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Coffee With A Journalist: Rob Pegoraro, Fast Company

Coffee with a Journalist: Rob Pegoraro, Fast Company

On Episode 23 of the Coffee with a Journalist podcast, host Beck Bamberger sits down with Rob Pegoraro, freelance tech writer and contributor for publications including Fast Company and USA Today. Robe writes about consumer technology to inform and educate his audience. In their conversation, Beck and Rob dive into Rob’s busy inbox, how he craft stories that make the technological digestible, and hist concerns for the future of journalism funding!

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


His Work Inbox

Beck:

Let’s start with your inbox. By the way, we note, too, for everybody listening, you’ve got a great Twitter following, so I’m sure it’s busy on there with people DMing you there. But, how does your inbox look, in terms of pitches?

Rob:

It’s pretty busy. It’s cluttered. Unfortunately, I’ve been doing this a while so I know that there’s going to be some amount of email coming in that is about things that could be interesting, products, services, apps, gadgets, whatever. But, I’m just not going to be able to get around to that. And then there’s others, if I think it’s interesting I’ll click that little button to flag it for follow-up, or star it if it’s the Gmail app on my phone.

Rob:

And then, I try to go back to that group of flagged messages, and remember to do something about them.

Beck:

Got it. Are you an inbox zero person?

Beck:

Okay, clearly not.

Rob:

No. If I can get to unread zero, that’s great. But yeah, no, no, no.

Beck:

Yeah, okay. Yeah, I’m an unread zero, but I’m definitely not a zero. There’s I don’t know, 75,000 emails or something. I never erase anything. Oh, man.

Beck:

Okay, with the flag. Then, with emails that are pitches, are you reading every single pitch?

Rob:

I do, I at least read it. If its obvious spam, then I’ll delete it. If it’s off-topic, if its from some group that I know is not queued into the same reality that I’m in, there are all sorts of advocacy groups out there. I’ll look at the subject line, and then just move onto the next thing.

How He Writes Stories

Beck:

Yeah, what a time. Let’s go into how you make a story come to light. For instance, you were talking in one of your recent articles about LastPass, and how people are horrible at even creating passwords even though you got no excuse. This stuff is free. What is your excuse not to have a good password, and recycle all the ones that you have? How does a story like that come to be?

Rob:

Password managers, this was one I’ve been trying to beat this drum for a long time, because I’ve seen so much bad advice handed out. The discussion always gets warped because you’re always going to have somebody saying, “Well, if somebody gets that one password, then they’re going to roll over all your accounts.” My answer is, “What is your threat model? If a nation state attacker is after you, then maybe a password manager isn’t right for you.”

Beck:

Yeah.

Rob:

But then, you shouldn’t be getting advice from me, at all.

Beck:

Yeah.

Rob:

You need to level up. For most people, the problem is not that someone is going to try to crack an encrypted records on the password manager server that they can’t get to at all, that nobody else can get to, that if you forget your password is gone. The risk is that they won’t use the password manager, they’ll reuse those passwords. Once one of those accounts gets compromised, the password gets posted somewhere. People can then take those credentials and go on a credential stuffing run, and help themselves to a lot of useful data and whatnot about you.

Beck:

And that story, how were you, “Hey, I’ve got to write something on this, this is bubbling up?” Did it, for example, come from a pitch?

Rob:

No. Most of the security stuff I write about, it’s more often … For instance, USA Today, I do what it is essentially a tech support column. I’m trying to remember when I last wrote about password managers, maybe this means that this should be my next column.

Beck:

Maybe.

Rob:

It’s a question I get from a reader, or something I see people ask about on Twitter or something in the news. That’s really the result of a pitch, and maybe a case that a pitch will connect me with somebody who can shed some light on this. But, the actual idea for the story is more, one way or another, I come across a problem people are having using technology. And then it becomes, what can I do to help with that?

His Thoughts on Pitching

Beck:

Got it. Then, it’s sounding like more the utility of any pitches, for you, is more subject matter expert that you can tap, for further?

Rob:

Yes.

Beck:

Yeah.

Rob:

I’m always looking for people who can speak intelligently, and concisely, and on a short timetable, about the stuff that I’m trying to understand as well.

Beck:

Got it. Hence, your flagging mechanism that you flag some people for stuff, got it.

Beck:

What would you constitute as succinctly, for people who are going to do quotes for you?

Rob:

There is a balance, because … Last year, almost exactly at this time, I was at Black Hat and DEF CON, really emerged in some high-level security presentations, and it’s fascinating to see how this stuff works. But then, you need to be able to break it down to people. And again, bear in mind the level of expertise people have, and their own threat model, and not give advice that is not relevant to that context.

Beck:

Yeah. So it needs to be digestible, and quotable. We can’t have 17 pages.

Rob:

Shorter sentences, people have a good grasp for the metaphor that will get across how this particular thing works, that’s always good.

Beck:

Oh, okay. Maybe that’s a hint or tip for folks, to think of it how you could even explain something in a digestible metaphor. Especially for something like USA Today, that’s a wide audience, a general audience.

Rob:

Very lightly where my editor will say, “Rob, this is kind of in the weeds.”

Beck:

Oh, it’s kind of in the weeds, got it. oh, I love that phrase, that’s fun.

Beck:

Okay. Then, is there any other use that you get out of pitches, would you say?

Rob:

Sometimes, if it’s time-sensitive information, if there’s a study coming out and I can get an embargoed look at it and it says something useful.

______

Like Rob, many tech journalists are covering the latest tech innovations affecting our everyday lives. One place that has seen drastic changes has been in education technology. Check out our article 5 Journalists to Follow on Twitter: EdTech Edition to learn more about 5 journalists that will keep you in the know on all things EdTech! 

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Mathew Cruz

Mathew started at OnePitch in January of 2020 as a Marketing Apprentice. At OnePitch, he handles 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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