This week on Coffee with a Journalist we’re joined by Nate DiCamillo from Quartz. Nate is an economics reporter at Quartz and previously reported for CoinDesk and American Banker. It’s also important to mention that although Crypto is not his main focus, it’s definitely still part of his beat. Click below to follow Nate DiCamillo on Twitter and LinkedIn.
During the episode, Nate talks about his shift in coverage for Quartz vs CoinDesk, the specifics and importance of data that he looks for in pitches, the proper timeline for embargoes, 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: Quite the different time now. Nate, how is your inbox now that you’ve been at Quartz for like about a year, almost a year coming up? We’re almost filming this in or filming this – Taping this in October. So it’s been a year. How’s your inbox?
[00:02:44] ND: It’s definitely better than it was when I was at CoinDesk. I mean, the amount of the crypto pitches you get. You won’t believe that different kinds of like applications that people want to use blockchain for. So the ones I’m getting now are – It’s much less. It’s just also a mix of econ and some crypto that just some people have found me from my old beat.
[00:03:10] BB: Do they still assume or think, “Oh, you’re writing crypto. So let me just keep everything updated with that.”
[00:03:15] ND: Yeah, and they’re correct. Like I’ll still write about regulation and crypto, but the main focus is econ.
“Or it’s a little bit harder for me because just as much as like I do care about like telling stories on the micro scale and getting examples of individual companies that are illustrating like broad trends. Because I’m so focused on macro, there’s like a desire to also like get experts who are able to talk macro, and we’re a little bit steeped in research.”
[00:05:30] BB: Yeah. I’d say so. I have to nerd out a little bit because I’m in – I was an econ major and graduated with economics degree. So I love some econ. So this is totally my jam. Okay. So Nate, you said your inbox is better than what it was when you were at CoinDesk. How do you organize the pitches that come to you, if at all?
[00:05:51] ND: A lot of times, I have probably a little bit of a bias towards anyone that is sharing economists who’s like recently published research on something that I’m very interested in and anything where someone has sent me an interesting data set, where it’s like very clear where this is coming from, for one, and like what the sample sizes of the data, how the data compared to like official statistics. If your data is inflation data, is it like – How often does it track CPI? How correlated is it to like other official indicators?
That stuff is like really high on my list when it comes in. The rest, if it’s like unclear where this data is coming from, what the sample size is, or like what it correlates to, what it means, or if it’s just like kind of there’s this trend, and we have this expert who’s going to speak on that trend, but they really shouldn’t be speaking on this trend because like they don’t have like – They’re not really involved in this or they’re just, I don’t know, a random executive that has an opinion on this thing, without doing a lot of research.
Or it’s a little bit harder for me because just as much as like I do care about like telling stories on the micro scale and getting examples of individual companies that are illustrating like broad trends. Because I’m so focused on macro, there’s like a desire to also like get experts who are able to talk macro, and we’re a little bit steeped in research. Or to get data that somehow like they actually understand or it can relate to something else that I understand.
[00:07:32] BB: So are you saying you get just too many pitches of people saying, “Oh, I have a thought leader who can comment generally about the world.”? Is that some of what you get, and there’s no qualifications?
[00:07:45] ND: Yeah, yeah. Then that really needs to like – Yeah. That’s where I wish that –
[00:07:50a] BB: That’s a struggle.
[00:07:51] ND: Yeah. It is a struggle, and I wish public relations professionals, whether they’re in-house or an agency, would look at the person that they’re representing and be like, “Okay,” and kind of like talk to them a little bit more about what their qualifications are and then figure out more of like how those qualifications might serve a journalist on their beat.
His Thoughts on the Perfect Pitch
[00:08:13] BB: Okay. So for you, what’s a good pitch? What maybe three elements does it have?
