Gadgetress Tales

Apps, Tech & Modern Things

September 27, 2017
by Gadgetress
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There are better ways to pitch a story than an embargoed press release

Right now, there are 28,985 unread messages in my inbox.

I do (really!) make an effort to read messages. And yes, I encourage (and prefer) companies who want to pitch me a story to do so by email.

My goal here at The Denver Post is to get as much technology news into the online and offline newspaper (I also cover startups, aerospace, telecom and, well, nearly everything business related). I have a deep desire to be as comprehensive as possible, but that is nearly impossible with staffing situations and me wanting to have a semi-healthy home life.  And of course, there’s a different business reality here at the paper. But I’m a believer that there is a way to do this. There’s got to be a better way!

Here are my observations on how we in the journalism industry can do a better job actually covering the community we live in. But I need your help.

  1. Don’t call me. But tell me everything. I’m not trying to be rude. But I screen my calls because I’ve had too many inefficient phone calls. Leave a message if you must, but email me first. I accept any and all pitches via email, even if it’s something you think I’m not interested in. I only reply if I’m interested. I figure PR people shouldn’t expect a reply because they typically send a generic press release and I’m just one of the numerous recipients. I don’t feel the love. Of course, if you truly believe you’re pitching a good story that I or any other legitimate reporter should be interested in, then email me again. Yes, I do sometimes not see legitimate messages. So email me — my inbox is a great source of future contacts, resources and ideas even if I don’t respond immediately.
  2. Reporter 101: You would think the first lesson in PR is to know who you are pitching to.  So why do I get pitches from international firms hoping I’ll cover their tech conference in France, their Kickstarter campaign or their other non-Denver news? I don’t hide who I am or how to reach me. I expanded my online bio to tell readers, companies and PR folks about best practices. There is also a handy archive of my past stories so anyone who can read can see what I write about. The information on me and other writers is out there. Sometimes I wish there was an unsubscribe button on press releases that lets me tell your boss you’re being lazy. Don’t be that person who pitches randomly and rudely.
  3. Reporters are outnumbered. Is it just me or are there 1,000 PR professionals for every single reporter? I look to PR pros to help me get information faster — a quote, an answer, a detail, an interview with the CEO. Not all press releases are bad, especially the ones that tell us that something big is about to happen. But think about it this way, if I’m getting 1,000 press releases a day, I miss real news because I’m not spending enough time doing actual reporting.
  4. Don’t ask for an embargo. There are exceptions (don’t violate SEC rules and yes, I do want to know if your company is about to buy Amazon) but typically, tech reporters have been on to this ruse for years that pushy PR people are just trying to score free advertising. I cannot begin to count up how many pitches start with the “E” word and then, without any agreement from me, spill what I’m not supposed to write about until the next day. I also cannot tell you how many companies have threatened to go elsewhere and then … nothing. If you’re a company working with PR pros insistent that this is a way to get covered, I’ll send you to the advertising department. Work with me instead and share as much of your story as you can.
  5. Legitimate stories get my attention. As a business reporter covering the Denver area, I do write about the usual business news — M&A’s, venture raises, headquarter moves, major hirings and firings, IPOs, etc. Those are the things I don’t mind getting a heads up about. It’s the deeper stories that I really enjoy writing. If you’ve got one, let me know.
  6. Here’s what I want. I want to tell the stories of the people, companies and things in the Denver community. No journalist is proud of spending their life responding to and rewriting press releases. Instead, tell us what’s really happening with your business, tell me big industry secrets and trends, what your employees are up to and what’s coming down the road. Tell me the good, the bad, the quirky. Give me access to your CEO and the people who are doing amazing things. Let’s build that relationship so that when I do hear from you, I know it’s a legitimate pitch.
  7. Woe is us. Okay, one whiny complaint that I’m sure anyone who follows newspapers knows but may not realize. Our staff continues to shrink even as we still put out a print newspaper seven days a week and write online stories all day. I’m told we’re profitable, unlike some of our online competitors, but that is not enough to get the owners to invest and hire more valuable writers and editors in the newsroom to cover the community. If there are any billionaires out there who want a hard-working staff that has figured out how to make a big, local impact and supports innovation, call me.

 

 

September 23, 2014
by Gadgetress
Comments Off on Falling for Modern In Denver

Falling for Modern In Denver

Hello all you modern-design enthusiasts — the fall issue of Modern in Denver is now available!

It’s the thickest issue yet and it’s come a long way from the summer of 2010, when I first spotted it at the Denver Modernism show a few years back. That’s when I first met William Logan, who started this publication from scratch out of his lovely mid-century modern home. When he found out I was a writer, he asked me to write. I’ve been the regular “Field Study” contributor (plus a few other pieces) ever since. I am about to start a new job (more on that later) but I hope to continue writing this cool-product section. It gives me a chance to explore modern design, meet creators and expand my knowledge.

Back to the fall issue: There are a lot of whimsical products in the regular “Field Study” section that I pen. Some call the genre happy modern. I call it I-want-this modern! Like these:

The issue has lots of features of houses I want to live in and office spaces I want to have. Plus, a profile on Boulder Architect Harvey Hine. I really love how the magazine focuses clearly on Colorado and what’s new, but also reminds us of how local modern design was influenced in the past.

If you can, pick up an issue at your local Whole Foods, Tattered Cover and a few other spots around town.

