On today’s episode, Sophia Kunthara of SF Chronicle joins our host, Beck Bamberger, on Coffee with a Journalist. Sophia and Beck go into detail about her fellowship, her time working with the Downtown Devil, and the worst pitches she has received thus far.
Receiving her BA and MA in Journalism and later working from coast to coast, Sophia Kunthara is a very ambitious millennial. Currently, Sophia is working as a Hearst Journalism Fellow for the San Francisco Chronicle and SFGATE, reporting on all business, local government and tech-related news. She has also written in publications like The Arizona Republic, Cronkite News, NBC Los Angeles, The Downtown Devil, and much more, Sophia has established herself as a competent writer in the journalism space.
How She Writes Stories
Beck: Okay, let’s talk about the current role in what you’re doing. You mentioned at of the show you are coving startups and what’s going on in the city and such. Was that handed to you, did you get to influence any of that? How does it go with selecting the stories you do?
Sophia: It’s a bit of both. When I came into this role, I knew it would be generally assigned on business and startups. Obviously I moved here from Connecticut, so starting off I didn’t know a ton about the city and about what exactly to look for. I have great editors at the Chronicle that give me a lot of guidance for sure. They’re very receptive to you in both you pitching stuff and giving me assignments as well.
Beck: And local government you also get to cover?
Sophia: Not here really, I’ve written some things that are about policy I guess, but that was in Connecticut I was doing that.
Beck: Got it. What keeps you excited with the role in San Francisco at the Chronicle, right now? Do you like the startup stuff?
Sophia: I do, I feel like everything is just so fast moving here. There is always something happening, there is always something to write about. Especially in the startup space, there’s so many of them. I don’t cover them as much as I used too, but there’s always a new company, there’s always something going on. When things are moving that fast, it’s easy to I guess stay excited about it because it never gets boring.
Her Work Inbox
Beck: How’s your inbox look?
Sophia: Oh my gosh, it’s like flooded all the time. Part of that is because for some reason they couldn’t get me off of some Connecticut list service, it’s all the same email. I feel like I’m spending half my day trying to delete emails out of there.
Beck: What is it, is it pitches and everyone just trying to get after you, is it the startups themselves?
Sophia: A lot of pitches mostly. A lot of pitches. I like the ones that you can tell are more tailored to me and what I do. You can tell that they’ve read my work and know a bit of what I cover. There’s so many people and a lot of times they’re repeat offenders. They feel like there blindly pitching, like maybe I’ll write about it.
Beck: What do you do with the repeat offenders?
Sophia: If they have nothing to do with what I’m doing, I usually immediately delete it. A lot of the times, sometimes we cover Bay area business, and a lot of times people will send me stuff about things going on in New York. These companies, like this place is opening up a store in New York, it’s cool but I don’t write about that. I probably should just block them, but who knows.
Beck: Really, they’re opening a store in New York and they’re sending something to the SF Chronicle.
Sophia: I got a pitch about that today. I was like yep, this was sent to me, it wasn’t meant to be sent to the Connecticut house, so I immediately deleted it.
Her Thoughts on Pitching
Beck: Do you get them all cleared out or how do you manage?
Sophia: I try my best, it feels like an ongoing battle.
Beck: When you said also that there is personalization, it sounds like it’s coming to you specifically, what does that actually look like because we have a lot of publicists listening? Is that somehow in the subject line of personalized, or in the body of the email, or is it really short and sweet, or did they follow you on twitter? What would you say?
Sophia: I would say, usually in the body of the email, and it’s usually saying, “I read some of your stuff about this, like I thought you might be interested in this.” It’s when I can tell that they, like it’s not just a copy and paste, like it’s not just a copy and paste, “Hi.”
Beck: Have you ever gotten the “hi blank?”
Sophia: I have, and I have also gotten, this just annoys me. Yesterday, I got one where they misspelled my name, which is… if it was like a really difficult name…
Beck: They misspelled Sophia?
Sophia: Yeah, they spelled it with an ‘f’. It just isn’t a good first look. The most ridiculous is kind of funny but also just like what. They said, “hi Sonja.” They called me Sonja, which is a little funny because my sisters name is Sonja and maybe we do look a little alike. When we were younger people used to always confuse us. She’s gonna be a dentist, she is not in media at all, so I know they just got my name completely wrong. It was also just a totally irrelevant pitch, so I was just like okay, not for me.
Sophia: Yeah, if it was a really phenomenal pitch, like looking at this exclusive for you, obviously I wouldn’t be like you spelled my name with and ‘f’, but it was totally irrelevant, and my name was misspelled. I have gotten a “hi blank” before, which is obvious that you are sending this to everybody.
If you learned a little something from Sophia Kunthara of the SF Chronicle that you want to incorporate into your next pitch, head to your account, and construct that next killer pitch. Be sure to subscribe to our podcast Coffee with a Journalist for more great chats with journalists from your favorite publications and outlets.