Clarkson on: motoring journalism
Such has been the volume of letters from small boys recently that I'm thinking of changing the name of my house to Neverland. It seems everyone under the age of 14 would hack off parts of their bodies to have my job.
Two things, though. First, I haven't finished with it yet. And, second, while I do spend a lot of time driving Ferraris and Aston Martins, I spend even more of it explaining to people how they can too. And this is how.
First of all, get back to basics. It doesn't matter if you have nine illegitimate children or sleep with your sister, but you must be able to spell. Sadly, most people who write to us can't. Without wanting to be racist, a grasp of the local dialect comes in handy, too. I know they let you learn all sorts of exotic languages these days, but most of Britain's motoring magazines, except Max Power, are written in English. So do a GCSE in it at the least.
When you finally extricate yourself from education, your best bet is to try for a job on a local newspaper. The three or so years you spend on a local rag will give you a grasp of wedding fashion, pony clubs, vegetable contests and - most important of all - the ability to tell a story.
"We like cars, but we don’t wear anoraks. If you do have an anorak, try Autocar"
As a qualified journalist, you may then go for a job on a national newspaper. But, almost without exception, they use motoring features from freelancers who have been in the business for an aeon. So if you still want to write about cars, your best bet is one of the 130 motoring magazines. Make your letter short, to the point and obsequious. And don't give up.
Write stories about your car and send them in. If they're good, we'll use them. Then we might ask for another, or even give you a trial. But be warned - we're the biggest and we only have a full-time writing staff of five, including the editor. There are more astronauts than motoring magazine journalists.
And I'll let you into a little secret. We never talk about cars in the pub at lunchtime. We don't care what sort of car we drive home in at night. We like cars, but we don't wear anoraks. If you do have an anorak, try Autocar.
Those who float, like cream, to the top of this profession are wordsmiths - people who can turn their hands as easily to a Lamborghini as to a parish council meeting. Our Features Editor, for instance, failed his test four times and drove a Datsun Sunny for years. When he started, he knew less about cars than Barbara Cartland knows about shot-blasting. It doesn't matter if you can tell a Lantra from a Corolla, or if you can strip an MG to its component parts in seven seconds, or if you can reel off every Ferrari's 0-60 time from memory. If you can't write, you can't come in.
Unless, of course, you are a girl with the morals of a rabbit and are able to send us the sort of cheque that would make Littlewoods blanch. In which case, you start on Monday.
Want to comment on this?
I am nearly 15, Ive won an award for spelling, I love writing and I love cars. Even reading Clarkson's article; which was quite sensible for him; I still think I would like to be a motoring journalist.
After a lot of research into how to become a motoring journalist, I've found it is mostly younger people who want to do this job. Do parents or elder people just get to an age and give up? Do they just plump for the job their in? I am also one of the sad people who wants to be a motoring journalist and I am 17 (driving is so much fun!) and maybe the result of Top Gear and Jeremy Clarkson have influenced me, to such a point I almost sound like JC. Not to be a cock though i have wrote you a letter asking how to become so its nice to have an answer, Rotherham Advertiser here i come!!!
Actually reading what I have just read I might aswell give up now. It's what you get for living in Dinnington i think.
There are always plenty of witty articles about the latest glitzy, pocket burning statements of independence, otherwise known as "The New Car", but how about a view from a different angle. Tempting in their brand new, highly polished, warranteed, sales packages. BUT consider what is going on in the rapidly developing technological world inside the shiny exterior and the cost to repair this stuff after it comes of age. The motoring public at large will be facing revolution in the near future? Motor manufacturers would like us to buy new cars every few years and that may well be the best way to go! The face, or fascade, of car ownership is on the brink of some breathtaking tremors! No I'm not 17, 54 actually!
I'm going to comment a little on what Jeremy is talking about here. I too am like most of you, because I want to be a motoring journalist, or even a Top Gear presenter. Sadly though there are realities to be considered that make this extremely unlikely. Firstly, to get into a writing post at a local newspaper is extremely difficult these days. It doesn't really matter whether you apply to write about cars or cows, the truth is that newspaper jobs are rare, and your local paper is probably fully staffed. When a job does come up it will definitely go to a person with writing experience of some kind, be it voluntary, or FAR more likely someone with a degree in Journalism. It's like any other career, you have to train for it. Personally I did a History Degree, and even with a PGCE in my hands I am still looking for work.