By Megan Wanner
Mac Demere loves to race cars. He also likes to write about them, so he combined his two interests to become an automotive journalist, paid to have an opinion about racecars.
Demere spoke to Elon University, N.C. reporting students Friday on multiple topics in the world of journalism including tips for multimedia journalists, important things to focus on for stories and thoughts on where journalism is going in the future.
Tips for Multimedia Journalists
When it comes to multimedia journalism, whether it is still photographs or video, Demere discussed two very important things to remember. The first is to be focused on your own safety above everything. It does not matter how cool a shot might be if you are danger when doing it. “I’m Mr. Safety until the video cameras come out and at that point I become a raving lunatic,” said Demere.
The second is to find an expert if you have never done a certain shot before. It is better to have expert advice than just try to wing it.
Four Things to Focus on for Stories
According to Demere, the most important thing to focus on for stories is accuracy since having one error will lose your audience forever. “An analogy I use…You can blow up an engine by putting in the wrong little tiny five-cent part just as well as you can by putting in the wrong connecting rod. It’ll blow up just as good; you’ve lost the race just as effectively as if you did it the wrong way so every little tiny component has to be accurate,” said Demere.
It is also important to be on time. He said that accuracy is always first, but that you need to be on time. “I had one famous automotive journalist, I was late with a story and he told me, ‘I run a newspaper not a history book’…and it’s gonna be different in the future with the 24-hour-cycle but somebody’s gonna have to figure out time to sleep so you’re gonna have to be on time,” said Demere.
A piece needs to be the right length, even on the Internet. “You can’t have 50 words and you can’t have 15,000 words. It appears that someone sometime figured out that 900 words is about what people will read on the Internet because that’s what I’m usually assigned to write,” said Demere.
Your story needs to be interesting, emotion provoking and exciting. “My first managing editor told me make them laugh, make them cry, make them mad, piss them off if you have to, but don’t bore them,” said Demere.
The Future of Journalism
Demere says that online updates are good for news and print is good for everything else. “We still think the written word is important, powerful and necessary,” said Demere. “I think people still want that permanence, that feature,” said Demere.
Demere asked the class where they saw journalism going in the next two years. “I think there’s still an audience [for print] but that audience is decreasing,” commented junior Pat McCabe. “We’re at a point now where we can change this by pushing students to read hard print or to read on the Internet.”
The Racecar Fan Himself
Demere has a degree in Journalism from the University of Mississippi. Throughout the years, he has worked with newspaper, magazines and public relations including as a test driver at Michelin. He is currently a freelance automotive journalist and racecar driving instructor. The biggest race he raced in was the Nascar Southwest Tour Race in 1992.
Check out what Mac Demere has to say about training: