Please provide your job title and media outlet(s), as well as a brief description of your duties:
Automotive Reporter, Detroit Free Press. I’m part of the Free Press Autos Team, where I primarily cover Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. I also write about mobility and transportation topics, including pedestrian safety.
Can you tell us what types of stories, trends or issues are on your radar now?
I’m watching the ongoing impact of the pandemic on the auto industry and other types of transportation. The evolving technology landscape, which includes electric vehicles and advanced driver assistance systems, is always on the radar. Lately, I’ve also taken an interest in Michigan’s growing space industry.
Describe the craziest or most fun story you have written.
The craziest story from the standpoint of realizing I was in the middle of something really big was probably the 2010 Enbridge Oil Spill. An editor asked me to check into a short wire service item he’d seen about a spill near Marshall, Michigan. I quickly determined that this would require more than a few phone calls and headed out to see for myself. I can still clearly remember the smell of the oil in the water and how black a creek was near the spill site. I’d expected to be gone for the day so didn’t pack anything and ended up staying out there for about a week.
What story or stories are you most proud of?
I’m most proud, in the last couple of years, of my work covering the crisis of pedestrian deaths in the United States. The main story our team produced ran as a Detroit Free Press/USA Today Network investigation, titled “Death on foot: America’s love of SUVs is killing pedestrians.” That story and others have highlighted the disturbing rise in fatal pedestrian crashes in recent years and a key reason those crashes have become deadlier. https://www.freep.com/story/money/cars/2018/06/28/suvs-killing-americas-pedestrians/646139002/
What elements or characteristics do you look for in a story?
If a story topic interests me, I expect I will report and write a better story. An issue that affects real people certainly helps and getting to connect with the people affected can make the difference between a good story and a boring one.
How long have you been in journalism and how did you get started?
I’ve been a professional journalist for more than 20 years. I got my start at my high school newspaper and was the editor of my college newspaper, The Daily Athenaeum at West Virginia University. My first journalism job after college was as a copy editor at a small newspaper in a suburb of Washington, D.C.
Finish this sentence:
If I am not reporting, I am … spending time with my family.
What advice do you have for PR people that want to pitch you?
Suggest story ideas involving topics I’ve mentioned in earlier answers or that connect to things I cover, preferably that would interest people in Michigan. Ask yourself if anyone you know aside from your client would want to read the story.
Any pet peeves with PR people?
I wouldn’t call it a pet peeve, but sometimes I wonder why I’m getting certain pitches, especially if they aren’t likely to connect with our audience.
Tell us a little about yourself (family, interests, hobbies, background, etc.)
I’m married to a journalist, and we have a 9-year-old son who loves Legos and reading. I enjoy a good book myself, as well as messing around with my guitar, getting outside and watching West Virginia football and basketball. I’ve been at the Free Press for more than 12 years.
You can follow Eric on Twitter at: @_ericdlawrence
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