Meet the Media: Philip Nussel, Web Editor at Automotive News

I’m the web editor for Automotive News, supervising all breaking news content on I’m in charge of all day-to-day news coverage on the site and I’m responsible for breaking news alerts and the daily e-mails. I preside over several excellent professionals who handle numerous specialized e-mail products each week. I work with most of the editorial staff on breaking news for the web. I also supervise our excellent social media editor, Terry Kosdrosky.

I have several other significant duties:

1. I’m responsible for the vast majority of our editorial talent recruitment and retention efforts. It is my job to find talented journalists to join our team – and to help keep our best people on board for the long run. I’m constantly looking at potential new additions to the newsroom, even when we don’t have any positions open. I work closely with our publisher, Jason Stein, about a strategic vision for the kind of journalists and newsroom culture we want for Automotive News. We think about this vision years ahead of time. While this might normally consume a small percentage of my time, it takes a far higher percentage of my time when positions open.

2. I have supervised the Automotive News collegiate internship program since 2007. We have recruited and developed some of the finest young journalistic talents in Detroit and beyond – and our success rate is probably north of 90 percent. Several former interns emerged as key members of our staff in recent years. In fact, two of our current three “Detroit 3” reporters are former interns. We also successfully placed several other interns at other Crain organizations. And several of our success stories now compete against us at world-class news organizations such as The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg News, among others.

3. This is an unofficial duty, but I serve as a sort of “compliance” editor who monitors the outrageous and illegal theft of our content by unscrupulous websites and unethical journalists. I’m also on the lookout for competing journalists who plagiarize our content. In lesser cases, I will sometimes send grievances to competing news organizations that fail to give us credit for our scoops, usually asking them nicely to give us some professional courtesy when we get stories first.

4. I serve as the chief liaison to Crain affiliates and our wire service partners — Bloomberg and Reuters. Crain publications try to share stories whenever relevant and I work with my friends in Detroit, Chicago, Canada, Europe, China and elsewhere to ensure we don’t miss anything. I also work routinely with the fine automotive journalists at Reuters and Bloomberg to make sure we get their stories posted on our site in a timely matter.

5. I represent Crain Communications and Automotive News as chairman of the annual Automotive Golf Classic, which has raised millions of dollars over the years for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Southeastern Michigan. This event serves as an excellent way for automakers, suppliers, dealers and others to give back to the community. And it’s a fun event coming up on 41 years.

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

We are consumed by electric vehicle development, autonomous vehicle technology and the supply chain crisis caused by a shortage of microchips and other key parts and raw materials. And, of course, our core auto dealership audience demands significant coverage of dealership/retail stories and trends. We have been ramping up our coverage of mergers and acquisitions in the auto dealership world and we’ll have more coming on that soon. What are we are we not consumed by? Stories that consume our competitors. We don’t like to duplicate stories our audience can easily get elsewhere.

Describe the craziest or most fun story you have written.

I have written or edited tens of thousands of stories over my 34 years of professional journalism, so it’s hard to narrow down this list. As my friends and colleagues know, my fondest memories are from the first seven years of my career in Charleston, W.Va. Whether it was covering coal mining, corruption, health care, labor strikes, chemical leaks or many other bizarre stories, my seven years in West Virginia set the stage for my future career – and I wouldn’t trade those seven years for anything else. My work resulted in at least three death threats and I view that as a badge of honor. I learned how to cover political/business/labor corruption and I learned how to cover corporate bankruptcies. That experience served me well during my 26 years here in Detroit. But perhaps the most satisfying story line from my West Virginia days was covering the failure of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of West Virginia Inc. I helped expose the corruption and mismanagement that led to the only failure of a Blue Cross/Blue Shield plan in history, which left $50 million in unpaid medical bills heaped on the backs of thousands of people in one of the nation’s poorest states. As a result of my coverage, the entire Blue Cross system fell under heavy scrutiny and the loosely organized organization has never suffered another failure.

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

For many years, I worked with a writing coach named Jim Stasiowski. He boasted a long history of helping journalists improve their work. His No. 1 piece of advice that stuck with me? Every story needs “conflict.” It needs to demonstrate some sort of character attempting to deal with a conflict. Even a puffy feel-good feature about a person should still have some element of conflict. As I tell my young reporters and interns, “conflict is the currency of good journalism.”

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

I have been in journalism my entire life. It all started in 1979 at St. Francis de Sales High School in Toledo, Ohio, where I spent four years working on the student newspaper, The Lance, finishing up as editor-in-chief in 1983. The valuable skills I learned from my high school teachers served me well for four years at the University of Michigan’s student newspaper, The Michigan Daily. I also was a sports stringer for the Detroit Free Press and I interned back home at The Toledo Blade. From there, I went to the Daily Mail in Charleston, W.Va., the Lowell Sun in Lowell, Mass., Crain’s Detroit Business, The Detroit News, the Detroit Free Press and Automotive News (since 2006).

For future aspiring journalists, I highly recommend moving away from home and getting out of your comfort zone.  If you don’t go somewhere, your career might not go anywhere. Leaving the comforts of home to move to West Virginia – a place I had never been – was perhaps the best move I ever made in my career.

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

Watching my son grow up. I am also taking care of my family and spending time with my wonderful significant other. Or walking my 85-lb. Bassett Hound, Chester. In good weather, I’m probably on a golf course.

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

Please, I’m begging you, don’t waste your time or mine pitching a story that’s irrelevant to my audience. If you don’t know the audience served by the target of your pitch, you will not get to first base with me or anyone else. E-mail is best. Do not call unless it is absolutely urgent to bring my attention to a scoop or breaking news.  Also, please don’t lie to me or my editors about what other news organizations are working on the same story. If you are offering me the story first, I might be willing to listen more. I do not want to invest resources in a story you’ve already given to my competitor(s). If we are a “second tier” pitch, you are insulting me. Embargoes are fine as long as nobody else gets an earlier embargo.

Any pet peeves with PR people? (Other than not asking you to participate in MTM sooner?)

See my answer to the previous question. Please don’t waste my time. I don’t have any time to waste.

Tell us a little about yourself (family, interests, hobbies, background, etc.)

I’m overwhelmingly loyal to all the people and organizations that have helped shaped my life and career. I’m a mostly retired tennis player with a sore arm. I am finally beginning to improve my terrible golf game into something a little more respectable (I hear the reader laughing already!). I’m very blessed to have developed so many quality friendships over the years. And I’m extremely proud of the fantastic team of journalists I’ve helped bring together at Automotive News.

You can follow Philip Nussel on Twitter at @goblue_nussel.

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