The media industry is a notoriously tough place to break into, and motorsport journalism is not an exception to that rule in the slightest. While there are no set formulas to getting your foot firmly in the Formula 1 paddock, we’ve spoken to a budding Spanish journalist to find out how she managed to get her first couple of FIA accredited races.
Sofia Tera has been determined to call the Formula 1 paddock her home for several years now. Since the age of just seven, she can recall watching racing on the television at home. Back then she preferred two wheels to four, but she says that the tables have turned now.
Writing quickly became a hobby of hers as she entered her teenage years, and it all stemmed from there.
“I cover mainly Formula 1, but one of my favourite motorsport series to cover is Formula 2,” Sofia tells Females in Motorsport. “I have always liked Formula 2. The racing is close and there are a lot of hungry young drivers that could become the future of Formula 1. It’s a very interesting and fun series that deserves attention.”
Sofia writes for a Spanish motorsport and motoring website, where she can be called upon to write anything from in-depth features to breaking news stories. During her time at CarandDriver.es, she has learnt to be versatile in her approach, a skill that she considers key when it comes to motorsport journalism.
“It’s a very demanding job,” she says. “You have strange working hours since the racing activities take part mainly during weekends and you need to stay alert during the rest of the week waiting for news to create content. Therefore, you have to be versatile. Motorsport media consumes a lot of time every day and you don’t have a clear departure time because a big story could happen at any hour of the day. Also, you need to take care of your contacts and sources. Networking needs a lot of your time too.”
When looking at the key skills a journalist should have, she feels that it all comes down to being a good listener.
“A journalist needs good communication skills because you need to know how to ask the right questions to receive the answers you are looking for, but you also need to be a good listener,” she says. “People usually focus on how you have to talk, but it’s very important to know how to listen. Good knowledge of what you’re reporting about (motorsport in this case) is essential. Curiosity and interest are two very important features of a journalist too. And this might sound very basic, but a journalist needs to have a passion for the job.”
Being an international member of the press, Sofia strongly recommends being able to speak a second language – it has certainly helped her on her road to success.
“Speaking several languages is crucial in our lives, not only in motorsport,” she says. “Media is essentially all about communication, and you need to know languages to build relationships or simply ask questions. A lot of people think that speaking English is enough, but the need for speaking more than two languages is increasing everywhere. Motorsport is no exception with the big number of nationalities involved in racing all around the world. It has helped me to communicate and be more confident in general.”
With the highs that come from landing your dream job, there are – of course – struggles on the way. Many people who work in the industry describe what a tough and challenging road it can be to getting recognised. But, it is important to not give up on your dreams.
“There were some critical moments where I was close to giving up,” Sofia says. “I felt I had nowhere to go and my situation wasn’t improving at all. I really thought all my effort wasn’t worth it. Media is a very difficult job, especially for young journalists because people usually don’t take us seriously. And I said, motorsport consumes a lot of your time. It’s really tough to make a living from racing. One day, I convinced myself that I had to keep on working. I am fortunate enough to write about something I like so much. Even if it’s demanding, I love motorsport. I can’t see myself having another job. It’s my passion and I really want to be in the motorsport world. I feel like that’s where I belong.”
With Sofia’s role, she has now attended three grand prix as press and two pre-season tests. Her favourite thus far has been the Italian event last year, and she describes the weekend as “magic”.
“The fans are great, the track is amazing and the last race had a lot of action and drama,” she says. I had the chance to see the podium from the media center and it was one of the most beautiful experiences. The fans on track, with all their flags and banners, the drivers celebrating, the atmosphere… It’s unique.”
Sofia has great advice for those wanting to break into the industry. She says that having your own blog is a good place to start. There you can find your own style while writing about things that interest you.
“A blog is good because you are the one who decides what to write about,” she says. “Once you have found and improved your style, you can write for websites as a volunteer. This may create bigger exposure for you as a writer. With hard work, people will begin to recognise your writing which can lead to the chance of writing for bigger websites.”
In order to be constantly improving your writing, Sofia says it’s paramount to read the work of other journalists who are already successful in the field.
“You need to read lots of articles and analyse what structures and tones they’re using,” she says. “You can analyse what works and try to add that to your skills. Of course, don’t copy, but create your own twist on things. I still do this, because your writing skills improve with every piece you read and write. You never stop learning, especially in journalism.”
You can follow Sofia on Twitter here.