This episode of Coffee with a Journalist is joined by Heather Somerville of The Wall…
This episode of Coffee with a Journalist, host, Beck Bamberger, is joined by Alejandro de la Garza of TIME. At TIME, Alejandro serves as a Reporter Researcher. During their conversation, Beck and Alejandro discuss his new beat, the importance of timing, the pitches he will never respond to, and more.
Click below to listen to the full conversation and read below for highlights from the interview:
His Work Inbox
Beck Bamberger: Okay. Now that we got that out of the way because it is a 50-50 shot on the show if someone actually is drinking coffee. I think I’ve had like twice where both of us are drinking coffee. So that’s quite the moment. But your inbox, how crazy is it in there with pitches?
Alejandro de la Garza: Very, as I imagine most of the people you hear from are. I’m clicking into it right now. Yeah. It looks like about I’m going to say 50 from today.
BB: 50 pitches just from today. That’s a lot. And do you do some kind of filing of these? Are you one of those mass deleters? Do you save it? Or you have some filing system?
ADLG: Oh. I hope I’m not going to offend any of your listeners, but I think I’m probably a mass deleter.
BB: Oh, you’re in that camp. Okay.
ADLG: Yeah. I’m kind of a 5 pm cull the inbox kind of guy.
BB: Wow! Do you get to zero?
ADLG: Generally I like to. Yeah.
BB: Okay, religiously every day.
ADLG: Well, I didn’t used to. So actually my inbox has 8455 unread emails, but most of those are like multiple years old and I’m not a very organized person unfortunately.
BB: Okay. Okay. Gotcha. That’s pretty good though, eight thousand something. But unread, a little stressful.
ADLG: Well, yeah. I mean, those are all the old ones. So in the past like, I don’t know, like a year or so. They’re pretty old. But I just haven’t filed away the other ones.
BB: Gotcha. So is there any chance then of a publicist pitch getting read given you’re a mass deleter?
ADLG: Oh, yeah. Definitely.
BB: How does one get that?
ADLG: I think it’s a lot of circumstances. It wasn’t a pitch exactly, but someone reached out to me over the weekend offering expert services or basically to talk about connectedness during the pandemic and it just happens that I was working or like putting on the very finishing touches on a piece that was about a niche social network, which was actually sparked by a different pitch that I got in my inbox and then it was like, “Oh,” I totally forgot that like I didn’t mention any other of the of these niche social networks there. So that was kind of happenstance. But it depends on subject matter a lot.”
I mean, a lot of these that I get are “perfect e-bike awaits wreaths across America.” I mean, I think I get a lot that is really, really doesn’t pertain to my work at all.
I used to read through them more, and lately it becomes so overwhelming that I’m deleting based on headlines unless there’s really something that actually seems like it could spark an article.”
How He Writes Stories
BB: It grabs you. Got you. So speaking of that, in terms of articles and the ones that you do, and you kind of have a multitude of angles you do, which is everything from vaccines and contact tracing, a battle against misinformation. You have tech and you have all these other things that you do. And looking through your articles, there’s quite a lot, which is great. How do you get inspired to do a story?
ADLG: That is a great question, and I wish I knew. And actually, it’s getting a little bit more complicated because up until around this week or next week I was more on sort of tech and sort of my beat was artificial intelligence generally, but that’s a pretty difficult beat to cover as we found through the course of the past eight months because artificial intelligence is kind of everything and also nothing at this point because every single other beat, whether it’s politics, whether it’s commerce, economics like takes a bite out of that.
So we were finding that it was difficult to find niche areas where you’re not stepping on other people’s toes within that beat. So I’ve actually been moved over. I’m going to start writing articles on Greentech starting this week.”
BB: Oh! This is like a breaking piece of news. Fantastic!
ADLG: Yeah, let everyone know.
BB: You heard it here first, people.
ADLG: Alejandro de la Garza, Greentech reporter, new and improved.
BB: Greentech. Okay. Oh! Okay. So just then to answer that question, there’s no systematic way. You’re not like, “Oh, I go on a walk or I use my shower time to kind of think randomly about stories.” Or, “Oh, I get all my stories from my inbox or I just do what my editor tells me.” It just is it’s seemingly organic it sounds like.
ADLG: I think every single one of those things has happened at different points to spark an idea. One of my favorite articles that I did for the past few months was on those contact tracing apps. I think that was like I had a meeting with my editor – I mean, hopefully, he doesn’t listen to this or he might, but I had a meeting with my editor and it was coming up in like five minutes and I didn’t have an idea and I was like, “Uh, uh, uh.” And then just told him like, “Let’s do contact tracing apps.” But it was a super deep like rich subject and one that I think was difficult enough to report and complicated enough that there hadn’t been like that much done on it previously, but a lot there. So that was a really great article to report out.
His Thoughts on the Future of Journalism
BB: Let’s now talk about what you think the future of journalism looks like. Are you positively skewed? Negatively skewed? What’d you say?
ADLG: I would say cautiously optimistic about the future of journalism. I mean, I’m no expert on the future of journalism and I have no idea what’s going on in the business side. But I think that there’s investment that’s been happening in the course of the past few years and that you’re seeing smaller players or medium-sized players who are starting to figure out the new digital-first world and how to be profitable in that a little better than they were five or six years ago.
But, I mean, the pandemic hasn’t been good for a lot of people, I guess unless you’re like The New York Times. I mean, obviously not good for them on a personal level, but they got a lot of subscribers.
But I think people are coming around to the idea that reporting isn’t free and reporting on the Internet isn’t free. And I think that people are finding ways to navigate their different niches.”
BB: We will see how it goes. I was going to say you’re kind of a newer entry into journalism. So sometimes the answers depend if it’s someone who’s been in the business like 27 years versus five or whatever it is. So we shall see.
BB: Now we have an audience asked. So Alice Good, she’s over at Clearlink, had the following question for you. We got these off of Twitter because we tell people we’re going to be talking to you and they get all excited. And her question is, “What topics are you sick of being pitched?” besides sex toys.
ADLG: I’m really tired of being pitched gadget reviews, like gadget themed things where it’s like this article is look at a gadget. And I mean, like that’s service journalism and it’s like important and we do do it and my colleague does it.
But, I mean, if you looked through my byline, I’ve never written about a gadget. So I would say you should know which tech journalists are your gadget journalists and which ones never write about gadgets.”
BB: Yeah. And all the gadgets as we obviously heard. So okay, people, be known. No gadgets.
Alejandro, like many journalists, does not mind a follow-up email – so long as it is done the right way. Learn how to make the most of a follow-up email in our article, How to Send a Follow-Up to a Media Pitch. For the latest updates on new podcast episodes, blogs, and insights, be sure to subscribe to our podcast and follow us on Twitter.