Our guest this week on Coffee with a Journalist is Jake Kleinman from Inverse. Jake is the deputy editor at Inverse where he oversees features, special issues, and recurring columns and franchises. He also writes regularly about movies and television. Click below to follow Jake Kleinman on Twitter and LinkedIn.
During the episode, Jake talks about the primary use of his inbox with over 90K unread emails, how he works with both PR pros and freelance writers, his advice for working with sources, and more.
Click below to listen to the full conversation and read below for highlights from the interview:
His Inbox & Pitches
[00:02:30] BB: Yes. There’s lots of entities owned under the whole Bustle Group so good to know, Jake, how is your inbox with pitches?
[00:02:39] JK: I knew this was just coming. Yeah, it’s not great.
[00:02:42] BB: Yeah. Oh, you knew it was coming. Yes, absolutely.
[00:02:43] JK: I’m pretty bad. I mean, I’m not inbox zero person at all. I checked earlier today, I’m at about 90k unread.
“But I’m probably relying more on either people being persistent if it matters, or the Gmail, I guess, artificial intelligence kind of telling me what I should care about, the notifications and sort of like prompts and stuff, so that I can catch the stuff that really matters.”
[00:02:51] BB: Oh shoot. That’s not a record on this show, though, by the way. Just to be clear.
[00:02:57] JK: I think the problem is I get probably like hundreds of hundreds of emails every day, so it’s just really hard to keep up. A lot of them are not personalized, huge PR blasts, not really relevant to what I’m doing. My instinct is to ignore it. I do scan my inbox a few times a day, at least, just to see if anything important comes through. But I’m probably relying more on either people being persistent if it matters, or the Gmail, I guess, artificial intelligence kind of telling me what I should care about, the notifications and sort of like prompts and stuff, so that I can catch the stuff that really matters.
[00:03:35] BB: Now, of those pitches, what percentage are pitches for your inbox, which has the unwieldy number of unread inboxes?
[00:03:44] JK: I think, I mean it’s the vast majority. I would say it’s probably about 90%. I don’t really use Gmail, or I don’t really use email that much for sort of interoffice communication. We use Slack for all that, unless it’s like a really important announcement, it’s not happening on email within work. Sometimes if I’m like trying to hire for someone, recruiting, that’ll be on email, so that becomes important. But otherwise, really me responding to various pitches or me emailing PR people and sort of asking for help with articles.
“But my focus is primarily on putting together bigger packages, bigger issues, columns, features, that kind of stuff. If someone has a pitch that connects to one of those buckets, it’s perfect for me.”
[00:04:14] BB: And as editor, I think this is something for us to distinguish here as we’ve had more and more editors on here by the way. I don’t know if people completely, especially publicist, get the distinction of deputy editor, versus editor, versus how much you’re writing. You’re a pretty active writer, but how would you crystallize for people who just might want to understand more specifically for your role, how much of the writing or how much should they be pitching you versus writers on your team?
[00:04:40] JK: Sure. Yeah. I think a title of deputy editor sort of changes depending on where you are. I do read a lot; I really enjoy it. I also used to be the entertainment editor, so I’m sort of the connection and I write a fair amount when I want to about various shows and movies. But my focus is primarily on putting together bigger packages, bigger issues, columns, features, that kind of stuff. If someone has a pitch that connects to one of those buckets, it’s perfect for me. I just got plenty of pitches that are more specific, and I’ll usually just sort of forward those along to the right editor, or respond and be like, “You should really email the gaming editor about this and tag them at that point.”
His Thoughts on Subject Lines
[00:06:15] BB: Yes. Okay. Do you have by the way, any great subject lines of late that you love?
[00:06:20] JK: Yeah, I have a couple.
[00:06:22] BB: Okay. Do share, do share. You don’t need to say the names and everything, but yeah, we love examples.
[00:06:27] JK: One that I got recently that I’m still sort of going back and forth on was about the Netflix show Cobra Kai, which I’m a huge fan of. The subject line was just, can’t get enough of Cobra Kai, Ralph Macchio’s memoir is out in October.” That’s just very clear. It wasn’t personalized. I think they sent to a lot of people. But as, maybe they knew that I was a fan. I’ve written about it a lot. Ralph Macchio’s a big name. So my instinct was like, “Yes, I love. This is perfect for me. I’m going to a click on it.” Then, I’ve been talking with the PR people about potentially setting up an interview. That one sort of got right to the point, and yeah, a lot of proper nouns is great.
“Do I like a follow up? Yeah, I think just a follow up. I think, especially like I said earlier, sometimes I miss stuff if someone’s pitch really helps.”
[00:06:27] BB: Okay. A lot of proper nouns, excellent. Okay. Is there may be an opposite example where you’re like, “Oh God, I just – no, hard no”, like you’re almost angry at a pitch?
[00:07:14] JK: I didn’t sort of go through any of those. I’d say like, anything that’s very clearly, just not for me. If I see the word – if I see metaverse or crypto, I’m just like, “We don’t cover that.” I’m not interested enough to click on it. I will also say, sometimes people misspell my name, which you think it’s a pretty common name.
[00:07:33] BB: What? It’s Jake.
[00:07:35] JK: Well, the Jason’s or Jay. I’m like, “Well, this is not worth my time.” Yeah, it happens.
His Thoughts on Exclusives & Embargoes
[00:11:03] BB: Do you ever like an exclusive or embargo?
[00:11:06] JK: Yeah, I’m a fan of that. Embargoes are great because it makes things easier for us, whether it’s on the science side. A lot of the studies that come out are embargoes. As opposed to everyone, basically with an embargo, you don’t have to write it as fast as humanly possible to beat everyone to the punch. We know when it’s coming, we can plan ahead. We can get the article out at the same time as like the New York Times and not stress about it. On the other hand, it’s great too. You see a movie, and you want to review it. You don’t have to literally like write the review on the subway ride home because the embargo was a week later. It’s great.
[00:11:41] BB: Okay, so embargoes, yes. Exclusives, do those ever happen?
[00:11:44] JK: Yeah, occasionally. I think that we’ve gotten a few over the years and sometimes some of them we push for. A little bit rarer, but yeah, if it’s a good one, I’m all for it.
“At Inverse, like I said, my focus is very much been on entertainment. When I have the time to write, that’s what I’m sort of the most keyed into here.”
[00:11:52] BB: For you, what’s – just to clarify, because that seems to be a hot topic all the time. What is an exclusive?
[00:11:59] JK: I would say, it’s something that we can publish and no one else is publishing at the same time. Sometimes there’s a time that’s exclusive. We might be able to publish it a few hours before everyone else gets it. Or sometimes, it’s actually like, okay, only you are going to talk to this person and that’s even better. Either of those is fine by me, as long as it’s laid out. I’ve had a few experiences where you think it’s exclusive, but then it’s not really exclusive and that can be frustrating. Like other people have the same interview. I also had experiences with embargoes, where you think the embargo is at a certain time, but like some other side got the exclusive and they’re publishing it before we do. That’s always pretty frustrating.
[00:12:34] BB: Yeah. Oh, oh, oh. What happens then for you?
[00:12:39] JK: I mean, there’s not much you can do. I’ll give you one example, where there was a movie trailer coming out, and the PR people that emailed us a couple days ahead of time and said it’s going to come out at whatever noon. Here’s an early link you can write something so you’ll be ready to go when the trailer comes out. Then some other site published the trailer like three hours earlier. I emailed the PR people and I was like, “What’s happening here? Did they break the embargo?” Turned out that other side had an exclusive, but they said basically, you could just write about it. You just like take their trailer, and it’s fine. It’s all good. But it was a little frustrating.
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