How to become a…Motorsport Journalist

Over the upcoming months, I am going to be featuring a range of personnel within motorsport as they tell their story: how they got to where they are, and tips for anyone wanting to follow the same career path as them. From PR and journalism to hospitality and engineering, a broad range of career are going to be covered! So, keep an eye out…

This week sees the turn of Topher Smith sharing his story. I know many of you are aspiring motorsport journalists, and Topher is well on his way to making his mark in the industry.

Currently, he works as Deputy Editor in Chief for e-racing.net, covering the Formula E series. This has led to him becoming FIA accredited and allowed him to travel to events as media. Something he has dreamed of since the age of 14!

How his journey began

“I started out covering Formula 1, as that was the series I grew up watching and developed a strong passion for,” he told me. “After contributing a handful of articles to Motorsport.com as a way of dipping my feet in the water, I decided for definite that I wanted to be a motorsport journalist and went to Canterbury Christ Church University to study multimedia journalism. There I was able to learn the craft on a more intimate level and it gave a wider understanding of the industry.”

Top tips for becoming a Motorsport Journalist

“The most important thing to remember is to not give up and believe you have what it takes to make it. It was my Dad who first set off that spark of motorsport journalism within me when I was 14 years old after he suggested that I write a race report, which I still remember to be the 2006 Bahrain Grand Prix.
“Having enjoyed writing that so much at such an early age, it gave me a very good idea of what I wanted to grow up to be and having had that so implanted on my mind has in turn given me that determination to do the best job I can within the industry.
“The best advice I can give to any budding motorsport journalists out there is to truly believe that it is fully within your grasp.
“On a more practical note, I learned the trade by just constantly writing. Practice makes perfect, as the old saying goes.
“You will see that a lot of the up-and-coming journalists of today have their own blog and have used it to great effect to practice their writing and help get their name out there. Along with my blog I sent articles out to a number of websites, more notably Motorsport.com who published three of my articles.
“This makes you feel confident in your ability to write a good piece. You can never send enough emails asking for your work to be used and no matter how many times you get rejected, someone out there is going to like you and want your name associated with their brand.
“When I found out about Formula E I was excited about the prospects of the series and wanted to be involved. I came across e-racing.net on Twitter and enquired about any writing opportunities. They were big fans of my work and happily took me onboard before promoting me to Deputy Editor-in-Chief following the conclusion of season one. It showed me that those years and months of constantly writing and promoting myself paid off and eventually culminated in me officially becoming an FIA accredited motorsport journalist.
“In short, always believe you can make it and never give up, and keep writing!”
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Career highlight to date

“There are a few I can think of but none will be more special to me than my first official Formula E trip as a media representative. I had gone to season two testing as media and had a great time at Donington Park, but the highlight for me was when I was able to travel to Berlin and be at my first championship event in a media capacity. The experience was made even more significant by the fact that Germany is a country that is very close to my heart and almost felt like that particular event with that significance was almost meant to be.
“Away from the track, one day I received an email from Melissa Wicks, one of the PR ladies for the NextEV team, inviting me to participate in a media karting event that was being held in the run-up to the London ePrix in season two where Nelson Piquet Jr and Oliver Turvey would be racing. I had to do a double-take of that email!”
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How competitive the industry is

“It is a lot more competitive than people realise, even if it may not seem so on the surface. During my trips to the various media centres that I have worked in I have met a number of journalists who you have the chance to get to know as you all work together, but no matter how good a friend you make in those fellow journalists there will always be that sense of rivalry to be better than the others.

“Personally, I have a bit more of a laid-back attitude to that competitiveness, I’ve always said that as long as I can do the best job I can, I will still be satisfied no matter how well the other do.
“I think as far as competitiveness goes, the best advice I can give to anyone is to surround yourself with the right people who vibe on positiveness and are willing to be supportive of your aspirations. It’s not good enough to get dragged down by people who take the competition to heart and have that cutthroat attitude to the industry. I fully accept that there will always be an element of rivalry between all journalists out there but the best thing you can do is to make allies, not enemies.”

https://twitter.com/TopherRacing

2 thoughts on “How to become a…Motorsport Journalist

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  1. Hi Helena Hicks and Topher Smith. First thank you very much for taking the time to write this article Helena! second thank you Topher for the great advice! I myself have always wanted to be a writer, but into my late teens I started finding my self wanting to write about my 2 passions. Motorsports & Music. I wrote for a local zine on the music side, but never made it around to pursuing Motorsports. Unfortunately I don’t have a college degree and can’t really afford it either. I know the chances of being taken serious a journalist are slim to none without a college degree. But I’m still going to start writing more race reviews and send them to various Motorsports websites(Motorsports.com, Autosport.com etc.) I am an American and I find specially on Motorsports.com that the articles while good don’t get me wrong, but they feel I don’t know…a bit rushed I guess? The spelling and grammar is off a lot of the times and the articles in general feel like they’re lacking any spark. Same with driver/team interviews, the questions are kind of dull and the driver’s answer the questions, but you can tell that the person interviewing them doesn’t always have knowledge of the type of racing they are covering or sometimes no Motorsport knowledge at all. I guess my question is do most Journalist that cover Motorsports​ spend time to actually learn the class they are covering and the driver’s? Or are they just going off of a script that their publishers give them? Hahaha sorry I have so many questions, in don’t want to ramble on.

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    1. Andrew, I can assure you that the people at the websites you have mentioned have more than a passion for motorsport. Indeed they do not lack spark; I know people work a whole lifetime to land a role such as that. There is no script involved and I am sorry you feel that way. In terms of you, I suggest you contact sites that are fan-based to build your writing skills – there are many and not just the top two sites as they, as you can imagine, get inundated with people sending articles. Find a non-profitable site to start off with, as the people who run them are really friendly and passionate about what they do. Any questions, email them to me helenahicks123@gmail.com and I shall do my best to answer 🙂

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