The Fortune.com Tech Team Opens Up at PRSA Event
by J. Bonasia
Write Comment June 2nd, 2015 Events · journalism · Tips
The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) recently sponsored a lively roundtable talk with the tech editorial team of Fortune.com. Highwire PR hosted the packed lunchtime event at their offices in downtown San Francisco.
Fortune Senior Editor-at-Large Adam Lashinsky outlined the three main planks of the Fortune franchise, including the 86-year-old print magazine, the newly revamped Fortune.com news website, and Fortune’s Live Media events including the well-known Fortune Brainstorm Tech show.
Lashinsky was excited about Fortune recently hiring several veteran tech writers from the now-defunct Gigaom website, bringing them “into the Fortune fold” to beef up enterprise coverage. Katie Fehrenbacher and Jonathan Vanian both came over from Gigaom, which is now in the process of being acquired by Knowingly, a startup that plans to re-launch the tech news site in August.
Fehrenbacher explained that her coverage area at Fortune focuses on energy and water resource issues, including solar power and electric cars. Lately she has been “obsessed” with battery technologies. Fehrenbacher advised the room full of PR execs to craft their pitches to her based on her recent coverage. “Find out what excites me, and hopefully your client fits into that area,” she said.
Vanian covers enterprise tech for Fortune, including data centers and network infrastructure. He said he spends most days tracking Twitter for story tips and news leads. Varian also enjoys studying the federal financial disclosures of public companies.
Fortune Senior Writer Michal Lev-Ram described her dual roles as a telecom reporter and co-chair of Brainstorm Tech and Fortune’s Most Powerful Women: Next Gen conferences.
When asked about story interests and pet peeves, Lashinsky expressed his growing distaste for the sheer amount of startup funding stories out there today. “I think a lot of these stories on our competitors’ sites really suck,” he said bluntly. Another concern for Lashinsky involves news embargoes: “I think they produce bad journalism and I have ample evidence of doing better stories that come out two to three days after the embargo.”
Lashinsky explained Fortune’s overarching theme for tech coverage from the viewpoint of Fortune Editor Alan Murray: “He believes all business leaders need to understand the underlying technology, no matter what business they’re in, so technology coverage becomes central to the coverage of the business overall.”
In assessing the current state of tech journalism, Lashinsky noted that the industry remains in flux because online media “still hasn’t found a business model that works.”
“There is an existential battle between content on one hand and journalism on the other, and we do journalism” at Fortune, he said.
Lashinsky wrapped up by saying the best way for PR pros to develop a relationship with Fortune is to deliver acclaimed sources who are hard to get for interviews. No surprise there, but for lots of PR agencies that work with small and midsize client firms, such a “get” remains an ongoing challenge.