[00:08:19] ND: I mean, if it’s a pitch for a source, definitely kind of like what their qualifications are up top. What maybe is – Especially like any research that they’ve done is really valuable, as well as kind of like how they might provide an angle that’s a little bit more interesting than like just, generally, there’s a problem. Like there’s inflation or there’s this and there’s that. We know basically kind of like what the biggest pain points are in the economy. So kind of like how are you kind of breaking that down.
If you’re not – If it’s not an economist and someone specifically within an industry, like tell me what that industry is going through is –
[00:09:00] BB: How it’s relevant.
[00:09:01] ND: Yeah. How it’s relevant to the kind of global economy, which is what I’m trying to do every day. So if you already told me, then you’ve helped me out a little bit. So then if it’s data, especially like a lot of pitches I’ll get is on data. If that –
[00:09:17] BB: That’s already like out there.
[00:09:20] ND: Yeah. It’s often like private data that a company is producing. Or like our company does X, and so we can tell you about this like so. Give me kind of like – Okay, so how many customers are you collecting this data from? Or transactions are you collecting this data from? Then like does that data, when you like work with it regularly, does it correlate to like government indicators at all? Like when we – Because government indicators are like super broad. They captured a ton of data, and then they get revised a bunch.
So at the end of all those revisions and everything, when you look at your data and the government data, like how well did your data like kind of predict what was going to happen? It’s stuff that I’m like very interested. So like also tell me what the correlation is. It would help.
His Thoughts on Exclusives & Embargoes
[00:10:41] BB: Oh, yeah. Okay. Then for you, Nate, I’m thinking that exclusives or embargoes wouldn’t be too – Well, maybe embargoes. What’s your thoughts on exclusive or embargoes?
[00:10:52] ND: So here I have a ton of comments based on my like crypto reporting days because –
[00:10:58] BB: Tell us. Tell us everything.
[00:11:00] ND: Yeah, very scoopy.
[00:11:01] BB: Very scoopy?
[00:11:02] ND: Yes. So this was – CoinDesk –
“…very open to like introductory interviews with folks who have like a deep understanding of their individual industries.”
[00:11:07] BB: Yeah. Get the scoops.
[00:11:09] ND: They kind of try to be like the Bloomberg of crypto in a way. But the thing is that like PR professionals in the crypto industry specifically, I feel like some of them were just like amazing and did not struggle with this at all. But like the majority would struggle with this kind of like offering an embargo and a really short timeline being like, “Here’s a press release. And by the way, this is embargoed for like 24 hours from now.”
The problem with that, especially when you’re covering like a nascent space like crypto, is like, okay, so you have this company news. In order for me to write about it, because I’m not like – My function in life is not to like turn over things for companies, to turn over –
“Definitely, kind of embargoes that are very quick and like short notice don’t help or don’t make reporters want to actually write about that company. It just makes us feel pressed.”
[00:11:53] BB: Yeah. It’s not. No.
[00:11:55] ND: My function is to go and try to understand kind of – Especially in a more business reporting role, like what your company is doing, what it means within the history of this industry, and then also kind of like what it means for your company going forward or the industry going forward. So in order to do that, like often you have to go and talk to analysts within the industry or competitors or other people about like kind of whatever the development is. If you say like, “Here’s a 24-hour notice for a press release,” it doesn’t really give a journalist time to kind of like dig into these things.
I remember working on a story where I was like – If I recall correctly, it was kind of like negotiating for a longer lead time on it with the PR person, just because it had to do with the companies kind of connecting to nuclear micro reactors. That is just like something that I was like, “I need some physicists to tell me what is going on here?” Because this is way above whatever I –
[00:13:01] BB: This is way above, way above.
[00:13:04] ND: Tokenomics or blockchain. Now, we’re talking about a different beat. Is this actually going to work in this? Stuff like that, especially if you want your company to get a lot of press and for people to understand what your company that you’re representing does. Definitely, kind of embargoes that are very quick and like short notice don’t help or don’t make reporters want to actually write about that company. It just makes us feel pressed.
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