Adrienne Roberts is a reporter for The Wall Street Journal, based in the Detroit bureau, covering automotive retail, including dealers, and a group of well-known transplant auto makers (car companies selling in the US but based abroad – e.g., Toyota, Honda and Volkswagen).
Can you tell us what types of stories, trends or issues are on your radar now?
I’m spending a lot of time looking at how trends like electrification, autonomous vehicles and subscription services will affect the automotive retail space and when those changes will come. Another trend that’s of interest to me is how U.S. roads continue to get more and more dangerous. Yet, there’s a host of safety features available and cars continue to get safer. So where’s the disconnect? Do drivers use these features? Do they know how? And how much of an issue is texting and driving in the U.S. compared to other countries?
Describe the craziest or most fun story you have written.
For a story I wrote on innovative methods the police are using to catch motorists texting and driving, I found myself in the back of a police car chasing down offenders. It was just as exciting as it sounds. It was interesting to witness just how many people will start texting at a red light and then continue texting and driving when the light turns green without ever looking at the road.
What story or stories are you most proud of?
I wrote a story about Honda’s efforts to find customers who drive vehicles with Takata airbags, which risk exploding during a collision and send metal shards flying through a car’s cabin. This story also involved me being a passenger in a car as I rode along with a Honda field representative in Pontiac who was going to customers’ doors to persuade them to get their cars fixed. The story was both broad in the way it looked at how various auto makers handle recalls and how effective their methods are, but it also told the stories of individuals whose lives were potentially saved by Honda’s efforts.
What elements or characteristics do you look for in a story?
The stories in the Journal are usually multi-faceted, so it’s very seldom I write a story about one particular product or company. Rather, I’m looking for stories that speak to the broader changes underway in the automotive industry but can be told from the vantage of one event, or product, or a few customers’ decisions.
How long have you been in journalism and how did you get started?
In college, I wanted to be a dentist (don’t ask me why) but one day a friend said she was going to a mass meeting at The Michigan Daily, the University of Michigan’s student newspaper, and I decided to join. I fell in love with the newspaper, and ended up working for the paper throughout college, spending much more time at the newspaper’s offices than studying. I interned and worked at various magazines, radio stations and newspapers around Detroit after college. My most recent gig before the Journal was covering retail at Crain’s Detroit Business.
Finish this sentence: If I am not reporting, I am …
Eating. I love checking out new restaurants in Detroit or trying new recipes. I also love getting outdoors and skiing, hiking and scuba diving, all of which are activities Detroit is not particularly suited for, so I try to travel as often and as is financially feasible.
What advice do you have for PR people that want to pitch you?
It’s helpful when PR people explain their product/company and say how this fits into the larger trends we’re seeing in the automotive industry. It’s a good way to start thinking about stories I could write about that trend and how the product/company might fit into that narrative.
Any pet peeves with PR people?
Sending a generic email that doesn’t relate to what I cover and then following up. It’s easy to tell which PR people take the time to research you, what you cover and the types of stories you’ve written in the past and then make a pitch based on that information. It makes a big difference.
Tell us a little about yourself (family, interests, hobbies, background, etc.)
I grew up in Shelby Township and went to Eisenhower High School, where, coincidentally, Mitsubishi’s North America CEO also attended high school. After finishing up my undergraduate degree at the University of Michigan, I moved back to metro Detroit to intern at WDET public radio and Hour Detroit magazine. Now, I live in Ferndale and spend my free time trying out new restaurants, going to Pistons games and getting outside as much as Michigan’s weather allows.
You can follow Adrienne on Twitter at : @AdrRoberts