It’s good news when a newspaper hires an auto writer these days- particularly when they already have one! That’s exactly what the Spokane Spokesman-Review did when the long-time “her” of the paper’s his and her auto reviews, Teresa McCallion, retired after 18 years. The daily affirmed that the woman’s point of view mattered by retaining highly regarded local journalist and essayist Cheryl-Anne Millsap to join veteran Don Adair’s weekly review with a companion piece.
Adair also began writing for the Spokesman-Review in the ‘80s as a “go-to freelancer,” as he put it. “When the paper decided to add a locally generated car column, I was in the right place at the right time. My qualifications were skimpy. I could write and knew how to meet deadlines. I’d owned a few sports cars and had autocrossed a little. I read the magazines when I was a kid and knew the difference between horsepower and torque, but my technical knowledge was — and is — limited.
“Which has proven to be not a bad thing; it’s easy to lose the readers of a daily newspaper in minutiae. I aspire to write well enough to be read by a broader audience than just car nuts.
“Of course the job has its bennies: Besides the great good fortune of driving a new car every week, I’ve met fascinating people and seen parts of the country I wouldn’t have otherwise. Highlights include every time I’ve been turned loose on a track, as well as a pair of Mercedes-Benz programs — one to Montreal where we took in the F1 race and the surrounding circus, and one a three-day Civil War/Civil Rights tour of Alabama.
“But all this goodness has been tempered in the past couple of years by the loss of so many jobs. I wish the best for all those, from every aspect of the industry, whose lives have been turned upside down.
“Both the automobile and newspaper industries will survive, but in fundamentally altered ways. In the online environment, those who have something to say and say it well will emerge from the mob and, although it will be some time before the Internet finds its commercial footing, will find ways to be paid for their efforts.
“A jazz musician friend once told me that he was able to earn a living only by hustling up his own opportunities; I believe the same pertains for those of us who have labored in the newspaper business. We will survive by being flexible and being good.
“I’m lucky to write for a publication that is committed to providing its readers with a quality editorial product with a local voice. But I don’t have any idea a) how long that will last or b) how our industry will look when the dust has settled. I am convinced that the fragmentation of the media is bad for all of us in the short term, but that something coherent will ultimately emerge.
“If not, I fear for more than just our industry. Despite all this, those of us who are still writing are reporting on an industry — and a culture — in transition; the circumstances are challenging, but the environment has opportunity written all over it.”