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Leslie Allen is the mobility editor for Automotive News and editor of Shift magazine. Her job is to supervise the newspaper’s coverage of new mobility, which is basically the industry’s move into more connected, autonomous, shared and electrified transportation, along with related services, telematics, data, etc. As editor of Shift, she is responsible for producing a bi-monthly magazine centered on mobility topics, a monthly Mobility Report page in the newspaper, and supervising the work of two mobility reporters. They also produce a weekly e-mail newsletter that provides a neat at-a-glance look at top mobility stories. Shift also has a podcast that runs every two weeks, hosted by reporter Pete Bigelow. Leslie is occasionally a co-host. Lastly, Shift holds a series of town-hall type mini-conferences where they gather thought leaders to explore key topics. Those events serve as a springboard for much of their coverage in the magazine.
Can you tell us what types of stories, trends or issues are on your radar now?
Our next issue of Shift will focus on mobility and the new urban ecosystem. We explore topics ranging from congestion pricing to self-driving shuttles. Next we’re going to explore trends in electrification.
Describe the craziest or most fun story you have written.
I was a tech reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer during the Y2K scare. I went out to Seattle to interview people at a survival expo. I met some very interesting people who were preparing for the worst, including a nice family that planned to weather the Y2K crisis by stocking up and sailing off in a houseboat. They met me and the photographer at the ferry landing in Vancouver, had us put on flotation suits and sped us out to their houseboat for a tour. Some of the people featured in my article, including that family, ended up on the Montel Williams Show!
What story or stories are you most proud of?
Before taking the Shift job, I spent about 10 years working on the video team for Automotive News, and I was afforded the privilege of doing many special projects, ranging from a 10-year retrospective on 9/11, told through the experiences of AN staff members, to covering the life and legacy of Sergio Marchionne. On the print side, my favorite was a behind-the-scenes piece on the birth of a concept vehicle – from idea to sketch to clay model and finally the building of the concept. But my proudest career moment came on January 1, 2000, at the Inquirer, when I had the honor of writing the front-page, lead story ushering in the new millennium. I keep a framed copy of that page in my home.
What elements or characteristics do you look for in a story?
I look for clarity, relevance, insight and just plain good writing.
How long have you been in journalism and how did you get started?
More than 30 years. I was inspired by my mom, who was writer by avocation. She wrote poems, short stories and even a newspaper column. I was a reporter and editor throughout high school and college. I got my journalism degree at Northwestern University and entered the field as a cub reporter for the now-defunct St. Louis Globe-Democrat.
Finish this sentence: If I am not editing, I am …
Enjoying time with my family.
What advice do you have for PR people that want to pitch you?
Make sure there’s real news happening and let us know what is unique about the company, product or service that you’re promoting. If we say we will keep a company in mind for future coverage, it’s true. Sometimes a topic may come up weeks or months later that will be relevant to your client.
Any pet peeves with PR people?
Not really. You’re just doing your job and I respect that.
Tell us a little about yourself (family, interests, hobbies, background, etc.)
I don’t have a lot of hobbies. I love learning about science and used to edit a newsletter for an astronomy club. I also love science fiction, and watch more than my fair share of Star Trek! I’m a fan of train travel. One of my favorite vacation choices is riding in a sleeper car on a long-distance Amtrak train and just watching the world go by.
You can follow Leslie on Twitter at: @ljaautonews