Guest Blog: Jo Price beats the boys
Jo Price writes about winning the 2012 Phil Llewellin Student Journalist of the Year Award, and finding herself the only female clutching a trophy at the RAC Club.
Jo currently works for BBC Wildlife magazine; here she is on board a dolphin survey boat in New Quay hoping to capture a glimpse of a bottlenose dolphin
Outnumbered and proud
I tottered on to the stage and was told where to sit, clutching my trophy with pride, a replica of Jaguar XK120 in honour of the late Phil Llewellin. As the rest of the winners got into position for the final photograph, it dawned on me I was the only woman to have won an award.
Earlier in the evening I had entered the grand entrance hall of the Royal Automobile Club on Pall Mall with excitement, yet anticipation. The Guild of Motoring Writers’ (GoMW) Annual Awards and Dinner is such a prestigious event in the motoring journalism calendar, and I knew I would be surrounded by the best in the industry.
I scanned the crowd of tuxedos and glamorous dresses for a familiar face and soon found Sarah Bradley. She told me there were about only five female journalists in the room out of more than 200 industry representatives. It made me relish the recognition I had achieved, as I stood in a building steeped in automotive history.
Discovering motoring journalism
I’ll be brutally honest. My interest in motoring was never a passion from childhood. I didn’t grow up addicted to watching motorsport or dreaming of the day I would be old enough to legally get behind the wheel of a car. Before my first graduate job, I had no inclination to discuss the quality of engineering in a vehicle, didn’t understand the concept of torque, and couldn’t even find the correct lever to lift my car’s bonnet and check the oil level (only when reminded.)
This began to change when I started working for an international car rental company. I was thrust into a challenging industry and had to drive every car in the fleet to meet demanding delivery times, from the Mercedes Sprinter to the Vauxhall Astra and Chevrolet Matiz.
My knowledge of car specs soon developed. I spent hours every week teaching customers how to work the controls, promoting the benefits of an upgraded rental and discovered which models were the ‘safest’ to attempt to manoeuvre in the snow.
My first REAL eye-opener into how exciting motoring could be was the Wales Rally GB in November 2011. I had been invited to help out the press team, based in the Millennium Centre in Cardiff Bay. Before long I was recording live race times and reporting on each stage of the competition by frantically writing press releases. I quickly picked up on the correct terminology and was soon rooting for Kris Meeke (Mini WRC.) Despite being miles away from the actual racing taking place in the Welsh countryside, the weekend proved to me that automotive journalism could be a great deal of fun!
The big question
When the opportunity arose during my Diploma in Magazine Journalism at Cardiff University (spring term 2012) to sign up for an Automotive Journalism module, I was keen to give it a go. I wanted to challenge myself and explore the motoring industry in relation to sustainability. Over the past year, I had developed a strong interest in environmental news and this had a direct influence on my approach to motoring writing.
I was intrigued to find out how leading car manufacturers were developing their carbon reduction strategies, and the effect this would have on their fleet and business plan. The automotive industry is a fascinating field but I wanted to focus my attention on the big question – how will motoring businesses meet customer demands for mobility in the future?
There is of course still plenty of speculation around this topic and as yet a long way to go until the most appropriate solution is found. However, this inevitably means there is plenty of news to fuel engaging reporting. Winning the Phil Llewellin Student Journalist of the Year Award 2012 is a fantastic honour. It's great to have achieved official recognition for my work so early on in my journalism career and will hopefully serve as a solid platform for the future.
The announcement that Suzi Perry will be presenting Formula 1 coverage from the start of next season has demonstrated that recognition for women in a male-dominated industry can be achieved even at the highest level. This combined with the inspirational women and men I met at the GoMW Awards evening has spurred me on to take hold of the steering wheel with both hands and persevere with my motoring writing – not just for me but for the girls!