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Coffee with a Journalist: Bailey Schulz, USA Today

Coffee With A Journalist: Bailey Schulz, USA Today

Our guest today on Coffee with a Journalist is Bailey Schulz. Bailey is a consumer news and money reporter for USA Today. She covers stories about travel, tech, and money specifically for consumers. Click to the right to follow Bailey Schulz on Twitter and LinkedIn.

During the episode, Bailey sheds light on the importance of keywords in pitches, why embargoes result in better quality stories, the right amount of time one should wait before sending her a follow-up, and more.

Click below to listen to the full conversation and read below for highlights from the interview:

Her Inbox & Pitches

[00:02:37] BB: Travel, tech, or money. Good topics. Bailey, how is your inbox?

[00:02:42] BS: Oh, my goodness. It’s always full, and I struggle to be that inbox zero.

[00:02:57] BB: I know. Isn’t that disappointing? You’re like, “Yes, I got it.” It’s like Friday, 4:00 PM. Then you turn around, you’re like, “Hmm, 10 more. Great.” Great. Good to see. Do you have a process in which you try to get to the zero? Or do you flag? Or do you folder stuff, pitches specifically?

[00:03:16] BS: My method is usually keep it unread as a reminder or a note to myself that it’s something I need to follow up on. So that’s sort of my method. I’m sure there are better ways to do it too, as far as flagging or folders. I do flag like some things of high importance, of course, as reminders but yeah. No. Like you said earlier, they just keep coming.

[00:03:39] BB: Yeah. Do you ever search, like use your inbox as your own personal search box, Google?

[00:03:47] BS: I do. Yeah. Whether that’s trying to find something, trying to find a person I’ve spoken to in the past or I have used to where if I’m writing a new topic to myself, and I’m like, “Oh, I think I got a pitch on this at some point in the past.” So I’ll search the keywords and see if there’s any pitches from, yeah, weeks or months past that would make sense.

[00:04:06] BB: This is something that has come up 100-plus times here on this show, which is making sure in your pitches you have keywords noted. If you’re not calling out, “Oh, a FinTech application,” or, obviously, app. Or a consumer product or something like that because so many journalists use their inbox as their own personal search field.

“So I’ll search the keywords and see if there’s any pitches from, yeah, weeks or months past that would make sense.”

[00:04:27] BS: Oh, 100%. Yeah. So I would say if I don’t give back to someone immediately, there’s always a chance I’ll get back eventually, if a lot of it is tiny. We all get pitches sometimes, and they’re not bad pitches, but it’s just nothing I’m working on or anyone on the team is working on, and just we don’t have the bandwidth at that point. But that’s not to say we won’t touch on a topic down the road at some point.

[00:04:49] BB: Then for going back to those pitches, is there like the longest pitch it took to get back to ever? Do you have like, “Oh, my God. 12 months later, I actually responded back to pitch.”? I’m just curious on that.

[00:05:02] BS: That’s a good question, where I think even with stories where I have done areas before, sometimes like these bigger projects, you just get sidetracked with shorter breaking news and so something – Sometimes, I’ll start an article, thinking I’ll be done a few weeks, and I’ll have to put it on the sidelines for a bit and come back to it in a few months. So there are times like that, where just some things just take a while.

 

Her Thoughts on Embargoes & Exclusives

[00:05:30] BB: Yeah, exactly. So you never know when you get that response from a journalist. Okay, Bailey, do you have subject lines that you love?

[00:05:41] BS: I do, though, the word that always gets me, of course – It doesn’t always make sense for me to follow up with it, but exclusives always get my interest, of course.

[00:05:50] BB: Okay. She likes exclusives. Okay. Now, what do you mean – But this is another hot topic on this show. What is exclusive to you in your definition?

“I would say the more time, the better, where I understand that things are usually moving quickly. Sometimes, you don’t have that much time to give a reporter. But, yeah, the longer, the better, just so we can have time to talk to editors, figure out and approach things.”

[00:06:01] BS: I’ve had things where sometimes we will get a head start on a report or news. But exclusive, for me, and the things I think could really make a difference, especially if it’s something that is in an area that interests me and interests our audience are those exclusives where we’re talking to people. Or we have some sort of information that no one else has. Anything that we think that will connect to our audience and help drive readers to our website and urge for a print version would be interesting to us.

[00:06:36] BB: Okay. This is good. Do you have a preferred amount of time you want to have an exclusive be your opportunity? For example, I pitched you today, and I say, “Hey, Bailey. I have an exclusive for you.” Do you want 24 hours to get back, 48 hours? You want a week to like pass on it or not because that’s the pressure publicists are so often under. Yeah.

[00:06:55] BS: I would say the more time, the better, where I understand that things are usually moving quickly. Sometimes, you don’t have that much time to give a reporter. But, yeah, the longer, the better, just so we can have time to talk to editors, figure out and approach things. Yeah. So I think you mentioned a week. That sounds great. I know that’s not always possible but –

[00:07:16] BB: Okay. A week-ish, yeah. That’s a long time but okay. But for you to pass on it, or you to write the piece? Just to clarify.

[00:07:24] BS: Yeah. That can include writing it as well. So I guess it kind of depends on whether or not that week is doing the reporting and the writing and the interviews. Or it’s just, “Oh, hey. Here’s this. You can think about for a week,” But –

[00:07:35] BB: Okay. Good to know. Good to know. Embargoes, are those ever of interest to you?

[00:07:40] BS: Yes, definitely, where I think, especially if we get something under embargo and, like I said, something that interests our readers and our audience, it’s always nice to get that sort of heads up to get the best reporting done in advance as possible. I think it just makes the stories better in the end when you can really think things through and get your approach to as much research as possible. So I’m a big fan of embargoes, where I think it has a better product at the end.

 

How She Writes Stories

[00:09:13] BB: Oh, God. Okay, Bailey, I love this quote that you got from an assistant professor at Miami University that says, “Every week, we have a new Tide pod challenge, a new NyQuil chicken, a new Blue Whale suicide challenge. I don’t even know Blue Whale suicide challenges. But the fact is this is absurd. So do you have a practice in which you get stories to your inbox or that you get on your author page?

“Sometimes, like I said, colleagues will tip me up or, “Oh, hey. I caught this thing. You should look into this.” Others are ideas that can come from just whatever is trending or what’s happening in the world.”

[00:09:38] BS: Oh, it’s a huge mix. Sometimes, like I said, colleagues will tip me up or, “Oh, hey. I caught this thing. You should look into this.” Others are ideas that can come from just whatever is trending or what’s happening in the world. Yeah. Others are just breaking news, where things happen, and you have to jump in and cover it. So it’s a huge mix.

[00:10:26] BB: For breaking news pieces because we don’t have so many people on breaking news that come on here, are you just waiting for the ball to be handed to you from an editor?

[00:10:35] BS: For some things. I am not as involved in breaking news as other people at USA Today. Occasionally, there are big topics, like we’ve been doing a lot of the Elon Musk Twitter coverage lately. So when things evolve there. The day-to-day for me is not always breaking news.

 

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Learn more pitch tips and insights from previous guests on Coffee with a Journalist in our journalist spotlight videos available for free on YouTube.

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Jered is the co-founder, COO and support manager at OnePitch. He handles operations for OnePitch; along with strategy, support, business development and hiring. He studied Communications with an emphasis in marketing at Cal State University Long Beach. In his free time, he enjoys surfing, eating cheap street food, cooking, and exploring the outdoors.

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