Neil Abt is the editorial director of Fleet Owner, written for executives and managers of commercial trucking fleets that operate five or more vehicles. He helps guide overall daily news coverage with the website, as well as greater in-depth coverage in the monthly print addition. The American Trucker brand is also part of Fleet Owner.
Can you tell us what types of stories, trends or issues are on your radar now?
Electric trucks and advanced, automated technologies are among the hottest topics throughout the freight transportation industry right now. While these are exciting, they are also a bit future looking. In the near-term, we are monitoring developments in Washington, D.C., including the possibility of an federal infrastructure spending bill and changes to hours-of-service rules for commercial drivers.
Describe the craziest or most fun story you have written.
Several years ago, actor Johnny Knoxville produced a documentary about the life of Evel Knievel. Mack Trucks got involved in the project because Evel used to travel the country in a specially designed Mack. I was invited to cover/attend a special screening in Hollywood, as well as interview Knoxville, Knievel’s family and others involved in keeping his memory and accomplishments alive.
What story or stories are you most proud of?
I was covering a large association conference and an executive died on his way to that conference, just days before he was to become chairman of the association for the coming year. It was a shock to everyone there, including his father. During the conference, I sought out the father to see if he wanted to talk. While it was a tremendously difficult interview, it was rewarding because I was providing an outlet for the real-time grief and confusion he was feeling.
What elements or characteristics do you look for in a story?
Quality content takes time, and time is often short in the digital news environment. The best stories – regardless of subject area – use a pitch or press release as a launching point to help the reader better understand the larger topic or trend through various viewpoints.
How long have you been in journalism and how did you get started?
As a freshmen at American University, I started writing sports at the college newspaper. I enjoyed it, and at the end of my junior year, I began working part-time in the sports department of the Washington Post and washingtonpost.com. My senior year of college was a total blur, when combining school with the number of hours I was working. But by that time, I was hooked.
Finish this sentence: If I am not reporting, I am … Planning my next personal trip.
What advice do you have for PR people that want to pitch you?
Take a moment to understand the publication you are pitching. If the topic has little to do with what the publication covers, it’s going to be that much harder to be taken seriously next time.
Any pet peeves with PR people?
After agreeing to an introductory conversation, based off an e-mail pitch, I’m asked to provide a specific list of questions I want to ask. Also, it is pretty easy to spot pitches that are just mass e-mails. It only takes a moment to personalize a pitch.
Tell us a little about yourself
I’ve traveled to all seven continents, including Antarctica. I was part of a very small group that had the chance to camp out on the ice for one night. The rules are extremely strict: Nothing of any kind gets left behind, other than footprints.