Joining us this week on Coffee with a Journalist is Ashley Carman of The Verge. As a senior reporter, producer, and host for The Verge; she writes and pitches news articles, features, and scoops about the podcasting business, hardware startups, and social networks. Ashley is also the co-host and producer of the podcast Why’d You Push That Button?, and hosts and produces the YouTube series In The Making.
During today’s episode, Ashley talks about her process for vetting pitches, a story she’s been working on for over a year, her appreciation for readers’ feedback, and more. Let’s hear more from Ashley now!
Click below to listen to the full conversation and read below for highlights from the interview:
Her Work Inbox
BB: Okay. Well, we have lots to cover, Ashley. First of all, how’s your inbox?
AC: It’s chaotic. It’s a lot for me. It’s a lot.
“So, yeah, the archives definitely comes in handy.”
BB: Do you have a system? Do you have a way in which you organize specifically pitches? That’s what this show is all about.
AC: I wish I did. I kind of tried to just like vet through the head – Like I vet through the subject line. If I know – Because there’s some obvious junk. Obvious junk, it’s going just straight up delete, not even archived, just delete. I try to delete or archive everything. If I see something that maybe is a company I actually cover or potentially like an interesting idea, I might read it, take note of it. I don’t respond though. If we want to go there, I don’t respond.
BB: Yes. Okay, you’re a non-responder. Okay, got it. Then do you ever pull those archived emails up six months later or something?
AC: For sure. For sure. There’s been plenty of times where, let’s say, you know maybe someone pitched me when they were starting out a tech company or something. Then all of a sudden, they’re in the news. Or all of a sudden, they’re kind of maybe a bigger deal than they were when they launched eight months ago. I might look like, “Oh.” Actually, I either talk to them or I have their info here. So, yeah, the archives definitely comes in handy.
BB: Got it. This is a very common process other folks, other peers of yours do, which is just file it away, just like let it roll. Then when you need something, you do a search, your own personal Google. Then you find something from whatever go.
AC: Exactly, exactly.
Her Thoughts on Pitches
BB: In a week, let’s say, how many pitches do you get?
AC: I mean, I couldn’t even begin to guess. Probably hundreds.
AC: Yeah, I would say.
BB: God. That – Honestly, I’m a little surprised because you have quite a niche focus. It’s podcasting in the audio industry, which – Okay. But now maybe you argue, well, audio is quite encompassing with a lot of things. But I don’t know. I would think that’s like you don’t need every pitch.
“I mean, I couldn’t even begin to guess. Probably hundreds [of pitches a week in her inbox].”
AC: I think it’s because I’ve done so many different things at The Verge that I just – As I’ve transitioned to different beats and done different things, I just end up on 10 different people’s radars for each thing. Then it just gets out of control.
How She Writes Stories
BB: Yes. So how do you make or come up with the inspiration for a big juicy story? For example, we were just talking about this before we got on. You have this sensational article, which I cannot wait. I haven’t read the whole entire thing. But that podcast thing Hype House From Hell, which is about a China’s biggest audio platform funded this frat boy dream in Beverly Hills. I mean, this is like an in-depth. I’m sure this didn’t come from a pitch, for example, Ashley. So how did you come up with the story for this? Where did those story inspirations come from?
AC: For this, this I was actually tipped to.
BB: You got a tip.
“I wish I had a full like beautiful process that yielded incredible ideas. But really, for me, because I’m such a beat reporter, I’m on the news beat constantly. So writing the news pretty much daily on your beat tends to show you some trends.”
AC: Tips are obviously always great. Yeah. For this, it was a tip. It was one that I kind of investigated a little bit. So the story was in the works for over a year. Yeah. So in March of 2020, when I first started looking into it, there was some stuff but some of the research I did. I had enough to like kind of have an idea of what was happening but not enough to really feel like I could publish something, right?
AC: Then there’s a lawsuit that was filed by former employees of this podcasting company, Himalaya/ this like offshoot called HiStudios. They filed a lawsuit alleging wrongful termination that went into a lot of details about kind of this chaotic party culture at this home. So that lawsuit really became pretty foundational to the story because that’s a way to kind of enter in, get a better sense of what people are alleging happened. From there, I was really able to kind of start reaching out to more people. Luckily, my reach out sort of worked.
BB: Wow. I kind of – It feels a little bit like fire festival-ish.
AC: Yeah. People say that.
BB: Gosh. Wow. So this piece that you’ve now posted like actually today, is this actually today?
AC: It was right before the weekend.
BB: A couple days ago, a couple days ago. Actually, years in the making?
AC: A year.
BB: A year.
AC: Well over a year but yeah.
BB: I saw somewhere on here you said in 2019, you started talking to this guy, the CEO.
AC: Yeah. So part of the reason why this story is interesting to me is because I had covered their launch years ago. So it was a company I was familiar with that I hadn’t really thought much about since the launch like vaguely and then –
BB: I see we have an audience ask here from Laura Nickel from BAM, who obviously I know over at BAM. She is asking here, “Is it more helpful to provide available expert sources or specific detailed story angles in a pitch?” How would you answer that?”
AC: That’s interesting. I’ll admit that I really don’t use – When people email me expert sources, I typically don’t really take advantage of them because oftentimes, because of what I’m writing about is so specific. Here’s I’ll say. Like I’ve had people reach out and be like, “Hey, I think I should intro you to this person that works at this company.” It might be a podcasting audio company. I’m like, “Actually, yeah. That would be awesome to have like an introduction to the CEO or to someone who’s pretty high up, where we can just talk.” It can be off the record where I’m like, “I just want to chat with them.
So that, to me, is super useful because then I know what’s going on at the company, and I can also reach out and be like, “Hey, I’m working on this story. This seems relevant.” That has been the most fruitful way to do kind of the like expert source angle. But then as far as the story angles go, yeah, I think it’s typically like come with an angle, come with really specific news. Yeah, that’s typically the best way to do those things.
If you’re considering pitching Ashley then make sure you’re candid, fully understand what she covers, and tie in your pitch to her beat. Don’t forget, some of her stories, like the example she shared, take over a year to develop and a strong angle will help your chances of working with her.
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