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

Self-Driving Audi TT Race Car featured on ‘Making Stuff Faster’

audi tt
‘Shelley' a self-driving Audi TT

A self-driving Audi TT Race Car nicknamed “Shelley” was featured on the PBS (Public Broadcasting Station) NOVA special ‘Making Stuff Faster‘ with David Pogue that aired tonight (November 6th, 2013.)  The NOVA special highlighted what scientists, engineers, and companies are doing to make everyday products people use safer and the first segment of the show featured Shelley, the Audi TT that drives itself.

The self-driving race car was designed by Christian Gerdes, from Stanford University, and the segment was shot at the famous Thunderhill Raceway in California.  Gerdes ultimate goal is to take the lessons learned from Shelly, the Audi TT race car, and apply it in real world driving for those that haven't had the money, time, or exposure on a racetrack.  He hopes this will make reduce the chance of an accidents for everyday drivers out on the roads.

From what I can tell from the shots during ‘Making Stuff Faster' it looked like Christian Gerdes and his team have done a pretty good job so far.  David Pogue, a technology report for the New York Times, sat in the car as it went around the Thunderhill Raceway.  Just like anyone not used to being in a race car driven at high speeds he had to make a pit stop, so Shelley must have been going pretty fast.

One interesting part of the segment was when Pogue raced around the track in the Audi TT to set a time.   Then David Vodden, a veteran race car driver of Thunderhill, did the same thing.  Shelly then got a turn without having anyone control her to set a time.  The results were intersting;

  • David Vodden – 2 minutes 19 seconds
  • Self Driving Audi TT Race Car aka “Shelley” – 2 minutes 21 seconds
  • David Pogue – 2 minutes 51 seconds

I assumed that Shelley would win but I guess having a 50 years of racing experience, like David Vodden has, helps a lot.  Gerdes thinks that his self driving Audi TT will be able to beat any humane one day and I am sure it will as he refines it.

What's interesting is that several companies have been working on self-driving cars, which includes Google and Nissan, but as far as I there are not many people working on self driving race cars.  (That's because race car drivers don't like change!)  In my opinion it is probably easier to make a race car without a driver on a racetrack than on real world streets.  Why?  You don't need to factor in pedestrians, traffic lights, stop signs, and everything else that comes with racing on track.

Do you think self-driving race cars sound like something straight out of the movies and science fiction?  If you saw the segment what did you think?  If you haven't are you going to try to catch ‘Making Stuff Faster‘ next time it airs on your local PBS station?

Henry Ford: A Man & Car That Changed the World

henry ford
Henry Ford

Last night I watched a really fascinating PBS special on Henry Ford.  I learned a lot about Henry Ford and how he basically modernized the way we travel today with the Model T, built Ford, and become one of the greatest entrepreneurs and American industrialists the world has ever seen.

An absorbing life story of a farm boy who rose from obscurity to become the most influential American innovator of the 20th century, Henry Fordoffers an incisive look at the birth of the American auto industry with its long history of struggles between labor and management, and a thought-provoking reminder of how Ford's automobile forever changed the way we work, where we live, and our ideas about individuality, freedom, and possibility.

This is what the description on the ‘American Experience' special on the PBS website reads.

Somehow those words couldn't ring more true.  Imagine trying to get around nowadays without your car?  Even if you are reading this and don't own a car, I am sure you ride in cars all the time.

While a fascinating individual Henry Ford was far from perfect.  For instance he distributed papers that were meant to spread his ideals about Antisemitism.  As well he apparently bought land in Brazil to try to create a “Utopia.”  He was quite brutal to his son.  I guess a genius needs to be a bit eccentric to change the world though.

What I found most interesting about Ford was that he sounded a lot like Steve Jobs.  Very smart and changing the world but difficult to work with and he would sometimes fire people for seemingly odd reasons.  Steve Jobs was the same way, only he was working on changing the world through computers and Henry Ford changed it through making cars available to everyone.

A family member I was watching the American Experience PBS special actually said before I was going to, “He was the Steve Jobs of cars!”  After the show ended I checked various Twitter hashtags and noticed that it seemed others were making the same comparisons.

Not surprisingly the American Experience team on Twitter weighed in on the discussion too and plugged next week's on Silicon Valley episode.

I highly recommend you catch the Henry Ford ‘American Experience' special on your local PBS station next time it is on.  If you would rather you can also watch it on your computer.  (I prefer watching shows over-the-air with an Antenna since the quality is better.)

I learned a lot about Henry Ford and I write about cars for a living.  In my opinion another great reason to support your PBS and the great programming they produce! 🙂

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MotorWeek’s Honda Hybrid Car Raffle

Do you want to win a new car?  How about sales tax free?  Well your in luck!  MotorWeek is doing a Honda Hybrid Car Raffle to celebrate being on the air for 30 years.  If you win, you will get the option to choose a 2011 Honda CRZ or a 2011 Honda Insight.  Only 2000 tickets will be raffled, so the chances of winning are high.  Raffle tickets are $50 per ticket.  The best part is the proceeds from the raffle will benefit Maryland Public Television.  That will keep wonderful PBS shows, like MotorWeek, on the air.   It does not get much better than this if you want to win a new car!  Hurry though, the contest drawing is June 21st.

To purchase a Raffle ticket and for contest rules visit: http://mpt.convio.net/site/PageNavigator/MPT_MotorWeek_Car_Raffle.html