Opinion Piece: Getting in the front Door (Street Commodores Magazine Editorials)

27 Jun

This is the fifth in a regular series of editorial pieces we’ll be posting here on the blog, originally written by Hosking Industries’ Ben Hosking for Street Commodores magazine and other magazines he’s completed opinion pieces for. This column appeared in issue 171 of Street Commodores:

Getting in the Front Door (April 14, 2010)

One of the most common questions I get asked is about how I came to work in this line of business.

On this, the 100th issue of Street Commodores to include my name in some way, I thought I’d touch upon a subject that has often popped up in conversation during my time with the magazine: getting into automotive journalism.

It doesn’t seem to matter how many industry colleagues I talk to. I get a different answer each and every time I pose the question myself. I don’t think I’ve met someone working on performance magazines that have found themselves in the business via the same journey.

While each publisher will have their preferences as to an applicant’s level of experience, education, passion and vehicle history; I’ve always found that the people Street Commodores tends to attract end up here based primarily on their passion for the subject. It’s certainly something that has been evident in the final printed product over the last ten years or so – not to mention the cruises, dyno days, skidpan days and other social events that the magazine has put on over the years.

You won’t find a car magazine in this country with the same level of direct contact to the readership than Street Commodores, and it is something that we’ve been very proud of. The fact is that it hasn’t been a forced, coerced or fake attempt to get out there and rub shoulders with you folk at home; it’s always been a direct result of the passion that each staff member brings to their job.

In terms of how each of us got to where we are now, each story is unique. Personally, I left high school in year 11 and worked in the music industry in my old hometown of Newcastle; playing in bands and working for the local artist manager and venue booker. I’d always done well in English in school and ended up writing for the local music press before I moved to Sydney. It was here in Sydney that I started writing freelance for another national car mag’ when a job became available with Street Commodores. Long story short: I went for it, passed the initial infamous ‘20 Questions’, sat down for a face-to-face with then-editor Jason Gray and Scott Taylor and won the spot.

So, in my case, I won points for previous publishing experience, the life experience I’d gained by not simply being a fresh-faced uni student and enough Commodore knowledge to beat out a list of other applicants. The fact that I owned a Commodore and was already doing things to it helped as well.

If we look at current editor Liam Quirk, well, I employed him and it’s a nice story, as far as I’m concerned.

I was still a feature writer when I received an email from a high school kid asking the very same question that we’re discussing here. It’s a little blurry now, but I believe his first email was concerning an English assignment he had to do on someone working in the industry he wanted to work in – and how they got to be where they were.

I answered his questions and told him the full story; making sure to advise him that while I dropped out of school and didn’t attend uni, it didn’t mean he should follow the same path. When I next heard from him, he was bored at school and was contemplating the idea of leaving. I told him that he should stick it out and that if he still had dreams of working in magazines that he should focus on his English studies.

Well, as it turns out, that’s what he did: finishing his close to the top of his English class. The next time I heard from him was when he’d gone to TAFE to study journalism and he was in need of work experience. As you could imagine, I was only too happy to help out.

When a position because available as a feature writer with Street Commodores, I interviewed Liam as I did everyone else. I did my best to avoid favouritism, giving every applicant an even money chance at the job, but Liam’s enthusiasm and passion for Commodores set him above the rest. As history shows, he got the job and began working his way up the chain.

It’s a different story again when we get to Josh. We had a new position open up for a feature writer and the usual flood of applicants rolled through my inbox. Few made a dent on the ‘20 Questions’. But that’s pretty normal – you’d be surprised how poorly some of the most obsessed Commodore fans are at answering them!

Josh did OK at the questions and progressed through to a face-to-face interview and then the test feature story part of the process. His stories were pretty decent, so we weighed them up against the competition – even running them past our sub editor, John.

Josh had a little prior experience, writing some news articles for Auto Action and he’d been going to a journalism college for the year or so prior, so he’d gotten himself some education. In the end, it was enough to get him through the door and prove himself. Needless to say, he’s still here now.

So there you go: each staffer takes a personal journey to get here and each staffer brings different experiences, different skills and strengths to the job. There’s no right or wrong way to get in the front door. You just need to bring a fiery passion for Commodores, strong work ethic, decent ability with the English language and a desire to learn.

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