Jennifer, you joined NBC News to take up the newly-created role of Asia Digital Editor last year. Please tell us more about the role, your target audience and coverage focus.
As Digital Editor for Asia, my job is to coordinate Asia news coverage for NBCNews.com. That includes both breaking news and more in-depth features that inform and engage our audience, which is mostly in the United States. We are especially interested in culture-related stories that transport readers to places in Asia they may or may not be familiar with and help them understand the issues that matter in people's daily lives.
In addition to our international news team based in London, I work closely with broadcast colleagues around the region as well as a growing network of freelancers. We also have a fabulous internship programme in partnership with the journalism school at the University of Hong Kong - our interns have a wide range of experience and skills and their contributions make a big impact on our coverage both in Asia and globally.
What are the top three topics you will be watching closely in the second half of 2022?
Asia was the first part of the world to experience the pandemic, and it appears to be the last part of the world coming out of it. I'm watching how the region recovers, how quickly tourism rebounds, and particularly how long China and Hong Kong will stick to their COVID restrictions and closed borders. China of course continues to play a major role in stories across Asia, and all eyes will be on Xi Jinping as he seeks an unprecedented third term at the Communist Party congress this fall. Finally, inflation is a vital issue for hundreds of millions of people, with direct consequences for governments in countries like Sri Lanka and Pakistan.
What should PRs do to build a trusting relationship with you?
First, it's important to demonstrate familiarity with our work and the kinds of stories we tend to cover. I get so many emails from PRs about topics that have nothing to do with my job. I'm so much more receptive when someone says, "I saw you wrote a story about X, so you might be interested in Y." The same goes for understanding our audience - do you know who they are, and why should they care about the story you're pitching?
It should also be a give-and-take relationship - don't just think about what you can get from the journalist, but what you can offer in return. For example, journalists are always looking for people to call for comment, especially on short notice. If you see a story in the news and you have a client knowledgeable about that topic, reach out to the journalist and let them know. If it works out, they'll probably remember you for future stories.
What makes a good journalist? Any tips for aspiring reporters?
First and foremost, a good journalist has a strong curiosity about the world and a passion for explaining it to others. Right behind that I would say is a near-maniacal commitment to accuracy, especially at a time when news moves faster than ever and public trust in the media is declining. That means taking responsibility for fact-checking your own stories - don't assume that editors will catch your mistakes - and paying attention to the smallest details. Related to that is the ability to evaluate information quickly and critically: Is this a trustworthy source? Who is saying this and what might their motivations be? How can I verify this information myself or expand on it?
Journalism these days can have a going-with-the-crowd feel to it, so the journalists who stand out are those who are independent thinkers with original ideas. In other words, go out and find news that no one else has. Get on the phone, talk to people just because and always be on the lookout for stories that haven't been reported yet.
Tips for aspiring reporters:
- Read widely, try different things (especially early in your career) and keep an open mind. You may think you were born to be a political reporter but find you have a passion for science journalism instead.
- If there's a journalist you admire and would like to meet, drop them a note - you'd be surprised how responsive people can be.
- Limit your time on social media and the comments you make online - it's rarely time well spent and is increasingly derailing more careers than it builds.
- Learn foreign languages - this is only going to become more important in the coming years.
- And finally, prioritise your own well-being and keep things in perspective. News stories will come and go, but nothing is more important than your physical and mental health.