Today, on Coffee with a Journalist, we sit down with Erika Wheless of Digiday. At…
On this episode of Coffee with a Journalist, host, Beck Bamberger, sits down with Tomio Geron of Protocol. At Protocol, Tomio serves as a senior reproter covering technology with a focus on FinTech. During our conversation, Tomio dives into his takes on embargo pitches, the future of local journalism, and more.
Click below to listen to the full conversation and read below for highlights from the interview:
His Work Inbox
Beck Bamberger: Tell us how your inbox looks. How crazy is it in there?
Tomio Geron: Pretty crazy. I know it’s not cool to complain about it but, yeah, it’s pretty bad.
BB: It is pretty bad. How many pitches are in there daily would you say, hundreds?
TG: Yeah. Probably more than 100. Not necessarily all pitches but mix of different things.
BB: How do you go about organizing your inbox then?
TG: It’s a constant struggle, so I wish I was better at it.
It’s kind of just because there’s always different things going on, I’m usually just trying to figure out which is the most urgent ones to deal with right now and then deal with the rest later when I have time to go through them, which usually ends up being much later.”
BB: You kind of go from like an urgency perspective like, “Okay, is this a breaking pitch? Is this from my editor? Is this like who do I got to shuffle through first?”
TG: Yeah, basically. Because I have stories and then we’re doing newsletters that are happening a lot, so there’s always something pressing.
His Thoughts on Pitches
BB: Now, do you save pitches or are you one of those mass deleters?
TG: Well, sometimes I’ll save them and just flag them to look at later, but I don’t really have a good system of saving them in folders and stuff like that, which would be would be great.
BB: Very few people do.
TG: Yeah. Usually, just leave them in there. Then if in case I’m working on something about a certain topic, I can try to find it later.
BB: Got you. Okay. That makes sense, makes sense. Now, is there a pitch that you have received recently or we’ll take ever frankly that stands out to you that you’re like, “Wow, that was a standout pitch. Loved it and here’s why.”?
TG: I was thinking about this, and to be honest there have been some cold pitches out of the blue from a new startup that normally I would just ignore or not deal with.
But occasionally, I do get them from the CEO or founder who says, ‘Hey. I have this new startup. We’re doing X, and I thought you might be interested. Here’s one sentence about or two sentences about it.’ Sometimes, on top of that, it’s, ‘Oh, this VC suggested I reach out to you.’ That sometimes works.”
BB: That’s nice. It sounds like you’re saying like brief, succinct, quick. That’s what you’re looking for.
TG: Yeah. If it’s something that’s relevant to what I’m working on, that always helps but yeah. Then for me, it’s like I like hearing something from the founder directly because I feel like I get a better sense of like who that person is and what that company is about.
BB: Got you. Okay. I hope people are taking notes on this.
TG: I understand most CEOs aren’t able to do that. But if they are able to, I think it does make a difference.
BB: Do any of these pitches ever result in a story for you, or is that very rare?
TG: Yeah, it does occasionally. I was thinking about it. I did get a pitch last year. It was kind of out of left field but it was about a product that was about to be FDA-approved for a device that was coronavirus treatment-related. That was timely and interesting. Even though not something I’d normally cover, it was interesting and it was from the founder directly who I never even heard of before. But, yeah, it turned into a story.
BB: And that was from a pitch?
BB: Okay. So that does happen. Got you. Is that often or are you kind of like, “Yeah, once in a blue moon.”?
TG: Not too often because most of my stories are more I already know what I want to write about.
How He Writes Stories
BB: Speaking of, we’d like to talk about how do you come up with your ideas to make a great story. How do you go about thinking of a great story that you want to write?
TG: It’s a mix of different things. There are certain topics and companies that I’m interested in or big themes, so I’m kind of thinking about like how is the way people manage their money changing, how is the definition of what money is changing or different things like that. Then stories related to different companies come out of that. But the other half of it is just talking to a lot of VCs or founders or people in the industry about what they’re thinking about or what they’re hearing.
So it’s a mix of different things like things that I feel like should be covered and then just things that I hadn’t even thought about that people suggest.”
Pitches are part of that, but I feel like it’s kind of a pretty small percentage of that.
BB: But it could maybe spur some ideas.
TG: Yeah. Sometimes, randomly it will be related to what I’m doing.
BB: Gotcha. Okay.
BB: We actually have an audience ask, from Liz Mckenzie over at Canva, which I use all the time. She says here, “What’s the best way to approach work with you on a potential feature story?” She even threw in feature. What would you say?
TG: Yeah. Just send me the idea.
The shorter, the better. I just get a lot of pitches that are like 1,000 words long and I can’t even look at it. It’s just too much.”
BB: Are you kidding me? A thousand-word pitch? Who is writing a pitch that long?
TG: I don’t know. It’s just like everything about the company or –
BB: That’s horrible.
TG: Yeah. Just the shorter, the better, and why it’s really interesting, and why it’s unique. But, yeah, I’m definitely open to looking at those.
Tomio is not the only journalist with unique pet peeves. Hear more pet peeves from journalists at The Associated Press, Quartz, and TIME in our article, 7 Journalists on Pitching Pet Peeves. For more great 1:1 conversations with journalists from top-tier outlets, subscribe the Coffee with a Journalist podcast to get the latest episode drops. Also, follow us on Twitter for other updates on our newest PR tips, tools, and best practices.