OLD Media Moves

Covering cars through the prism of real people

June 6, 2021

Posted by Chris Roush

Phoebe Wall Howard

Frank Witsil of the Detroit Free Press interviewed auto industry reporter Phoebe Wall Howard about her job.

Here is an excerpt:

FREE PRESS: I wanted to just ask you a couple other questions that also might help our audience understand what you do. One is: As an auto reporter, it seems like you have to balance writing for industry insiders around the world, who really want to know every little thing that’s going on in the auto industry and you also write for people who may be closer to home, who don’t care as much about those details, but they really want to know more about the local company, the cars, and read features. How do you balance both kinds of stories?  

HOWARD: So when I was hired at the Free Press, I told the editors interviewing me that I only knew cars as a consumer, like I drove a car. I’ve been a business reporter but never covering autos. So how to balance whether I’m covering the industry or people, the way I look at the auto industry is through humanity.

I want to know the backstory of the CEO. I want to know the backstory of the factory workers. When the Ford F-150 Lightning came out, I advanced it with a preview of the top engineer, a woman who learned English at age 8. She came to this country, knowing seven letters. If people had any idea what goes into building a car, it’s just insane.

But I look at everything through the prism of real people, and whether it’s good or bad, but I do cover, you know, recalls and accidents and issues of fraud. I try to cover it all. But in a way that’s interesting to me, and in a way that if readers don’t understand cars, they still want to know about it.

Read more here.

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