SUMMARY: Nearly half a million Canadians read the Toronto Star every day. Find out how you can get your company mentioned in the paper from our new exclusive interview with Business & Technology Reporter Tyler Hamilton.
Before joining the Toronto Star two-and-a-half years ago, Hamilton was the Tech Reporter for Canada’s national newspaper, the Globe and Mail. He began his career as a writer and editor for a number of technology and trade magazines.
Hamilton enjoys reporting on technology because things change fast, and he can always find interesting spins on old stories.
“A couple of years back, we focused on telecommunications,” he says. “We rode that rocket up and rode it back down, and now we focus on new technologies like biotechnology. I’m also very big on privacy issues.”
-> Current editorial coverage:
Hamilton has three roles at the Star.
1. Daily news stories: Hamilton looks for hard news. He wants answers to how an announcement might change the industry, its impact on consumers, and how shareholders are affected. His angle is usually, “How does this impact Canadians?”
“We also look for personalities behind the stories,” says Hamilton. “We’re interested in numbers of employees hired and fired; we don’t dwell on them, but we do look for them.”
2. Weekly technology column “Where It’s @:” Stories that have not been written about before or stories that can be dealt with in a fresh way. He looks for anything that is technology related, affects Canadians in the Toronto area, and deals with more interesting issues and trends of the day.
“I’m more flexible in my weekly column, but I can’t really give guidelines,” Hamilton says. “I look for anything that crosses my desk that might be interesting.”
Hamilton is less receptive for getting pitches for the column, but if it is kind of quirky and captures his attention, he may use it.
3. Occasional features for the tech or news section: “When I do features, I tackle big picture stories. I don’t focus on companies, but I’m very willing to include a company if it’s relevant to the story,” Hamilton says.
For all three areas, Hamilton focuses mainly, but not exclusively, on the Canadian scene. “If it happens to be a Canadian company doing business in the U.S., then that would cover both areas. But I’m always looking for the Canadian angle.” He also covers big news on brands that affect people everywhere, such as the merger between HP and Compaq.
-> What Hamilton looks for in a story pitch:
“The first thing I look for is that the person pitching me knows what I do. Often I get PR people who ask, ‘Do you cover technology for the Toronto Star?’” That shows the person does not know what they are talking about and equals a lost opportunity.
Three tips: 1. Pitch by email. If he is interested in the story, he will follow up by phone.
2. Do not phone to be sure he got the email. “I have a message that says, ‘If this is a story pitch, please send it by email,’ but a lot of PR people choose to ignore that. That doesn’t set them off on the right foot with me.”
3. Do not pitch stories that are too technical and deserve to be only in trade publications.
Three biggest pet peeves: 1. Getting an email from someone trying to get him to write a story about their client saying, “Our competitor wrote about us and so should you.” Hamilton says some PR folks even include attachments of the competitor’s story, thinking that legitimizes their client, but they ignore the fact that newspapers are competitive. “It turns me completely off the story,” says Hamilton.
2. Getting phone calls from people not knowing what he covers or who he is. “It’s just a matter of doing your homework,” he says.
3. People trying to be clever and not succeeding. He hates things like, “someone pitching a story with a fancy box with all sorts of stuffing that could contain a baby elephant but all it has is a key chain. Then I have to get rid of the box. It’s a big waste.”
If you can actually succeed in being clever, that is great, he says, but “I don’t write a story because I get a fancy key chain in an oversized box.”
For the daily stories, send your pitch before noon Toronto time.
For the weekly technology story, there are no hard deadlines. He works on a number of stories simultaneously. Same thing for features.
-> On submitting pre-written contributions:
Do not bother.
-> On becoming a regular columnist:
“Our columnists are actual reporters or journalists. We wouldn’t have some company’s CEO writing about stuff because it’s not objective. We don’t even have a space for guest columnists.”
-> Where can you meet Hamilton?
According to Hamilton, a lot of the technology conferences he used to go to have died and faded away, although he does attend the Canadian Wireless Telecom Conference.
It is possible, but tough, to meet him in person at the office if you are in the Toronto area. “They can send an email and pitch their case if they want to meet me, but I’m very busy,” he warns.
-> What he looks for in an online pressroom:
“I never look at them,” he says. “It’s a large landscape to require a reporter to go to newsrooms one company at a time.”
However, Hamilton does find a newsroom site valuable if it is related to a particular event, for instance if something is happening over the course of a week. “If I’m covering a conference, it’s useful to go to the conference newsroom and see what’s happening and read updates.”
-> What he looks for in printed press materials:
“I go through my fax and paper-based releases in case I miss something but it tends to be old news by the time I look at it. It’s very rare that I find a paper-based story.”
-> Favorite professional publication:
Online publications are Hamilton’s favorite. “CNET breaks the best technology stories and the writers are excellent. I also read wired.com a lot.” The Globe and Mail is his favorite for business news.
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