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Coffee With A Journalist: Kate Clark, The Information

Coffee with a Journalist: Kate Clark, The Information

In episode 27 of the Coffee with a Journalist podcast, San Francisco-based journalist Kate Clark sits down with host Beck Bamberger to discuss her career and current work at The Information as a reporter covering startups and venture capital. During her interview, Kate breaks down her story-crafting process talking with founders and VCs, her inbox-zero email maintenance, and the shifts in publication funding amid a changing journalism landscape.

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

Her Work Inbox

Beck:

Okay. All right. Up your snob level on the coffee beans. Okay. Well, sounds good. Well, one thing we like to always start with, Kate, is just, what’s your inbox like? Tell us what’s in there.

Kate:

My inbox is so much more manageable since I left TechCrunch. That I will say. It’s still a full of a lot of… It’s mostly full of fundraising round pitches, and then a little bit of ‘how we survived COVID’ pitches, which I feel like, yeah, those aren’t the best and it’s a little late at this point for those stories. I think we moved past that pretty fast. But yeah, it’s a lot of that and a lot of random pitches from people all over the country actually, emerging VC ecosystems, which is interesting, but I really only cover Silicon Valley so I can’t really do much with those.

Beck:

Yeah. With pitches, are you one of those folks who reads every single one or you just delete, mass delete? You get to inbox zero.

Kate:

I do mass delete. I do not read every single one. I look for keywords. If it’s a company I recognize, of course, I will read it. If it’s a person I recognize, I will always read it. But I definitely mass delete. I was just doing that, actually, before…

Beck:

Hopping on this?

Kate:

I still have 25 emails that I got to delete, though. Because I’m definitely an inbox zero person. I just feel much better when I have one or two emails versus a thousand.

Beck:

Oh, me too.

Kate:

I don’t know how people survive with that.

How She Writes Stories

Beck:

Well, we’re going to talk in a little bit about what you think the future of journalism is about, but we’re going to get there. We’re going to get there. Let’s chat on just how you come about making a great story. So for instance, you just did recently this Y Combinator CEO profile about the crisis, the critics, et cetera. I mean, per what you just said, it’s in-depth articles and you’re like, “You’re not going to find this on CNBC,” for example. You’re just not because it’s so in-depth. How do you get the spark of the idea to do the story and what happens from there?

Kate:

I think it’s different. I mean, there’s probably a few different ways it happens. One way it happens is, and this is probably the most common, is I talk to investors and founders and the people in the ecosystem. I just chat with them, not on the record, just chit chat. I mean, that’s usually where my ideas come from. They’ll say something like, “I noticed this thing and it’s really weird,” and I’ll be like, “Oh, that’s weird.” Or they’ll just say like, “Oh, did you hear this company raised a billion dollars? It’s crazy.” And I’ll be like, “Oh wow. That’s something I should probably look into.” That’s the best kinds, the easiest for me, if they just say something. Other times, it’s just… I don’t know. With the Y Combinator, I have covered Y Combinator for a long time and I knew I was interested myself in hearing from Michael Seibel, how they were navigating remote.

So that was just I wanted to do it and just pitched it to my editors and sold them on the idea. So I think it’s a combination of just me having my own interests in tech and startups and then just talking constantly to sources and in the VC world.

Beck:

Probably from those conversations, I find this to be true. Something just falls out, trickles out and you’re like, “Hm. Interesting.”

Kate:

Yeah. Yeah. Generally, you can always get one idea. I mean, even if it’s a boring conversation, you can still usually get an idea. And then the best conversations, the best sources, you’ll come out of a conversation, even just 20-minute conversation, with five or six potential stories. Yeah, that’s when I fall into it. There’s a lot of peaks and valleys, I think, in reporting, where some weeks I have so many stories I am either working on or could be working on. And then sometimes, even right now, actually I think going into a holiday weekend, I have noticed it’s been a little slower. I haven’t been hearing as much. I’m not talking to as many people and probably when I get back-

Beck:

It’ll be an onslaught. Yeah.

Kate:

Yeah. Next week I’ll probably be like, “Okay, I need to start fresh and reach out to some people and see what’s going on.”

Beck:

Got it. So yeah, just chatting, chatting, chatting with people.

Her Thoughts on the Future of Journalism

Beck:

Damn. They’re good. Yeah. Highly recommend. Okay. You touched on this a little bit earlier before. What do you think the future journalism is looking like?

Kate:

I think newsletters is the first thing that comes to mind. So I do… I mean, everybody seems to be talking about this lately. They think that top reporters at certain outlets are going to leave and do their own thing. Taylor Lorenz is a great example. I think people expect she’s going to start her own newsletter, which would be a subscription model and she would make money as an independent. I have no idea whether that’s something she even wants to do, but-

Beck:

Well, Polina from Term Sheet did that.

Kate:

Yes, she did do that and she’s done a phenomenal job. I don’t subscribe to her-

Beck:

The Profile.

Kate:

The Profile, but I’ve read it a little bit because I think she sometimes puts out a free version and I mean, I’ve only heard amazing things about it. So I think that’s a great example. I know that she did tweet at one point. I think she said she was making more money already than she had previously.

Beck:

Yeah, I think she mentioned that too. I do get The Profile and I do pay whatever it is or something for it, but yeah, it seems to be in trend right now for folks to do this.

Kate:

I think that’s a big… I mean, that’s really probably the biggest shift. I don’t think that as many people are going to actually do that as others think. I do think a lot of reporters do want to work with legacy brands or even more new additions like The Information, just because of the credibility associated, especially if you’re building out your career still like I am. But yeah, so that. And then, I mean, of course, subscription models. You’ve seen everyone shift to subscription, like Fortune. I used to read Fortune all the time and I’m not a subscriber because I have a lot of other subscriptions and it’s just not a priority. So now I don’t read it at all, but I think it’s great. I mean, I’m so all for the pivot to subscription because I understand how that works and it’s necessary. But yeah, I mean, you’ve seen that happen in the last, I’d say, maybe a year or two years.

I don’t know. I mean, I think we’ve seen a lot of media companies really struggle and some have folded and I think hopefully the worst of the COVID-related layoffs in media are done. I mean, we don’t know what’s coming, but I hope that we start to see more new companies. The 19th is a new nonprofit journalism company. Yeah. I mean, they’re doing amazing. They had Megan Markle on their virtual conference a couple of weeks ago. They’re killing it. So that’s really, really cool to see, too.

_______

Olivia is not the only journalist maneuvering the changes in the industry. Check out our episode, Coffee with a Journalist: Rob Pegoraro, Fast Company, where frequent Fast Company contributor Rob Pegoraro discusses crafting stories from subject-matter-experts, embracing your entrepreneurial spirit as an independent journalist, and more! Be sure to follow us on Twitter and subscribe to our podcast for the newest news and alerts on the latest blog and episode drops!

Mathew Cruz

Mathew started at OnePitch in January of 2020 as a Marketing Apprentice. He currently serves as the SEO & Content Marketing Specialist handling content creation from social media to the OnePitch blog. Mathew studied Integrated Marketing Communications at San Diego State University. In his free time, he loves creating art, visiting museums, and traveling.

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