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This week’s newest guest on Coffee with a Journalist is none other than Mike Murphy from Quartz. You might recognize Mike for his signature thick-rimmed glasses Twitter photo, but we’re here to share MUCH more. Today, Mike and Beck speak 1:1 about his upbringing across the pond, his love of tech, and how often he receives pitches that may or may not be relevant to his beat at Quartz.
Mike Murphy is a deputy editor at Quartz, covering technology. He focuses on machines with brains and consumer electronics. He likes to write about the future and the products that will get us there. He graduated from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern and the University of Pennsylvania. He is not a very good banjo player.
His Role at Quartz
Beck: Just for folks to know and for pitching purposes. So as, and a lot of people do have the title of Deputy Editor, can you spell out what that role entails?
Mike: Sure. So for Quartz, it’s a newish position. And I think I was the first, oh I was, yeah, I think I was actually, but we’re doing it more now just because we’re growing and teams are getting larger. It really depends on the team. But I am basically in editing backstop for the main editor who’s Matt Quinn, who’s fantastic, but also he’s based in San Francisco. So the majority of the team is in New York. So I am the guy in the morning basically. Um, I’ll help take pitches from reporters and assign stuff I think is important. And I like to act as a conduit for a lot of PR people and you know, context I’ve dealt with over the years of like, well this isn’t really for me anymore, but now I’m, you know, I have this team, it might as well as all I can say it’s good for this person and that sort of thing. So I do a lot of that in the morning and editing and Matt takes over a lot of the afternoon. And obviously, the like vision of what tech coverage is at Quartz is still his purview.
His Favorite Stories
Beck: Okay, so don’t go to Mike for the Banjo inquiries. Okay. I’d love to talk about your favorite stories. This type of stuff you like to do. Yes. Okay. Technology, yes. Consumer electronics. And he was in the latest gizmo and how it works and all this stuff. But like what’s some of your favorite stuff to do? And why?
Mike: Yeah. I, you know, the stuff that you can do that, you know, I-I’m personally interested in this stuff that kind of shows how technology has changed, um, parts of our lives and not necessarily scoopy things or things like that. I, when I have the time, which isn’t as often as I’d like, and that’s usually my own fault. It’s not like anyone’s pressuring me. The features I’ve done have either been about companies and how they’re a kind of synecdoche for an industry that has created a massive change in the way that we act. I act in the world that could only be facilitated with technology. Like I wrote one about a year and a half ago on, um, this company called Replica, which is an AI startup that basically created this chatbot that you talked to. And it’s, it’s totally AI driven, so there’s no person behind it. It’s not like the Facebook one that’s just a lie. Just one is just a, you talked to Ann and kind of tell it your day and things like that. And eventually, over time, it gets good enough to create a version of you. And the idea being that in the future it can do stuff on your behalf. Like talk to a call waiting for people.
Mike: Like I’m working on a story right now that I’ve been yelled at for an untraditional, my draft on, um, how we can possibly connect everyone to the internet, how we could feasibly do that. Stuff like that, stuff that has like, this grand scale is just stuff that I really like to focus on uh, and I don’t do enough of it, but that’s mainly because I’m the kind of person that like procrastinates by like doing other stories. Like instead of writing a 2000 word report IT story, I’ll like find a chart that’s cool, then write 50 words about it. It was like, oh, I’m doing work. And then everyone will be like, “no, that’s not what are you doing?” But yeah, that’s, that’s unfortunately how I operate.
His Take on the Future of Journalism and Media
Beck: What do you think the future of journalism is? Or media?
Mike: Yeah, I think that there have been a lot of reactionary things that have happened in media recently and I never understand why people do them. Like the pivot to video didn’t make sense because nobody actually likes getting their news that way. They like getting their entertainment that way, but that’s not what news is. I think that structurally the only thing that’s going to change, most likely in the near term, will be that there will be more structured sections of the web for, for journalism that will necessitate people paying for this stuff. And it might be small transactions. I don’t think it’s going to be like microtransactions like that. People have tried that. I don’t think that’s going to work, but I do think that there will be more, you care deeply about x topic and that will be, you know, you will pay for that. The same way that we always paid for magazines, I think that reported news has become pretty commoditized and I can’t see that changing anytime soon. Um, I can’t see the New York Times changing their business model though, you know, paid subscriptions do seem to be working for them. But I do see a lot of smaller publications making high-quality products that people want to pay for. I think that like Monocle is a fantastic example of that. They’re super pretentious. Like there’s, there’s a, there’s an aura and like they go with that. But you know, I think we’re going to find more and more kind of niche things that people really enjoy and those are where the money will be rather than in like the news. Um, I think that we’ll just stay with the kind of players we have now.
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