Automotive reporters discuss industry, journalism at panel

Speaking at the 2012 MIPA conference, writers Mike Ramsey and Sharon Carty, from the Wall Street Journal and Huffington Post respectively, discussed how the automotive industry relates to teens, among other topics, such as journalism as a business, the auto industry and even the European economy.

Automotive journalists Mike Ramsey (right) and Sharon Carty (left) took questions from MIPA students on Tuedsay night. The two journalists spoke about automotive journalism, the future of newspapers and the specifics on getting good sources. SAMANTHA VANHOEF / PHOTO

At one point, a student asked the writers if they felt auto writing was relevant for teens. Carty said teen driving itself was a relevant issue. Carty has written extensively on the subject for the Huffington Post, she said.

“(Teen driving) is a really big issue that not enough people take seriously,” Carty said, adding, “Driver’s ed in this country is abysmal.”

Oddly enough, many auto executives fear the auto industry in general is irrelevant to teens, Ramsey said.

One of the first topics the two panelists discussed was the fluctuation of the American auto industry.

“There’s something big happening every two or three years,” Carty said.

Ramsey added, “(It’s more like) any time the car industry does something, it’s big.”

However, the current industry would appear to be sailing in calm waters, Carty said. “The tension is off a bit because the industry’s stable now”

Finding sources
Switching gears, the panel discussed finding sources, which, Carty said, is the hardest part of starting out in the business. Ramsey and Carty both gave advice on how to find sources.

“The worst time to make a source is with the police captain when a kid’s been hit by a car and he’s dead,” Ramsey said.

Throughout the evening, the panelists emphasized that technology has changed the journalism business.

“The need for an actual newsroom is lessening,” said Ramsey, who reports many of his stories via his smartphone.

Carty, who writes for an entirely online publication, expanded on Ramsey’s idea, saying, “We use Google Docs for most of our filing.”

The future of newspapers
Both Carty and Ramsey said traditional print newspapers are stuggling.

“Yeah, newspapers are dying,” Carty said. She later revised her comment, saying, “Newspapers aren’t just dying; they’re committing suicide.” She said newspapers are creating less content to save money, but at the same time less content means less quality. In essence, newspapers are trying to stay afloat by creating a worse product, which may not be a great financial strategy, she said.

The Wall Street Journal is still successful as a newspaper because NewsCorp, its owner company, has “invested million of dollars into new sections and new content,” Ramsey said. The Wall Street Journal has majorly expanded to web, he said, but still uses a traditional subscriber-based model on both web and print.

Other topics discussed included the European economy and the automotive debt crisis. Carty described the recent auto industry crisis as “a lemonade stand where it costs $100 to set up but you sell a cup for 10 cents.” The analogy meant that the auto companies had high production costs but low revenues.

Ramsey later said Europe is similar, “except it costs $200 to set up.”

Ramsey and Carty both emphasized that journalism is a profession that should attract students. Ramsey said, “It’s the coolest job in the world.”

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