May 02, 2003
SUMMARY: The Washington Post has four different main reporters covering technology: Dan Beyers, Rob Pegoraro, Patricia Sullivan, and Leslie Walker. Do you know which one is the best to send your press release to? Find out in our exclusive how-to interview with Dan Beyers. || |
1150 15th street NW
Washington DC 20071
Print Daily: 782,090; Sunday: 1,066,723
-> Beyers’ background
Beyers grew up in the Washington suburbs, one of those rare Washington Post people, he says, who actually grew up in the area.
“I’ve always lived here, went to college in this area, and went to work for my hometown newspaper.” Beyers started at the Post in ‘90, first in the Metro section. “When I became technology editor, I didn’t know a lot but I was interested like everyone else, and I’m learning as I go along.”
It is a lot of fun, he says. Technology stories are always interesting because they’re always looking forward to the potential of how things can be.
-> Current editorial coverage
The Post provides general interest coverage of technology; mostly consumer focused, but with some B2B coverage, as well. “We cover big companies like AOL and Microsoft and Cisco,” says Beyers. “Then we’ll also look at interesting smaller companies when newsworthy.”
“What we’re looking for is what’s interesting at any given point in time,” he says. “We tend to focus on running stories, like if SPAM is a big thing this week, we’ll do more on that.”
What they do not cover much are product reviews.
There are a few places where tech coverage can fall:
* The Business Section
Covers breaking news or events that illuminate larger trends. “Apple’s new music service on the heels of the court decisions in California regarding music sharing would be interesting to us. We would not have done a story alone on the Apple service,” says Beyers.
On Thursdays, the Business section has more space for technology. It is easiest to get coverage in this section, he says. This is also the best place for B2B stories. Leslie Walker’s .com column is also a good place for touting what is new in various industries and the technology business.
You can reach Walker at email@example.com.
Another page in the Business section is called Washtech, which focuses on local technology companies in the DC area. “We get really nitty-gritty in that section,” Beyers says. “We cover everyone that we come across; you have a real good chance of getting coverage if you’re in that area.”
This area of coverage goes down to, but not including, Richmond, up to Baltimore, to the edges of West Virginia.
* The “A” section
Tech stories here must be driven by either strong breaking news or trends. “For instance, our bio tech reporter wrote about various approaches that are now under way to come up with vaccines for the SARS epidemic.”
* Personal Technology
Called Fast Forward, this is consumer focused, covering electronics, game reviews, and new products. It runs on Sundays.
They also periodically do special sections covering the B2B tech world, “when we think we have enough to say,” says Beyers.
-> The best way to pitch Beyers or his team
Email, of course. “My phone rings constantly and I can’t get back to everybody,” he says. “I do read every email, or at least scan them.”
He also saves most emails, since it may become useful down the road. Say you are pitching a story about a new wireless product—if Beyers is working on a story about what platform to use when rebuilding Iraq, your information might come in handy. “I can see opportunities that perhaps even the person pitching doesn’t see,” he says.
--For PR people, identify your relationship to the client. Are you with the company itself, or are you with a service?
--Do not make the editors do a lot of work. Beyers will not even open an attachment unless the pitch is really good. He is not inclined to go to a Web site for more information or to download a photo.
--Make sure the contact information is easy to find.
--Keep your pitch succinct.
--Be very specific about what is included in the subject line. Do not just say “story idea for you.”
Remember, he says, all editors are vying for space on the page every day. They are marketing themselves within the paper, just like you are marketing to them. Make it simple, give them the context of the story, and why it is appropriate.
#1. Do not call with stories that would never appear in the Washington Post. We have said it a million times: Read the paper.
#2. Make sure you can talk about what you are pitching. “Sometimes we call the contact number and the person says, ‘well, I’m not sure, let me look into that.’”
#3. Tell him any obvious hooks. For example, he says: “We’re well read by Capitol Hill. As homeland security became an issue, high tech companies began to pitch us. It helps if you tell us why you’re pitching us, like ‘hey, there’s a big government contract and we want a piece of it.’”
#4. Do not follow up by phone. “It’s my job to read email and follow up,” Beyers says. Often, he does not even answer the phone.
There are 3 technology editors:
* Dan Beyers covers national tech issues. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
* Rob Pegoraro edits Fast Forward. Email him at email@example.com.
* Patricia Sullivan is the Washtech editor. Her address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
When in doubt about who to pitch, go straight to Beyers. He is more than willing to act as traffic cop and pass stories along to the right place.
-> What they look for in printed press materials
At last, someone who still LIKES printed materials!
In fact, in some ways actual mail gets more attention at the Washington Post because the mailboxes are not physically at their desks. Beyers only checks his box a couple of times a week. When he gets his mail, he spends a half hour or so looking through it.
“I’m surprised at how little I get in my physical mailbox,” he says. “If it’s a catchy letter or a photo, I’m going to look at it.”
He appreciates photos coming over the transom: It is easier than going to a Web site and hunting it down.
Because it is daily, the deadlines are ongoing. For the Tech Calendar (on Thursdays) they need things a week in advance.
If there is a special section, they need to put copy to bed a week in advance, so they need to hear from you a week before that.
-> Submitting pre-written contributions
They do not take many of them, “but never say never,” Beyers says. “Sometimes we’ll take a look, say this is interesting, and find a way to get it in.”
-> Becoming a regular columnist
It is very difficult at a paper like the Washington Post. “We don’t have an attorney write a law column for us or that sort of thing,” Beyers says.
-> Where you can meet Beyers
He goes to a few conferences, mostly to get out of the office, but would not name any specifics.
He is amenable to having lunch to talk about a company, especially if you are willing to dish a bit and tell him the inside scoop. “My job is to sell my bosses on tech stories,” says Beyers. “If I don’t have a hook, my stories won’t get much play.”
A good PR person tries to understand what the editor is trying to accomplish and provide the information to meet those goals, he says.