Today, on Coffee with a Journalist, we sit down with Erika Wheless of Digiday. At…
On today’s episode Alejandro Alba from NowThis joins our host, Beck Bamberger, on Coffee with a Journalist. Alejandro and Beck go into detail about the video he hosts and products for NowThis News, when and how his journalism career started, his love for travel and more.
Alejandro Alba has a wide array of knowledge when it comes to tech reporting and media relations. He is currently a host and editorial producer for NowThis, which focuses on all things tech. He has previously been a freelance writer for Gizmodo Media Group where he focused on blog writing and a Culture of Technology Reporter for Vocativ where he pitched and wrote stories for their “Dark Net.”
Getting His First Job in Journalism
Beck: So, how did you get your first job at the New York Daily News? Well, how did you even get to New York? What was this about?
Alejandro: So, yeah. So, Buzzfeed was in between that. So, I went to London. I was there for six months, although, of course, six months felt like a really long time, which I love. I was trying to stay there longer. That didn’t work out. And then, I came back, and I really had a internship lined up at Washington, so, I was in D.C. for five months working for Scripps Howard. And, I was reporting from The White House a lot, whether it was the Press Room, like the Briefing Room, or I was at, like, in some event within The White House.
Beck: So, you were in The White House? Hanging out?
Alejandro: Yeah. It was pretty surreal.
Beck: Wow! What’s it like?
Alejandro: It was cool. I mean, I’m sure now, it’s very different.
Beck: Okay. So, you were there during Obama’s Administration?
Alejandro: I was, yeah. I was there during the Obama Administration. It was very surreal, because there were events where you were in the East Room, and Michelle comes out with Janelle Monae, or, you know, they have, like, two Olympians that they’re giving them awards or veterans that have done so many amazing things for this country and you’re there with a bunch of elite journalists that everyone knows. And, you’re like, a student like, Oh, I have a question, you know. It’s just… it was an amazing experience. And, yeah.
Beck: Did you ever raise your hand to say, “Hey, I got a question in the back!”?
Alejandro: I didn’t… so, that’s the thing. Like, you may raise your hand. Will you be called upon? Maybe not! But yeah, I was able to ask a question once or twice. So, yeah, it was an amazing experience. And, you know, even though I’m not in politics now, I mean, every now and then, there’s a lot of crossovers and I’ve done some political coverage. But, it was an amazing experience.
Alejandro: And so, I think that kind of reinforced the idea that I should stay in journalism. And so, while I was in D.C., I… Buzzfeed was kind of, like, hot at that moment, and it was 2014, and you know, everyone wanted to, like, share Listicles and all that. It was a new format, in a way. And, I applied for a fellowship they had in L.A., but they offered it here in New York. And so, I said, Yeah. I had been to New York once.
Alejandro: Yeah. Like, everyone wants to go to New York. It’s an amazing city. Why not? Let’s see what’s… If it doesn’t work out, either I go somewhere else or I go back to El Paso, you know, it doesn’t… I don’t know. Let’s just try it. So, I said, yes. I came with a four-month fellowship. At the end of the fellowship, there was an option to stay and see, like, what’s open within the company.
Alejandro: But yeah, at the end of those four months, like, kind of, Buzzfeed was going through like, some transitions. Like, when Buzzfeed News came aboard, it was like an exciting time during the company. But, I had an offer from the New York Daily News and I thought it would be amazing to work for a legacy paper in New York. But, you know?
Beck: Yeah. Yeah.
Alejandro: And, I think that would also be an amazing… I jumped on that opportunity because I thought it would be a great introduction into the city and really, really get to know it. And, it turned out to be an amazing two-and-a-half years. I learned a lot.
His Views on Pitches
Beck: In short. So then, to help publicists out who are listening, what do you want to be pitched? Especially when you have the title of, host, you know, producer. Do you get a bunch of pitches?
Alejandro: I do. Yes. And, it mostly comes from previous jobs and previous connections.
Beck: Got it. Okay.
Alejandro: But, pitches are always welcome.
Beck: Pitches are welcome.
Beck: Holy cow!
Alejandro: And they weren’t…
Beck: We don’t usually hear that.
Alejandro: … you know. But, yeah, pitches are always welcome. You never know. I… some of my… I can’t think of an example in the top of my head. But, I know this for sure, that, a lot of unexpected pitches have turned out to be amazing in the past. So, you just never know where your next big pitch is going to come.
Beck: This is true.
Alejandro: And, if it’s something juicy, you know, we’re on signal. We’re in places that are encrypted. Please message us.
Beck: Nice. And, your email address is, by the way, on your Twitter Feed, so people can easily find you there.
Alejandro: Yes. Mm-hmm.
Beck: But, as you were saying, in welcoming pitches, what in a pitch stands out to you?
Alejandro: We definitely want a human interest story, something that really affects the bigger demographic. We don’t want something super, you know, specific. So, it’s like, for example, like, for NowThis Future, our audience, they love robotics, you know. They love cool gadgets. But, they also care about the issues when it comes to, like, privacy and climate change. They love space.
Alejandro: And, this is like, NowThis Future, you know, we have different verticals. But, kind of like, when it comes to, like, numbers or sales. That’s kind of, you know, that’s more on the CNBC, you know.
Beck: Got it. So, as the host, tell us a little bit about just the day-to-day for you. Obviously, you’re on camera. But, you’re also producing. So, are you’re cutting your own stuff? Or, how does that work?
Alejandro: Yeah. You know how it works nowadays, you have to be a one-man band. Yeah. So, yeah. I see a project through from beginning to end from, you know, from inception to scripting, to, obviously, there’s the whole production crew behind the camera. So, then, I host. And then, I cut myself. And, I think, I like that. It’s like, I know angles, or I know, like, how I scripted it.
Alejandro: But, there are… there have been times when I do get to work with other producers and I love that too, where they see a project from beginning to end. And, they know what we’re working with, and then, they’ll cut it themselves. But, yeah, most of the time, I’m cutting my own stuff. Yeah.
Beck: How long does that take? So, let’s say, you go out today. You film something. Give us the whole round-a-bout, because a lot of the folks that we have on here, and who we are normally pitching, are behind the desk. You know, they’re writing a piece. There is no video component. They don’t need to go out and shoot the photography for it. It’s provided, let’s say.
Beck: So, you’re in a different grouping. But then, at the same time, you know, you’re not a host on, let’s say, CNBC. So, you’re not doing that part of it. So, just give us an overview. Like, how much time does it take from pitch to submission of the piece?
Alejandro: … I mean, just, yeah. I think, I mean, that was, like, also before, like, we have a new… it depends on the format. It depends on the graphics. It depends on the B-roll. And for example, that was, like, one of my low lift type of videos. If it’s an event, obviously, you know, there’s traveling included. But then, it’s an event that happened the same day, so, you should probably get it out that same day. It just, it depends. But…
Beck: Just asking.
Alejandro: … you know, it could be something from, like, a day, or like, two hours, actually. Like, something really, really short to like, a week, or like, two months if it’s something that’s very deep or longer. And so, it just, it depends. There’s, I don’t think there’s a clear answer.
We hoped you liked listening to this podcast with journalist Alejandro Alba. Our blog is to help those in PR make better pitches and get better placements. If you learned something from Alejandro that you can incorporate into your next pitch to the media, then login to your profile, create a pitch, and submit it to us!