General Motors (No. 48 on the DiversityInc Top 50 Companies list) launched its second annual Discover Your Drive diversity journalism program Jan. 7-11, hosting 13 college students and nine professional journalists as mentors from across the country at Detroit's North American International Auto Show (NAIAS). Students from diverse backgrounds participated in the program that promoted diversity in automotive journalism and news coverage.
Discover Your Drive began Saturday and concluded Wednesday with an awards presentation recognizing students for their work at NAIAS as well as their social media presence during a scavenger hunt throughout Detroit. Students used the new, award-winning all-electric Bolt EV, named 2017's NAIAS Car of Year and OnStar technology to find their way around the city. Find posts on Twitter @GM_Diversity #DiscoverYourDrive.
"We were blown away by the talent and creativity of these fearless students," says Leslie Gordon, senior manager, GM Diversity Communications. "Many of them had not been exposed to automotive journalism, had never been to Detroit or seen snow. But they brought with them the right amount of curiosity required to cover an event as massive and complex as the North American International Auto Show and they did so with grit and class."
One student showed that drive by chasing a face-to-face interview with GM President and CEO Mary Barra on the auto show floor. Another coaxed GM North America President Alan Batey into a video that won the program's top prize: an all-expense paid trip to a national journalism conference.
Students Rushawn Walters and Nia Muhammad, both of Howard University, and Sarah Rahal, of Wayne State University, snatched that prize with 'Jammin' with GM," a story told through carpool karaoke, focusing on the all-new Chevrolet Cruze and technologies such as Apple Car Play, Android Auto, Teen Driver, Rear Seat Reminder and the car's fuel economy.
"As an aspiring student journalist from Detroit, getting the opportunity to learn more about what's in my backyard was a priceless gift," said Rahal, one of the contest winners. "This program gave me a network of people that are proficient in the industry and the knowledge to use it in the field. Discover Your Drive allowed me to believe that automotive news is a possibility for my future."
The journalism and communications students took part in a journalism workshop led by journalist Ray Suarez, former host of NPR's Talk of the Nation. They also heard a panel on the state of diversity in newsrooms. The panel, moderated by award-winning journalist Ed Gordon, featured award-winning fashion critic Michael Quintanilla formerly of the Los Angeles Times and San Antonio Express News, political journalist Patricia Guadalupe, a contributing writer to NBC Latino, Walter Middlebrook, Detroit News assistant managing editor and Salvador Rodriguez, Inc. magazine's tech reporter in San Francisco.
Students attended news conferences and vehicle reveals, explored the auto show floor and interviewed auto experts. The program ended with an awards ceremony at the GM Heritage Center in Sterling Heights, Mich.
Professional journalists from around the country mentored the students and helped them produce news stories and presentations.
"As a diversity and business reporter, it's really great to see GM put its money and weight behind discovering and helping young journalists of diverse backgrounds get started with their careers," said Inc.'s Rodriguez, also a mentor.
Quintanilla, a returning mentor whose team won last year, says news organizations need to take note.
"This is the most original experience for college students that encourages them to consider automotive journalism while also promoting diversity in newsrooms," said Quintanilla, of San Antonio.
"By diverse, I mean not only diversity in one's ethnicity but also in ideas and a promise from everyone involved to protect and uphold journalism's existence and the profession's commitment to tell accurate and honest stories."
About the students:
- Nia Muhammad of Chicago, Illinois, is a sophomore in TV / film and electronic studio at Howard University in Washington, D.C.
- Sarah Rahal of Dearborn Heights, Michigan, is a journalism senior at Wayne State University in Detroit, a member of the honors Journalism Institute for Media Diversity program and managing editor of The South End, WSU's student paper.
- Rushawn Walters of Springfield, Massachusetts, is a journalism and theater arts senior at Howard University in Washington, D.C. and managing editor for its student newspaper, The Hilltop.
- Dominique Sims is from San Francisco and is a mass media arts senior at Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta. She is the author of the award-winning blog Black Students Who Travel.
- Ala'a Ibrahim is from Houston and is a multimedia journalism and business senior at University of Texas at Austin. She has interned at NBCUniversal and KXAN-TV and will soon be joining KUT & KUTX as a multimedia intern.
- Oriol Brull comes from Barcelona, Spain, and is an advertising and public relations junior at the City College of New York in New York City. He has been a freelance automotive writer for a national Spanish magazine.
- Gabi Wy of Newburgh, Indiana, is a sophomore at the University of Southern Indiana in Evansville. She will be an intern at the Evansville Courier & Press in January and features editor for The Shield, the University of Southern Indiana's student publication.
- William Cornelius of Oklahoma City is a broadcast journalism junior at the University of Oklahoma in Norman, Oklahoma. He shoots and edits long-form documentary and broadcast packages, does VOSOT (Voice Over/Sound on Tape) and writes for print and online publications.
- Aaron Robert of Warren, Michigan, is an advertising and public relations sophomore at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Michigan. He leads content creation for GVSU's Public Relations Student Society of America chapter, writing and editing blogs and designing graphics.
- Nguyen Le is a native of Vietnam and a recent graduate in print journalism at the University of Houston. He wrote for the student newspaper The Cougar and was a movie critic for Cooglife Magazine.
- Jose Arredondo comes from San Antonio, Texas, where he is a junior at Texas A&M-San Antonio. He has written and photographed for the Big Stick, The Bugle Call, The Ranger and La Prensa newspapers and is currently an intern at Spectrum Sports News.
- Dennis Lin is a native of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. He is a senior double majoring in communications/advertising with a sports management minor and sales concentration at Michigan State University in East Lansing.
- Michael Incavo is a native of Cleveland, Ohio. He is a journalism and public relations senior at Baylor University's Journalism Public Relations and New Media department in Waco, Texas. He has worked for local NPR stations and produced syndicated reporting features airing across Texas radio stations.