"The online media has no mercy, but I still wouldn't trade it for any other, because working in it is much more interesting. In the past, a journalist wrote what he felt like writing. Now he has to write what readers expect, otherwise he will perish" – says Łukasz Kifer, a journalist at moto.pl and gazeta.pl. Lukasz Kifer tells Jakub Braziewicz, our Senior Team Leader of the mobility team, about his journalistic adventure in the automotive world, the challenges of the transportation revolution, AI and the emotions in the relationship between PR professionals and journalists.
Jakub Braziewicz: Let's start with a warm-up question: do you have a fondness for the Ford Mondeo? It was, as I read, about Mondeo that you wrote your first journalistic text. What car currently would you most like to test and describe?
Łukasz Kifer: Ha, honestly not much, although it was on the subject of it that the first note I wrote was written. It was the autumn of 1996, and at that time I still didn't really believe that I constituted good material for a journalist. Fortunately, something was able to be fashioned from this clay. At the moment I don't think I have any journalistic dreams anymore, but I would be very happy if I could report on driving the new Koenigsegg Gemera HV8, because it's a fascinating car in every way. It would be even better if I could combine it with an interview with its creator, Christian von Koenigsegg, because he is a genius.
JB: You've been involved with automotive (and other) media for a good two decades now. From your perspective, how has the media itself, the moto industry and the approach to journalism changed during that time?
ŁK: It's even more than two decades, because it's been 27 years since my debut, as I just revealed! The media has changed incredibly, so much so that I had to learn journalism all over again. I started in the "paper", in a monthly supplement. I only half-jokingly claim that it was enough to work in it only a few days a month before the issue went to print. Then I went to a weekly, and finally to the Internet. Here one works much more, faster and completely different. Especially when it comes to the so-called reach media, which are the moto.pl and gazeta.pl portals I write for. Working on the Internet is drastically different in the way you choose topics, write, but most importantly in the immediate feedback that the audience provides. The online media have no mercy, but I still wouldn't trade it for any other, because working in it is much more interesting. In the past, a journalist wrote what he felt like writing. Now he has to write what readers expect, otherwise he will be lost. The moto industry in Poland has certainly become very professionalized since my debut, but there is nothing strange about that, because I started in the days of young and wild capitalism.
JB: The automotive press does not have it easy, there is a lot of competition on the Internet (also from influencers), and automotive topics have settled for good in other industry media such as technology. Is it more difficult to be an automotive journalist now than, let’s say, 10 years ago?
ŁK: It's certainly a lot harder, in part because of increasing competition. It used to be a relatively closed profession, but the competition from new media has certainly worked out in its favour. Above all, however, it's harder to write about automotive, because it's been changing a lot just for the past decade or so. We are participating in a transportation revolution, and not everyone wants to accept this and can understand it. In hindsight this will be obvious, but for now it is not so for everyone. First of all, motorization is changing into (electro)mobility, and these are not empty words at all.
JB: You have a strongly defined approach to your work, speaking and writing about automobiles, in that case, what skills do you consider essential for a journalist and how do you work to develop yourself?
ŁK: First of all, a journalist should be curious by nature, because without curiosity about the world there is no good journalism. As for the skills that are easier to develop in oneself, I have always argued that the most important one is the ability to synthesize the information gathered and then to communicate it clearly. It's worth keeping some modesty in yourself and listening to others if they are right. Despite so many years of practice, I have learned a lot about the Internet since I have been working at Gazeta, but I have also improved my writing style. Contrary to appearances, this is taken care of in the new media no less than in the traditional ones, only sometimes the frantic pace of work works against us, because then it is easy to make mistakes. Besides, I think it's important to have a distance from yourself and reality.
JB: AND AI? Do you think it will significantly affect journalistic work over the next year, for example?
ŁK: I don't think it will change our work within a year, but within a decade it certainly will. I'm convinced that the profession of journalism will not only change, but will begin to disappear, just as it used to be with many other professions that became unnecessary due to the development of new technologies. Bots are already writing better texts than many journalists, so if someone wants to survive in our profession, they must have the courage to form their own opinions and express emotions. Programs can't do that for now. Most of the texts in the media are reproducible, and this is what artificial intelligence already does better than us. If only for economic reasons, it's a matter of soon when they will take the place of many editors. They just need to develop the right tools.