September 17, 2014
by Gadgetress
1 Comment

Frumpy Mom gets an update: A responsive website

marla-screengrab

Not so frumpy anymore!

One thing I’ve delved deeper into in recent years is the mechanics of WordPress. The software is easy to use and, for the most part, it makes sense. I attempt to move all my friends to WordPress, especially the ones who think they don’t know anything about technology. I just wrapped up a relatively easy update to my friend Marla Jo Fisher. She’s a long-time journalist in Southern California and she writes the popular Frumpy Middle-Aged Mom” column for The Orange County Register.

I worked with Marla for at least 8 years before we became friends. And that was due to some odd decision by management to physically move the technology team (umm, that was just me) out of the business department and pair me up with the education team. Marla was covering higher education and writing Frumpy Mom on the side. She was one funny lady! My favorite column was probably also a very difficult one for her: She found out she had a brain tumor. Her response? “I can’t have a brain tumor. I’ve got dinner on the stove!

She needs to write a book. (And I bet she could crowdfund it!)

Back to her revamped blog. She did give me several options of sites she liked. But the themes were several years old. So, I showed her a simpler, un-frumpy theme called … Marla. She loved it! She’s even easier to work with than WordPress!

But really, I chose the theme because it’s:

The minimalist Marla theme

1. Responsive, as in, the site responds to the size of your screen. The blog should look clear and legible no matter if you’re viewing it on a computer monitor, iPad or smartphone.

2. Widget friendly. Half the boxes on the front page are WordPress widgets. The top three use the Better RSS widget and automatically update anytime Marla writes a new column elsewhere. The boxes below the widgets are any new posts she writes just for her new blog. Technically, she doesn’t need to do another thing and her blog will still look different every day (so long as she continues to write at the Register).

3. Flexible header. Everyone likes a unique look, especially Frumpy Mom. The lovely Samantha Gowen designed the sunset logo. The theme’s flexible header allows the blog title to shrink or enlarge, depending on the reader’s screen size. Of course, if you tweak any code within a theme or plugin, make a note of it because future updates will wipe out your work.

4. It’s name. Marla. Was it fate? It’s minimal, bold and blue, my favorite color. We tweaked all the colors and simplicity though to suit Marla’s tastes. And we may add back a photo of Marla with her classic frumpy hat. But that’s the beauty of WordPress. Tweak, update and done!

September 5, 2014
by Gadgetress
Comments Off on How recruiters think and other job tips

How recruiters think and other job tips

10600496_837449519621597_3127249337294903816_nIf you’ve ever applied for a job you spotted online, you know the agony. Did I have the right key words? Am I one of hundreds, no, thousands of applicants? Did someone even look at my resume?

And then the agony goes away because after your umpteenth application, you stop wondering. You just submit the same old resume and cover letter, changing little if anything.

Don’t get like that. Recruiters I interviewed for a Labor Day job series in the U-T San Diego newspaper, were adamant that yes, they look at every, single application (though some more briefly than others). They focus on the resume and want to mostly know this: Are you qualified?

I contributed several stories to the U-T’s special section but one of my favorites was interviewing local recruiters — the first eyes on an applicant’s resume. If they like what they see, they move it on to the position’s hiring manager. So, how do you get past that first step? Take a look at my stories (and other ones that were also quite helpful):

Read:

More from the series:

September 4, 2014
by Gadgetress
Comments Off on Confused about cloud security? Start with common sense

Confused about cloud security? Start with common sense

firstDenverPostWhen I spotted the weekend’s headlines of female celebs’ private photos unleashed online by hackers, I thought, here we go again. I didn’t plan to dwell much further on celebrity nude photos. Then on Tuesday, the Denver Post business editor called, asking me to write a consumer-focused story on cloud security. How could I say no?

I immediately reached out some of my old computer-security contacts, plus a few new local ones, to get up to date with cloud security. Yes, the Cloud — the amorphous entity that appears to be all knowing and omnipresent, yet potentially hackable. As it turned out, Apple said that nope, iCloud was not hacked, at least not in this celebrity-photo case.

Nevertheless, if you like to take photos, share them online and mindlessly back up files online in the Cloud, there is always a security risk. We use the cloud because our smartphones don’t have enough space to store all those selfies — or we want the convenience of accessing them on our phones, laptops and tablets. It’s (mostly) seamless. You don’t even have to think about it. I’m betting that very few iPhone users think about what is actually in the iCloud. I’m not even sure if a majority understand that iCloud lives outside their phone.

I like what Jonathan Sander, the strategy and research officer at STEALTHbits Technologies, told me:

“I guarantee that half the celebrities didn’t even know their photos were in the cloud,” Sander said. “If you asked them if they trust their nude photos in the cloud, I’m sure they would not.”

There are still ways to be smart about your photos and files. New technology in the form of two-step authentication is one extra layer of security that can make your account less attractive to hackers. Apple’s Two-Step Verification, which was introduced last year, requires users to verify accounts using a password and a special code. Google also offers it, as does Microsoft, Dropbox and nearly every company offering cloud storage.

But when it comes down to it, protecting your digital life means using common sense and being aware of what you have out in the Cloud. As Sander told me, “Do I trust the cloud to what? To store my vacation photos? Yes. Do I trust it to store my birth certificate and passport? Probably not.”

So, there you have it. My freelance debut for The Denver Post — on the Front Page too! All thanks to celebrities who take naked photos with their iPhones.

Read the story:

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