis here.  Let us know if you found his advice useful.

Article originally published on CarNewsCafe