SUMMARY: Is Leonard Fischer the most influential tech journalist on the planet today? The newspapers which carry his articles reach a combined total of nine million readers. Learn how you can improve your chances of planting a story with him.
Leonard Fischer Technology Editor Gannett News Service Gannett Co., Inc. Headquarters 7950 Jones Branch Drive McLean, VA 22107 (703) 854-6000 Email for press releases: email@example.com www.gannett.com
Each week, more than 90 Gannett newspapers (a combined circ of about 6,000,000) publish some or all of a 'Personal Technology Section,' which is produced by Gannett News Service headquarters.
-> Fischer’s background:
Fischer started in tech journalism when he was just 16 working part-time for the Pioneer Press. Then while he was studying for his BA in journalism at Indiana U, also freelanced on the site for Crane Communications. After graduating, Fischer took a job at the University researching and teaching computer-assisted reporting.
Two years later he took a career detour to work as Art Director of an alternative news weekly in Indianapolis, and for several years headed up corporate design for City Media Incorporated based in Minneapolis. Later he became the Creative Director of the Rockford Register Star in Illinois.
“In all of my jobs technology was integral to what I was doing,” says Fischer. “I’ve set up pagination systems and worked on pre-production, and my experience on the creative side has really helped because the tech section is very visual that was a priority when Gannett was hiring.”
Finally the siren call of newspaper journalism pulled him back to the writing end of the keyboard, and in 2000, Fischer began reporting for the newly launched Gannett tech section.
“I knew that technology was a high priority during the dot com boom, that more and more people were getting on the Internet, buying personal computers and living more of a digital lifestyle, and I knew it would be a great way to bring more young readers to the newspaper,” says Fischer.
-> Current editorial coverage:
The tech section (or “e section” as it’s referred to in some Gannett papers) is a weekly guide to personal technology with the goal of familiarizing readers with technology at home.
“We focus on how-to advice,” says Fischer. “Our aim is to help people do things that are useful with their computer. So we write about Internet websites of interest to our readers, highlight gadgets and gizmos with full product reviews, and we cover video games as well as computing for parents as it relates to their kids and education.”
“We also want to emphasize consumer technology that is here now, rather than off on a horizon that never seems to arrive,” adds Fischer.
-> What Fischer looks for in a story pitch:
“It must have a strong consumer focus,” says Fischer. “It has to be something people can actually use at home. So we’re not looking for technology that used in big corporations. But we will cover some technology used in small businesses.”
Pitches that stand out have broad appeal.
Readers should be interested in buying the product, downloading it from the Internet, or it should propose to teach them how to use the Internet or their computer better.
“The worst thing someone can do is send me something vague,” says Fischer. “The more specific the info the better. I get inundated with trash emails and press releases that don’t tell me anything about the product.”
“I’m also very interested in technology trends,” says Fischer, “If someone is pitching a particular product or service and it falls into a trend category where we might be able to report on three or four products in that category – such as parental filtering software – that is of great use to us.”
Email is the *only* way to go. “I don't respond to pitches left on voice mail. I just hit the delete this message button and move on,” says Fischer.
Because the tech section is distributed to so many newspapers, it is sent out a week in advance. “When distributed, it’s a completely designed, paginated product and some papers have to add advertising or integrate it into another section,” explains Fischer.
As a result, the deadline for submissions is 10 days before publication.
-> Submitting pre-written contributions:
“Again, pitches and full press releases are the best way to go and email is the preferred vehicle.”
-> Becoming a regular columnist:
“The section has a team of freelance journalists and wants all contributions devoid of any sort of public relations slant,” explains Fischer.
If you would like to become a freelance writer send a cover letter, resume and three to five writing samples, preferably of stories about technology. Do not call.
“If I am interested, I will get in touch. While I am not currently recruiting freelancers, I like to keep resumes on file,” says Fischer.
-> What Fischer looks for in an online pressroom:
“Usability is most important,” says Fischer. “I want to know where things are immediately. We need to be able to find press releases but it’s vital that we are able to find artwork.”
“Our site designer’s biggest nuisance when we feature a product is not being able to find the art in the company pressroom. Then we have to make a lot of calls and track it down,” says Fischer.
-> What Fischer looks for in print press materials:
Again, make sure all the information is there or specific directions how to find more.
->Where you can meet Fischer:
If you are in the area, Fisher is available for a meeting. “If it think it’s a priority, I’m happy to set something up,” says Fischer.
“The companies we have very good relationships with Microsoft, Apple, Norton to name a few) arrange regular meetings in conjunction with big events and conferences,” Fischer adds.
-> Fischer’s favorite professional publication:
“I stay in tune with the top technology websites like CNET’s News.com and Wired.com.”
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