Media Insights: Expert Advice from Reporters at The Information, HuffPost and Business Insider

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The media landscape is constantly shifting, marked by layoffs, unpredictable market shifts and the rise of emerging technologies like generative AI. In this dynamic environment, mastering the art of effective communication and relationship-building with reporters is crucial for securing impactful coverage, especially in technology, healthcare, supply chain, and other B2B industries.

To gather perspectives from journalists, I moderated a media panel with Natasha Mascarenhas, a reporter covering venture capital and startups at The Information, Kristen Aiken, the editorial director of Life and Commerce at HuffPost, and Emily Stewart, a senior correspondent at Business Insider, who writes about the economy, money and related topics. The panelists shared what they cover, how they like to be pitched, what they look for in a story and more, providing us with invaluable insights as PR professionals.

About the reporters

We kicked things off by talking about what each reporter covers. Emily explained that she doesn’t necessarily have a tightly defined beat, but her stories have to be economy- or money-related. When asked who her audience is, she said, “It’s a lot of hungry professionals in their twenties, thirties and forties.”

Kristen at HuffPost explained that she oversees and assigns stories for the Food, Drink, Style, Beauty, Parenting, Relationships, Home, Work, Life, and Tech sections, as well as the Shopping page, which covers those same topics in the world of commerce. “What makes Shopping different is we get a commission whenever a reader clicks a link in one of our articles and makes a purchase of that product,” she said. “So, a Shopping piece might be interviews with culinary experts on the best kitchen knives that aren’t a waste of money. A similar article in the Life section would be ‘Here is why certain knives are expensive and others aren’t.’” 

Natasha at The Information, or “TI,” as she calls it, said, “I cover anything venture-backed, and more broadly, how the private capital markets work.” She added that she needs to break or scoop news that gives a deeper level of understanding of Big Tech to her readers. “Often this means breaking news on a funding round, including the startup’s valuation and revenue to justify that valuation.” She added that as a rule of thumb, she does not usually take news under embargo – she needs it exclusively.

Pitching best practices

Next, the conversation moved to PR best practices. Kristen at HuffPost noted she likes to be pitched before 8:00 am ET, because, after that time, her inbox becomes a nightmare. “I get over 500 PR emails a day. I’m not exaggerating,” she said. “That might be partly because I still get emails from things I joined in 2011 when I first started at HuffPost. I don’t respond to most of the pitches I get, but my team of writers responds more than I do. So, pitch my team, not me!” 

Kristen went on to highlight the crucial role of subject lines in getting her to open an email, given the high volume of pitches she receives. To catch her eye, she advises against overly promotional language. Additionally, she noted that almost all the pitches she receives are mail-merged, and while personalizing the subject line with her name is intended to catch her attention, she finds the practice annoying, especially when the name in the subject line is incorrect or spelled incorrectly. 

Natasha, who receives about 100 email pitches a day, finds “front running” frustrating and ignores requests for coverage that don’t include news. Instead, she prefers well-crafted introductions with clearly outlined availability, and is happy to speak on background and explain what not for attribution means. 

For Emily, a mix of personalization and directness is essential in pitching. “The more human the pitch is written, the better. We’re all just people. But don’t spend two hours on an email to me. That is a waste of your time and mine. Just be direct. Is it interesting or not?” If you need to reach Emily, stick to email during the work week: While she assures her inbox is always open, she ignores long texts and emails that arrive on the weekends. 

Story ideas, sources and thoughts on AI

Beyond how they prefer to be pitched, I was curious about how the reporters get their story ideas, and whether any originate from PR professionals. 

Kristen explained, “At HuffPost, we encourage writers to develop stories based on conversations they’re having with friends, often inspired by social media, such as debunking misinformation on TikTok about skin cancer. For health stories, PR pitches on recent studies are more influential. Those pitches spark a lot of health and wellness stories.”

“I get story ideas from sources,” Natasha at The Information said. “I don’t work with PR for ideas, but I do accept intros that eventually turn into sources that eventually turn into stories.”

When it comes to sourcing, Emily wants to hear directly from the source and not via email. “As a rule of thumb, I’m a ‘no’ on written answers. Nine out of ten times, the source isn’t the one actually writing their responses, so I prefer speaking directly to the person.”

To wrap up, I asked Emily about the role of generative AI in journalism and whether she uses it in her daily work. She responded, “I don’t use AI because I don’t want to feed the beast that will kill me.”

At Walker Sands, we leverage our strong reporter relationships and deep expertise in the dynamic media landscape to help our clients secure coverage that enhances credibility and positions them at the forefront of industry conversations. Get in touch to discover how our media relations experts can help your company achieve its business objectives with strategic PR solutions.


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