Today, on Coffee with a Journalist, we sit down with Erika Wheless of Digiday. At…
The newest guest to join Coffee with a Journalist this month is Lexy Savvides of CNET. On this episode, our host, Beck Bamberger, chats with Lexy Savvides about how she initially went to school for STEM, why tech brings her so much joy, and the good and bad interactions she has had with publicists over email.
Lexy Savvides is currently a Senior Editor at CNET interactive in San Francisco. Her stories and videos feature the latest technology and technology projections for CNET. She is no newcomer to CBS Interactive, boasting over 10+ years within the company. She has become equipped with live social media coverage on the CNET Instagram feed and her coverage is featured often. She is also a technology commentator on televisions and radios across the nation.
Her Story Process
Beck Bamberger: So break down the process of that a little bit and I come, I was in TV and did shows and you’re like, oh and the B roll and the angle and this and the … You know, there’s so many parts of any piece of content you produce like a show like I was doing shows. And it’s a frickin’ lot versus I think, oh, 500, 600 words, you know there’s a sentence and there it is and start at that scene. I don’t want to say it’s easier, it’s just you can just do it in two hours. You’re done. There’s a lot more, I think on the video side and the visuals and how you do it and how you piece it. So tell us how you go through that process, Like okay, you’re going to do a story on x now what?
Lexy Savvides: Well, it really depends on how I’m going to package it. So that’s usually the first thing that I have to think about in my role. I do a number of different things. So primarily I’m making videos for CNET, which is on cnet.com all of our online distribution partners, our YouTube channel and so on. And then another component of my job is occasionally I do packages that go out to the CBS news network through CBS News Path. And that’s always really exciting thrill, I get to sign up my story saying in San Francisco, Lexy Savvides, CNET..com for CBS news. I’m like, that doesn’t, that just never gets old because I’m just thinking, wow, my stories are going out there to a big network, which is crazy. Sometimes people see me on TV when they’re on vacation in like … I had this situation where I was following, my boyfriend was down in San Diego and he saw me on TV, one of my packages and he was like, wow, she’s following me around in different places.
LS: I’m watching everything.
It really depends on I guess which audience I’m writing a package for or a piece for. So if I’m writing something for CNET, I guess the first thing I start off with is what category is this under? Am I talking about a deep dive into a product? Am I doing an explainer? Am I doing a straight news piece? So that will then inform how I go about the rest of the process.”
I’m really lucky to work with a fantastic team and we all are incredibly supportive. I have an amazing set of producers that I have learned so much from. We have an amazing camera team as well in terms of our videographers and our editors, so it is a pretty painless process. Really what I like to think about first is what is kind of going to be my opening shot, you know?
LS: You know exactly what I’m talking about coming from your background, you think like what does that one thing that I kind of want to get across first and how am I going to capture the attention in that first 10 seconds? Not even that because that’s the crunch time for the viewer. Especially if a package goes out on TV they’re kind of intrigued and then if you don’t capture that within the first 10, 15 seconds, that’s it. Same especially online with online video. People’s attention spans are so short, which is totally fine, I’m exactly the same. I completely understand. So I think unless you go in knowing I want to sort of have a really deep dive into this particular topic area and I’m really going to dedicate a certain amount of time to it. You’re not going to give something that much attention if it doesn’t grab you within the first 10 seconds.
LS: So it’s, hard thing to do. Sometimes some of the content that I work on is pretty scripted and it’s pretty much voiceover based and that’s more of a straightforward news piece or a comparison or something like that. Other times it is very free form and … Maybe free form isn’t the right word. I do a lot of off the cuff stuff. I have a show called Beta test where I road test the craziest tech experiences, so you don’t have to, that’s the tag line. So that’s a real, something that I do that is not very scripted at all. I go and experience something and you come along with me for the journey. So I obviously do a lot of research and a lot of pre-production to decide exactly what I want to talk about, but then when I’m in the experience, you’re going along with me.
Her Work Inbox
BB: How about that? Plan a trip. So speaking of just publicists and people providing you with things, let’s talk a little bit about, I imagine your inbox and where publicists come to find you. How is that? Is it crazy in that inbox and how are the pitches?
LS: It is, yes. I mean it is crazy. I think that’s just part and parcel of the job. Everyone’s inbox is crazy. The pitches that I receive is, it’s a very mixed bag. I would say that I’m on a lot of mailing lists that are probably fairly irrelevant to what I report on and what I do cover and so that is an unfortunate incident.
