Journo intel: Shona Ghosh, Business Insider tech editor on deep-dive investigations, chutzpah and brain chips
Shona Ghosh is the UK technology editor at Business Insider, where she manages a team of London-based reporters. Her previous role at the company was as a senior technology reporter covering start-ups, venture capital, US technology news, and major technology developments. Shona kindly agreed to join us to discuss all things tech, trends, and media relations.
How did you get into journalism and why did you choose it as a career?
I always wanted to be a writer of some kind. Like many journalists and writers, I enjoy reading and – by extension – storytelling. I landed on journalism while I was studying at Warwick, partly because I became friends with several people who would go on to become TV producers or broadcasters and were very organised about it. We all decided to take the same training qualification at City University in London together, so it was as much about peer encouragement as coming to the decision myself. I also very nearly became a lawyer.
Like lots of journalists I did an MA at City. It was an awful time, because we were all graduating after the financial crash in 2008-9, and it was really dog-eat-dog for jobs. Lots of training schemes were cancelled and I took a freelance job at an ad agency for a couple of years before clawing my way into journalism proper through a start-up called StrategyEye, which covered venture capitalism and start-up funding. I then landed a job at PC Pro, which was probably my first really secure job in journalism.
What do you enjoy most about journalism and what advice would you give a journalist who is just starting out?
I’ve always loved digging deeper into issues and stories, and some of my favourite pieces of work have been deep-dive investigations, most of them at Business Insider. I wouldn’t describe myself as a purely investigative journalist, but I find investigations really stimulating.
It’s tough to be a young journalist right now. Competition is fierce, and I don’t think publications are as willing as they used to be to train reporters completely from scratch. Good traits are deep curiosity, smarts and chutzpah, and I think most editors would be delighted to find those qualities in younger reporters.
Changes in tech ripple out to countless other industries, what do you think are going to be the next major developments?
‘Tech’ is a very broad term, but areas that I think will have a huge impact on most people in the near-future are artificial intelligence and the future of the mobile phone – or whatever replaces it. The breakthroughs being made with AI in healthcare, spotting anomalies in huge reams of data, are pretty astonishing. As for the future of the mobile phone, I wonder what the next evolution will be to these slightly awkward, heavy devices we have to carry around. Will it be chips in our heads? Siri embedded into our brains?
What have you observed about working with PR agencies? What works and what doesn’t?
I think I have good relationships with PR agencies – at least when I remember to answer my emails – and I’m not sure why so many reporters are so vicious about them. The best PR people and agencies act as facilitators, introducing you to the right sources and then stepping away. Acting as a constant barrier to the client is very annoying, and probably a good way to ensure I drop the contact. Any kind of trickery is also annoying. I have had some agencies mislead me over exclusives or try and change whether something is on or off the record. Don’t do that, and we’ll get along fine.
I think the savviest PR agencies understand that the world is changing, and that constant nags or phone call follow-ups don’t make sense anymore. Most journalists don’t have time for coffee meets to talk to PR people about what we’re interested in. My advice would be highly tailored pitches – if it’s clear a reporter likes exclusives, then offer that. It’s still possible to break through the email noise with an excellent, well-targeted pitch.
That’s it from Shona for now, but if you want to learn more about media relations – or any other part of running a B2B PR strategy – you can contact us today.