I’m the Editor of Green Car Reports, so on a daily basis, it’s my job to keep up on “green” vehicle news—that’s related to efficiency, electrification, emissions, and manufacturing tech. And as a Senior Editor at the greater Internet Brands Automotive Group, which includes The Car Connection, Motor Authority, New Car Test Drive, and Green Car Reports, I’m one of the core editors producing vehicle reviews—mostly from my efficiency perspective. I’m very busy nowadays.
Can you tell us what types of stories, trends or issues are on your radar now?
I’m fascinated by how the entire auto industry is being remade, rapidly, as it shifts to fully electric models. We’re living in one of the most exciting times for that change, and I greatly enjoy meeting the people making it happen—both in products and behind the scenes in infrastructure and the supply chain.
Describe the craziest or most fun story you have written.
Going back 25 years earlier, one of the most unusual assignments I’ve ever had was driving through a torrential rainstorm from London to a remote village in Wales—the village pub, and everything you can imagine—to purchase a spy photo of an upcoming vehicle. The photo and my notes led to the cover story for that issue of Autocar.
I’ve been a participant or contributor to various pieces of buff-book hijinks over the years, like the first Battle of the Beaters, which became a sort of series for Car and Driver.
What story or stories are you most proud of?
I’ve been told more than once that I think like an engineer but don’t communicate like one, so they tend to be stories that put that talent to good use. On a micro level, it’s the stories that expose a detail or twist that nobody’s picked up on. Some of the early reporting I did on why the Porsche Taycan’s shift to 800 volts was so important is a great example. Or digging into the story behind the Mustang Mach-E and discovering that it started as a very different project.
On a macro level, I’m proud when I can reach mainstream readers with something I’ve been digging into—like breaking out the differences between the EV tax credit proposals on Capitol Hill.
What elements or characteristics do you look for in a story?
I love my job because I get to research and learn, and then apply some context to what I’ve learned. Starting with the lede, and crafting a story out of it isn’t usually journalism, but stopping to consider it while you’re still at the research stage is smart journalism.
What I’ve learned over time is that it’s my job to ask the questions I *think* I already know the answers to, and listen without interrupting—and often that results in the best details and, sometimes, the scoop or unexpected twist.
When you can free yourself of the “You think it’s A, but it’s B” rut, your stories will get better. Really.
How long have you been in journalism and how did you get started?
My start was 26 years ago, when I went to the Car and Driver offices in Ann Arbor and soon after became a road warrior (intern) who started making small contributions to the magazine, and then the year after, when I was a lowly reporter at Autocar. Directly after that, with a stint at Automobile Magazine, led by David E. Davis and Jean Jennings, it all clicked.
I had zero training as a journalist when I started and was nearly done with what I considered a pre-law program, including a degree in applied physics. I hadn’t been part of the high-school newspaper, and I thought that good writing was just something you needed to have in whatever field you chose. My idea of journalists was in the mold of Woodward & Bernstein or Mike Wallace, the hard-edged investigator type. It didn’t occur to me that some form of journalism was the basis for the piles of magazines I consumed about science and technology and cars.
That initial trajectory, allowing me to become a tech journalist and magazine editor, involved plenty of luck. Working under the likes of Csaba Csere, Steve Cropley, and David E. Davis allowed me to span continents, meet legends, and gain a perspective beyond my years.
Finish this sentence: If I am not reporting, I am …
Spending time with my five-year-old daughter.
Or probably doing something related to music, gardening, or home improvement otherwise.
What advice do you have for PR people that want to pitch you?
It’s your job to send out pitches sometimes, and I understand that this can be monotonous. But nothing is a bigger turnoff than receiving a pitch with another journalist’s name, an egregiously misspelled version of my name, or an outlet I haven’t written for in many years. I’ve noted each of these.
Any pet peeves with PR people?
Know the boundaries of how widely you can speak about the product or technology before you pitch, so that you can at the very least give a clear “no comment” otherwise. Asking tangential follow-up questions is my job, so at least be ready for the basics that answer the Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How.
Tell us a little about yourself (family, interests, hobbies, background, some fact about you that few people know, etc.)
I’m a Michigan native who’s lived in Portland, Oregon for 20+ years.
I once tried to fill a GM EV1 with gas, and it wasn’t that but spending some time with the Ford Ranger Electric that got me interested in EVs.
You can follow Bengt on Twitter: ben_gt
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