JB: Very often you probably have to work closely with the communications departments of manufacturers/dealers, for example. What should the ideal relationship between PR and journalism look like?
ŁK: It rarely looks perfect, but it certainly looks more and more professional. The PR profession is very difficult, because it requires a lot of so-called soft skills and a great sense of the situation. Especially in trade media, working in this profession can be difficult, because people have known each other for decades. Often a professional relationship turns into affection, even friendship, and sometimes the opposite. There is nothing wrong with this, emotions are inevitable and natural, because we are humans, not machines. True PR is not about cool professionalism, but about both sides behaving with class and respecting each other. Therefore, at this point I would like to apologize for waiting so long for my answers...
JB: Coming back to motoring itself – the development of electric drives and alternative fuels is a sign that we are already at the threshold of a revolution? What do you think about the ban on the registration of new internal combustion cars to be introduced in the European Union in 2035?
ŁK: Yes, we are certainly in the midst of a revolution in transportation. It's not just about ecology, electric propulsion is better than internal combustion in almost every respect. Just consider efficiency, for example. The average efficiency of an internal combustion engine is about 35%, because the rest of the energy is turned into heat, or de facto wasted. The efficiency of an electric motor is more than 95%. If the propulsion system in all cars in the world were changed to electric, about 1/3 of the energy currently consumed would suffice. Of course, this can't be done at once, but step by step.... The problem is not obtaining it, but storing it. Fortunately, technology and knowledge have developed to such an extent that, with the investment of adequate resources, a technological breakthrough is inevitable, only until recently the corporations did not want to do it. Fortunately, someone appeared who forced them to do it. For what it's worth, I'm not in favour of initiating progress with top-down and detached from reality political decisions. Transformation should primarily be stimulated until it gains momentum. Bans rarely work. In my opinion, the EU authorities will still postpone it, explaining by "unexpected political, economic and economic developments in Europe". To paraphrase Einstein's saying, it is necessary to fight climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions as fast as possible, but not even faster.
JB: What other challenges does the industry face?
ŁK: Survival! For many entrenched automobile companies, the next decades could be very difficult. The playing field is changing, and it's not just about completely new technical solutions, but also the democratization of technology and production. As with the media, it is no longer necessary to be a giant to have market share, instead it is relatively easy to become one.
JB: What do you think the ideal vehicle of the future should have?
ŁK: There is no such thing. I would rather answer the question of what the mobility of the future should look like. We should find the best solutions to reach the destination, literally and figuratively. Usually it's not worth going there by car, sometimes it doesn't make sense to move at all. I hope that artificial intelligence will help us create a scheme that is efficient and environmentally friendly. Of course, we also need to distinguish between transportation needs and driving for pleasure. I hope there will always be room for it as well.
JB: Finally, let your imagination run wild – what would your dream garage look like if you had to limit yourself to three cars?
ŁK: Only three?! I would certainly like to see at least one electric and one internal combustion car standing in. One sporty, one off-road, one comfortable. Is it possible to combine it? Good but expensive cars are plentiful, it's harder to find good and cheap ones. The most modest dream set I see in my garage is: Toyota GR Yaris, Suzuki Jimny and Alpine A110. Oops, it doesn't include any electrics or comfort cars, that's a bummer. If I wouldn't have to compromise on price, I would ask for: BMW iX M60, McLaren 765LT and Earthroamer LTi. It's a kind of American overlanding camper based on a Ford F-550 Heavy Duty, it costs at least $700,000. Admittedly, it's too big for European roads and doesn't make sense, but I'd love to have one.
JB: And if not a car, then what?
ŁK: And if not a car then a motorcycle. I would like to have at least as many of them in my garage as cars, and probably more. One of the advantages of motorcycles is that a dream machine can be bought for the price of an average car. It's not just the amazing performance, but mainly the fact that riding a unicycle is much more engaging. It requires more skill, but that makes it more fun.
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