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Scott Bowles

Journalist, Teacher




A Detroit Reporter Invented the Term 'Carjacking' to Describe a New Kind of Crime Wave

Carjacking Headline

Scott Bowles is a retired USA Today film critic and former staff writer for People magazine. Before covering film, he was a police reporter for The Washington Post, Detroit News and Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He is a two-time Pulitzer nominee for Beat Reporting, including in 1991 for a project that coined the term “carjacking.”

That year, Bowles was named Police Reporter of the Year by the University of Colorado (Al Nakkula Award). In 2006, he was named Entertainment Reporter of the Year by the Hollywood Publicists Guild (Press Award). In 2008, Paramount Studios cast Bowles in a cameo as a reporter interviewing Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges) in the film Iron Man. He is an emeritus member of the Critics Choice Awards and  teaches ‘How to Write Like Hemingway’ at UCLA, where he is the school's Coordinator of Journalism Internships.

A Detroit Reporter Invented the Term 'Carjacking' to Describe a New Kind of Crime Wave

The term "carjacking first appeared in a 1991 article in the Detroit News. It immediately went mainstream.

Re-posted from - by Erin Marquis - January 30, 2023

Every decade, a new kind of crime comes along, and our language needs to catch up to our reality — think hacking, or before that, identity theft. In the early ’90s, Detroit journalists needed a whole new term for an old type of crime that was gripping the city: A blend of armed robbery and car theft. And so, “carjacking” was born.

This portmanteau of “car” and “hijacking” was created by legendary Detroit News crime reporter Scott Bowles in 1991, but the crime existed well before the name. Before the ’90s, most police departments didn’t specifically track crimes that involved stealing a car while the driver was operating it. States put such crimes into two categories: car theft or armed robbery, according to the New York Times.

In Michigan, such crimes were referred to under the 1931 penal code as RAUDAA; Robbery, Armed, Unauthorized Driving Away of an Automobile. It doesn’t really trip off the tongue. So when a rash of such crimes swept through the country and, particularly, the economically depressed city of Detroit in the early ’90s, reporters needed a more descriptive shorthand term.


Jack Nicholson: 'I can still cause trouble.',
USA Today -

BEVERLY HILLS — A sign over the doorbell of Jack Nicholson's home asks visitors: Please, don't ring before 10 a.m.

Nicholson is a bit sheepish about the reason.

"It ain't 'cause I'm partying every night, I'll tell you that," he says, padding down the stairs of his split-level ranch house as he tucks a blue Izod polo shirt into his khakis. "It just seems like a good time of day. And, to be honest, I need the sleep. I'm getting into my later years."

Jack Nicholson is not who you think. Sometimes, Nicholson says, he's not who he thinks.


The Curious Case of Pitt and Fincher's Friendship,
USA Today -

LOS ANGELES — Brad Pitt is about to crush a dog.

"Hey, that's a living creature," David Fincher calls out to Pitt, who is zipping around the director's cavernous Hollywood office on a Segway, a stand-up, motorized scooter. "Try not to kill the living things in here."

Pitt has peeled into the converted bank building with Lenny, a playful bull terrier that serves as office mascot, chasing the star. Pitt corners Lenny in a dead-end hall. The dog freezes, startled to go from predator to prey.


Tom Cruise Takes Stand on 'Samurai',
USA Today -

BURBANK, Calif. — "Welcome," Tom Cruise beckons, his arms spread wide and his smile spread wider. "Welcome to beautiful 19th-century Tokyo."

Of course, Cruise isn't in the 19th century, or Tokyo, or Japan, for that matter. He is standing in the nearly abandoned back lots of Warner Bros. studios, where parts of his new movie, "The Last Samurai," were filmed.

The lot looks nothing like the backdrop for Cruise's first historical epic, which opens nationwide today after a "sneak-peek" run in 550 theaters Saturday. The cardboard shrines and phony village fronts were taken down months ago. 


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