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I cover the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles beat for Automotive News. My other areas of focus are marketing and diversity-related issues, mainly around the development of the minority dealer base.
Can you tell us what types of stories, trends or issues are on your radar now? The ongoing impact of COVID-19 has been the central issue of the year. Every part of the industry has had to recalibrate and figure out how to design, build, sell and advertise vehicles in this new environment. Many of my stories since March have focused on this adaptability. I recently did a piece that gave a behind-the-scenes look at how FCA’s user-experience team has had to fine-tune the new Uconnect 5 infotainment system during the pandemic while everyone works from home. I’ve also been looking at the human element of the health crisis. I broke the story of the first COVID-related deaths in auto plants in March, and followed that up in June with a piece that detailed these losses from the perspectives of their families and friends. I’ve also tried to explore hot-button issues and give them an automotive touch. For instance, wearing masks has become a politically-charged issue even though it’s proven that they save lives. I put an advertising spin on this topic and wrote a piece about how dealers and advertising agencies are depicting mask usage in their ads.
Describe the craziest or most fun story you have written. I’ve written a lot of fun stories at Automotive News. One that stands out was a profile I did last year about NBA star Russell Westbrook, who owns several stores in California. I’m a huge NBA fan, so talking with one of my favorite players was surreal. He broke down why he got into the business and what he’d learned about the auto industry at the point. He’s not just a figurehead, either. He understands the business and wants to hand the stores down to his children one day.
What story or stories are you most proud of? A piece I wrote this summer about several auto plant workers who died of COVID-19 was important to me. We can see the numbers each day on CNN with a running tally of those who’ve died. If you’re not careful, you can grow numb to this and only see the deaths as mere numbers. I wanted to do that story to remind people that are people behind the numbers. You hear a lot of talk in some circles about the survival rate of COVID-19 to downplay it, but that means nothing to those who’ve lost somebody.
What elements or characteristics do you look for in a story? The biggest thing for me is timeliness.
How long have you been in journalism and how did you get started? I started writing in eighth grade for my middle school newspaper in 1999 and was hooked from there. I completed six internships at various outlets in Michigan and Ohio before getting hired at Automotive News in 2012, my first full-time gig.
Finish this sentence: If I am not reporting, I am … watching the news and spending time with family at home. Before the pandemic, I’d say working out, but my routine has been upended. I bought a boxing heavy bag over the summer so I can work up a sweat at home. COVID-19 cases are rising at a scary rate now, so the gym will have to wait a little longer for me.
What advice do you have for PR people that want to pitch you? Don’t pitch story ideas, pitch sources. Tell me how your client’s expertise and knowledge could benefit my reporting. One day, I might pop up with an interview request when I feel they’re a good fit.
Any pet peeves with PR people? It would have to be the PR folks who send mass emails with irrelevant pitches.
Tell us a little about yourself (family, interests, hobbies, background, etc.) I was born and raised in Saginaw, Mich. I graduated from Michigan State in 2010 after transferring from Delta College, a community college in Saginaw. I did internships at the Saginaw News, Lansing State Journal, MSU’s Capital News Service, the Columbus Dispatch in Ohio and Waste & Recycling News, a now-defunct publication that was a part of the Crain network in Detroit. My Dad worked at GM plants for about 30 years, while Mom was the secretary for Saginaw’s chief of police. They’re both retired now. I have a younger sister who is building an empire as an esthetician and will probably be a millionaire within 10 years.
You can follow Vince Bond on Twitter at @VinceBond86.