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Meet the media: Gareth Morgan, technology editor of New Scientist

Written by Paul Stallard

Gareth Morgan (he's the one not in a hat!)

I am delighted to announce that my meet the media interview this week is with the technology editor of New Scientist magazine, Gareth Morgan. Rather sadly, he explains that he doesn’t think that most PR professionals read his title before pitching to him and infact, the amount of irrelevant calls he receives each day far out weight the good ones.

Gareth also makes an interesting point about the use of social media within journalism “as with any tool, results depend on the skill of the person wielding it.” Enjoy.

Paul Stallard: What is the best way to contact you?
Gareth Morgan: Email, phone, Twitter, carrier pigeon – I really don’t mind. But when deadlines are looming, I may not respond or have time to natter.

PS: Do you think that most PR professionals read the title you write for before contacting you?
GM: By and large, no. I think mostly the PR reps out there do know the sort of stories we’re looking for, and don’t pitch inappropriate stuff. But then there’s a few that see a name of a list and just want to be able to say they called. That means the irrelevant calls outweigh the good ones.

PS: Have you ever done any PR work and if yes what was the experience like?
GM: I’ve done a bit of copy writing, but none of the really hard stuff, like pitching to journalists or placating mean clients.

PS: How has the increase of social media affected traditional journalism?
GM: On the positive side, there are some social media tools which can enhance the things we might have considered as traditional journalistic skills enormously. Things like contact building, lead generation, tapping into reader feedback can all become easier. And in theory that should mean journalists are able to produce more insightful, engaging and relevant material. But as with any tool, results depend on the skill of the person wielding it.

PS: Have you had to change your writing style for online copy to incorporate SEO?
GM: There are some obvious changes – such as changing print headlines for online copy – that make sense. But SEO should be part of the mechanics of online publishing, not part of writing. You want your website and content management system to make sure good stories get as wide an audience as possible, so they need to be SEO aware. But what constitutes a well written story is a matter of readers’ tastes not search engine preferences.

PS: Is there a future long term for hard copy publications or will online rule?
GM: Of course online will rule – eventually. But I don’t think it’s yet clear how the industry gets to that point, nor even what “online” will mean, by the time it does. I think improvements in display technology are going to alter the landscape pretty radically. For the sake of my weary eyes, I still prefer dead tree and ink, and to be honest, there are precious few examples of really good design online. And for lovers of print, I think there are probably some titles where the print version will thrive.

PS: Are there any PR agencies you have black listed because of bad practices?
GM: No. There are probably a few that send emails which I routinely ignore on the assumption that if past history is any guide, they’ll be spam.

PS: Do you believe journalists are rude to PR professionals?
GM: A friend in PR once told me that she’d overheard a couple of her colleagues discussing how much I hated PRs – which isn’t true, but it did make me think there have been occasions where I should have been a bit more polite. On the whole, most of the people I’ve worked wouldn’t deliberately be rude, but we all have moments where we’re under pressure.

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