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On Episode 18 of Coffee with a Journalist, host Beck Bamberger talks with Joshua Pinkay, Obvious Magazine Senior Editor. At Obvious Magazine, Josh covers fashion, lifestyle, and beauty, all through the lens of human interest and culture highlighting people and their greater social impact. Additionally, Joshua serves as Senior Editor at SoCal Magazine covering food, festivals, and lifestyle. During their talk, Joshua and Beck dive into his meticulous system for managing pitches for his various beats, his view on how a pitch can give insight into the story-crafting relationship between him and the publicist, and his journey to balance writing content during turbulent times.
Click below to listen to the full conversation and read below for highlights from the interview:
His Work Inbox
Beck: So what do you do to manage those? Are you like, I check it every single hour, both of them? I go on there once a day and spend three and a half hours. What do you do?
Joshua: It’s more so, it’s like, what would be next after once a day? Because I would drive myself crazy if I’m on it every day. Mind you, my writing is separate to my actual work. I do PR and marketing.
Joshua: And so I would get nothing done if I was in my inboxes, because I am pitched daily. But I do make it a point to go through all of those emails weekly and prioritize what needs to get pitched, what needs to be thrown in a bin, what I want to proceed with. Yeah.
Beck: Yes. And do you have a process for that? I know some people are starers. Some people are folders. What’s your process for that?
Joshua: I’m a labeler.
Beck: Oh, you label. Okay. Okay, so how do you label? Like, followup now?
Joshua: So like with Gmail, I create labels and I categorize them by different categories. So for example, I do a better job at this with my SoCal email. But for that one, I’ll categorize it by events, hair products, skin products, music, food. And then I’ll do sub categories, like food, restaurants, drinks, so wine and spirits, et cetera. And it’s very tedious, honestly, but I’m so… I don’t know, I’m just so obsessive in that way. I want to be sure that if I’m looking specifically for what I need to look for, I know that it’s got to be labeled. And so then I’ll just go through those labels individually, and then I’ll say, okay, well, this definitely needs to be written about this new skincare product I love. I’m going to review it. They sent it to me. Whereas, there might be another product that just didn’t really resonate with me. And so then I’ll can it.
Beck: Yeah. Got you. And you were saying every day you’re getting pitches. How many? Hundreds?
Joshua: Thankfully, not hundreds. No. I’d say a few dozen.
Beck: Sounds about right. I love that. You’re the first person I’ve talked to on this that does labeling as militantly as you do.
Joshua: I was a publicist for six years, and so I learned that by labeling my different clients it helped me stay so much more organized in that sense. It ended up working out that system worked for me. And then I color code them too.
Beck: Oh! Can you send us a picture for this? I want to see. I want to see.
Joshua: I will absolutely send you a screenshot so you can see. It might change your life.
Beck: Seriously. This is the most elaborate process I’ve heard. Color-coded labeling for pitches, both inboxes. Wow. Gold star. Gold star for you.
Joshua: Thank you.
His Thoughts on Pitching
Beck: Then with all those pitches you’re getting, so now I’m going back to the inbox. But with those pitches you’re getting, is it in order to sort and label and all that good stuff. Is it the subject line that can hook you? Do you read the whole pitch and then go, okay, that is definitely a story, it has those elements, I want to do something? What gets you to respond to a pitch? Especially if someone doesn’t know you.
Joshua: Good subject line is always good. Now, granted, I am one of those editors who will absolutely go through every email.
Beck: Oh you do.
Joshua: I do. Even if the subject line doesn’t totally call to me, I’ll open it and I’ll skim. And if it’s not something I want, then I’ll can it. But, subject line has definitely been a factor in me being like, oh, I know I’m going to want to read this. And then when it comes to that, I pay attention. Because I get pitched by a lot of publicists, mainly. Seeing as how I was a publicist for six years, I understand the pitching process.
Beck: Yes, you do.
Joshua: I’m sensitive to it, in the best way possible. I want to pay attention to, is this person doing a good job at representing their client? How easy are they making it for the editor to understand what that person or product is trying to sell, or what messaging they’re trying to convey? And what access I have, as an editor, to get the resources I need. Do I have the images necessary? Is there a link provided to the person or product’s website? How well did they craft a press release, or the pitch itself? All of that matters. Because ultimately, if I read all of that, and if I’m inspired enough, you’re helping me craft the story as I read.
Joshua: You know? And so that’s a big factor there.
How He Writes Stories
Beck: I’m going to have to do the inbox awards or something like that. Oh, okay. So then with all those pitches, and when you think of the stories you’ve got to do, obviously you have, well, you have a wide array of what you’re covering for both outlets. How are you sussing out the story you want to make? What does it take to make a story?
Joshua: So there’s two approaches. For SoCal magazine I pay attention to my audience and who’s reading my stuff. And in all honesty, I don’t speak to a luxury audience. I like products and items that are accessible. I like experiences that are accessible, because I think that’s the wider audience. So that definitely is a factor in what I choose to feature. I want to speak to real people. And so if I’m offering, or writing about luxury items that most people can’t afford or probably would never get, it doesn’t immediately resonate with me. I’m not really so inclined to feature it.
Joshua: And then when it comes to OBVIOUS Magazines, since I focus more on the human interest side of things there, pitch me all you want. Tell me that you’re a great actress or that you are a singer, or that you’re this or you’re that. But I need to see another layer to that. I need to see another layer to your talent. What is your talent doing? Or what are you doing, rather, to create some form of social impact? How are you changing the world, even if it’s just in your community? I need to see that aspect, because we glorify all of these celebrities and these influencers, and that’s great and all that, I never want to take away from that. But I need to see the layer of how you’re giving back.
For more insight into lifestyle journalism, listen to our last episode with Macy Williams, Senior Shopping Editor at PopSugar. Hear her discuss her 3 content buckets for creating stories, the importance of PR relationships in her coverage, and her tips for aspiring journalists from an intern-turned-senior-editor.
Also, stay up to date on the latest episode releases and be sure to subscribe to the Coffee with a Journalist podcast! Each week, we sit down to talk with journalists from the world’s leading publications to gain insight into their storytelling processes, their predictions for the future of journalism, and everything in between!