Meet the Media: John Irwin, Reporter at Automotive News

I’m a reporter with Automotive News covering suppliers and electric vehicles. 

Can you tell us what types of stories, trends or issues are on your radar now?

It’s on everyone’s radar now, but I’m extremely interested in the shift to EVs and the way traditional automotive companies and start-ups are adapting to it. I’m excited to have a front-row seat covering that shift for Automotive News. Feel free to reach out to me if you have any exciting news to share in that area.

Describe the craziest or most fun story you have written.

This certainly doesn’t qualify as fun, but there haven’t been many stories I’ve covered that had as many crazy twists and turns as the one at General Motors’ Oshawa, Ontario, assembly plant. Before rejoining AN in the U.S., I was a reporter for Automotive News Canada in Toronto. I’ll never forget where I was when word got out that GM was planning on stopping vehicle assembly at Oshawa. The writing had been on the wall for years, but it was still a shock to people in the industry because Oshawa is where the Canadian automotive industry was born. The thought of there not being any vehicles being built there would’ve been unthinkable not too long ago. And, of course, so many people’s lives were upended by the decision.

But crucially, in a deal GM struck with the Canadian autoworker union Unifor after a months-long period of international protests, Oshawa Assembly was to remain open in a limited fashion as a stamping operation. The door was kept open for future investments that could bring assembly back, though few thought that would happen anytime soon. And yet late last year, GM and Unifor announced a surprise, $1-billion investment in the plant for it to start building pickups again. The investment didn’t neutralize the hardship workers and their families went through when production stopped. But just as many took the plant’s demise as a symbol of Canadian auto manufacturing’s fall, some see its return as a symbol of the sector’s resilience. And I’m very proud of our coverage of this important story over the last few years.

What elements or characteristics do you look for in a story?

It’s a basic idea, but I’m always looking for why something matters. All great stories make clear why whatever you’re writing about matters to the audience. 

How long have you been in journalism and how did you get started?

I’ve been in professional journalism covering the auto industry since 2015, working for Automotive News and Automotive News Canada in various roles. I started before that as a reporter and editor for my college newspaper and interned at Bloomberg News, where I got my first taste of automotive reporting.

Finish this sentence: If I am not reporting, I am …

probably reading or listening to music. I have a habit of buying too many books or records before I’m caught up with what I already have, so I’m always trying to catch up.

What advice do you have for PR people that want to pitch you?

Make sure you know why you’re pitching a story to a specific outlet. I’ll sometimes get pitches for stories that sound interesting but don’t line up with what we cover at Automotive News. Be sure to know what the publication covers and who its audience is.

Any pet peeves with PR people?

It doesn’t happen a lot, but it happens just enough to qualify as a pet peeve: Please don’t immediately follow up an email pitch with a phone call to make sure I saw it. I appreciate that you’re excited to get your pitch out there, but please give me more than just a couple minutes to respond. My inbox fills up quickly, but I’ll eventually get back to you if it’s something we’re interested in.

Tell us a little about yourself (family, interests, hobbies, background, some fact about you that few people know, etc.):

My fiancée and I are planning our wedding for next year in Detroit. We couldn’t be more excited.

I’m a huge baseball fan. Even though they’ve been rough to watch the last several years, I love going to Tigers games in downtown Detroit. And I’ll never pass up a chance to see a game at another team’s park if I’m in a different city.

I’m also a bit of a comedy nerd. Pre-pandemic, I spent a lot of free nights going to live comedy shows, be it stand-up, improv or sketch. 

You can follow join on Twitter at JohnDIrwin

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