I’ll look at the headline. I will look at like the first couple of lines and go, ‘that’s clearly nothing that I would ever cover or someone from CNET would cover.’ We’re very consumer-focused and that’s the products that we do.”
BB: Oh, okay. I was going to say, what is an example? Someone wants to pitch you on some construction SAS thing for …
LS: Yeah, those words don’t make sense at all to our audience. It’s not anything that people come to us to find stories on or to watch videos on. So like if someone’s pitching me like an AI driven enterprise experience for warehousing, I’m just putting some words together but that would just be completely irrelevant for us. And so those pitches don’t usually get a response unless it’s somebody that I have a relationship with and has previously been aware of what we do, and then I will say thanks, but it’s not really our area.
LS: A lot of the times it’s just a pretty cold reach out, which I completely understand. I have many friends on the PR side, so I know it’s very tough work and sometimes that can get results. A lot of the times it doesn’t. And maybe more times than not, more often than not. But that being said, those successful pitches that come my way is really from people that have taken a little bit of time just to sort of look at exactly what videos I’ve produced previously, the areas in which I cover and they’ve kind of crafted an angle that is really smart. Something that hasn’t been given to me before, a level of access that we haven’t had before. And they know when I’m looking for a story it’s got to have good visuals, otherwise I can’t cover it. Like I just can’t.
LS: So when I get that kind of Trifecta of a really well crafted pitch with the right area of coverage and good visuals, I’m so happy,
BB: Ding, ding, ding.
Her Thoughts on the Future of Journalism
BB: Oh, that’s great. Okay, so here’s the last question for us today, which I like to ask everybody, which is, and you can interpret this anyway. What do you think the future of journalism looks like?
LS: Yeah, that’s, that’s a really hard one to answer because it’s very broad and there are so many different interpretations. I guess I’ll just answer it from my perspective is that there is always going to be room for great stories and regardless of the medium, regardless of of where it is being told, you can always make something that is really compelling and there’s a lot of doom and gloom in the industry at the moment. But there are still people writing and producing amazing stories every single day. I’m on Twitter, looking at what people are creating, linking to on YouTube, even creators that aren’t technically classified as journalists, making fantastic content.
LS: And I don’t think we should be too scared about that because I think people are always going to be driven to create great stuff. It’s just going to be, it might live in a different place and it might live in a different format to what we are expected.
So everyone’s pushing into different platforms. You know, YouTube is huge. Social media is even bigger in many respects. So it’s just about finding those stories, I think is going to be the hardest part because there’s so much content to consume.”
It’s so overwhelming and having a place that is going to consolidate all that. I feel like if anything, it’s just going to get more spread out and more, difficult to find things than it is now. Given that so many platforms and so many companies are moving into over the top streaming services, there are so many video streaming platforms available and so many different ways in which you can consume, whether that’s on your phone, whether that’s when you get home and you’re turning on your TV or even through podcasting, it’s just an overwhelming amount.
LS: So I think for me the future of media is going to be incredibly overwhelming cause there’s going to be so much stuff and it’s going to be finding the best content. So I would just want some way to consolidate it all and to find this stuff that I’m really interested in. And AI is getting there to help address that problem, but I still think it needs an extra human touch.
BB: Oh, humans forever.
LS: Well the robots are really friendly. They’re actually here to help us. No, Honestly. They really are.
BB: But it’s built by … I’m all about the, we can’t get away from how we are humans. We want to feel touch. We want … No one is going to get the feeling from a hug, from a robot, for example, or the same understanding of a story if it’s told by a robot on a stage versus a human. So I’m all just pro-human, and with that. Hey, how stories are told. That’s what it’s about.
LS: Go humans.
BB: Go humans. Thank you Lexy. This has been fun.
LS: Thank you for having me.
Lexy Savvides is not alone in the movement to diversify journalism media content. Learn more in our article, The Pros & Cons of Different Types of Media. For more great conversations with top-tier journalists from outlets like The New York Times, TIME, and The Wall Street Journal, be sure to subscribe to our podcast. Also, don’t forget to follow us on Twitter for the latest updates on our newest tips, tricks, and insights. Until then, let’s end bad pitches and start great stories.