Jack Fitzgerald’s grandfather was an engineer with Corvette Racing, and he passed his love of cars to his grandsons. Fitzgerald remembers picking up old editions of Car and Driver magazine and reading the articles on his grandfather’s couch.
These days, Fitzgerald is the one writing the articles.
Fitzgerald, who graduated from UWM in 2022, is a newly minted associate editor at Car and Driver. The magazine has a long and storied history. Founded in 1955, Car and Driver was initially dedicated to sports cars, but it has since evolved to become among the foremost publications in the auto industry, covering both news and product reviews. Car companies often tout a favorable rating from Car and Driver as a selling point.
What’s it like working for a magazine he grew up reading, and one that has such a dedicated following?
“It’s fantastic,” Fitzgerald said with a smile.
The auto beat
Growing up, Fitzgerald knew that he loved cars and he loved writing.
“I consumed a lot of car media on YouTube. There was a subculture of ‘Car YouTube’ that came up as all of the subcultures on YouTube did,” Fitzgerald recalled. “I was watching a YouTube video one day of somebody reviewing a car and I realized, oh, this is journalism.”
So, Fitzgerald, who was attending UW-Milwaukee on a track scholarship, declared a major in journalism, advertising, and media studies. Then he set about building his auto-writing portfolio, with the support of his journalism instructors.
“I was lucky enough that my professors allowed me to pursue motorsports and cars, which was more enticing to me (than anything else),” Fitzgerald said. “I reached out to the PR representative at the Road America track up in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, and they invited me to come hang out for one of their performance driving schools for the day. I went and reported on that. I had a ton of fun learning, and it was my first taste of that kind of on-the-ground reporting.”
Then, as graduation was approaching, Fitzgerald found the perfect job. An associate editor position was open at Car and Driver. He knew he couldn’t leave things to chance. He put together his résumé and his writing samples and reached out on LinkedIn to two current editors at the magazine to ask for advice.
To his delight, they responded. Fitzgerald sat down for a (virtual) meeting with the editors and listened as they advised him on what the job required and the steps he should take to get hired. He credits that meeting with getting his foot in the door.
The hiring process took several months, but the wait was worth it: Fitzgerald joined the magazine’s staff in June.
The write stuff
As an associate editor, Fitzgerald writes articles focusing on current trends and news in the auto industry. If Toyota releases pictures of a concept car that will hit the market in a couple of years, Fitzgerald will write an article about what consumers might eventually see in their garages. If there’s new information about pricing, that’s a story, he said. Occasionally there will be a story about a recall, or the specs on a new vehicle.
One story that hit close to home covered the Kia Boyz, a band of young people who are notorious for exploiting security vulnerabilities in Hyundais and Kias and taking the stolen vehicles for joyrides.
The trend started in Milwaukee as the Kia Boyz recorded their exploits and posted the videos to TikTok. Fitzgerald penned the article because of his ties to Milwaukee – though he originally wanted to take a more unconventional approach.
“The whole thing with the Kia Boyz was they were filming how you can steal a car in 20 seconds, which is immensely shocking to hear. I don’t know how long stealing a car should take, but the fact they could do it so quickly is attention-grabbing,” Fitzgerald said. “I thought it would be interesting for us to try and steal one of our own vehicles. (But), we decided we don’t want to be another source of potentially teaching people to steal a car.”
Running the track
Another fun article gave Fitzgerald a run for his money – literally. Each year, Car and Driver tests performance cars on the Lightning Lap at Virginia International Raceway. In February, Fitzgerald channeled his days of cross-country at UWM, laced up his running shoes, and ran the course.
There are challenges of course: As one of the newer editors, Fitzgerald is sometimes called upon to give up his weekends to meet a deadline, for example. But the perks far outweigh the hardships. Fitzgerald speaks highly of his colleagues and how much he’s learned from them. He also gets to test drive new cars and even use them to commute – a nice change from his 2010 VW Golf.
But most of all, Fitzgerald said, he’s excited to carry on the tradition of Car and Driver.
“I know there are people who have been reading the magazine for 50 years, who have loved it for 50 years,” he said. “I was hired around the same time as a few other people, and our new editor-in-chief wrote an introduction story. There were a lot of really kind comments from longtime fans saying, ‘Hold the torch high.’”
Written by Sarah Vickery
Link to original story: https://uwm.edu/news/car-and-writer-journalism-grad-lands-a-job-at-storied-auto-magazine/