Telum Talks To... Saheli Roy Choudhury, Reporter, CNBC.com

Telum Talks To... Saheli Roy Choudhury, Reporter, CNBC.com

Tell us a bit about your role at CNBC.com.
I cover technology news in APAC and report on the Indian economy. But, given how interconnected the news cycle is, one day I could be writing about 5G and Singapore telcos, the next day about India and on the third day, I could be working on an entirely different topic that has captured our readers’ interest.

Technology is a wide and robust sector for the media to cover. Why do you think it is important that your areas of focus around blockchain, AI, VR, AR and cybersecurity are particularly important to be reported on?
Artificial intelligence is one of the most important technologies of our time because of the limitless potential it has. Experts we speak to regularly say we have barely scratched the surface of what AI can do for us and while that is an exciting prospect, it also raises concerns over things like privacy and security because of the massive amount of data that tech companies harness about us and daily consumption habits. I think new technologies like AI, 5G, the Internet of Things etc. tend to be interconnected - and underlining them is the discussion around cybersecurity and data privacy. As a Tech Reporter, my job is to connect the dots and explain to our readers why they should care about it. It’s also important as a journalist that I shine a light on all facets of new technologies, the good and the bad.

In a time where we are inundated with pandemic news, why do you think tech news is something that is still highly sought after by readers?
I think technology has become more prevalent in our lives due to the pandemic. Technology is facilitating our ability to work remotely, forcing companies to rethink their strategies around the use of tech in their day-to-day business operations. Contact tracing apps and phone location data are being used to track our movements, online education platforms are soaring in popularity as are telehealth services and online food and grocery deliveries. In Singapore, every time you visit a mall or a supermarket, you have to check in and then check out when you leave. For those keeping tabs on how each country is faring in the pandemic, technology is also enabling the collection of data - case numbers, death tolls etc - in real time. There’s also the important problem around fighting misinformation and fake news. So, if anything, the pandemic has forced us to reassess our relationship with technology and tech companies alike, hence why I imagine readers are still so interested in understanding what’s happening in the tech space.

You were previously doing public relations. What motivated you to make the switch into journalism?
It’s a profession that I’ve always been interested in but I became serious about considering it as a career in the last two years of my undergraduate degree when I was editing one of the sections of our campus magazine. Through my involvement with the magazine, I met a lot of really interesting people who had equally interesting stories to tell. So, I thought why not do this fulltime? I did PR for about a year and a half. It was my first job out of university and the learning curve was steep - that experience taught me plenty of things that I continue to make use of in the newsroom today.

We’re sure you speak to a lot of communications and PR practitioners in your role. What are you often looking for from them?
I tend to think about story pitches the same way my editors do when I pitch to them, starting with ‘why should our readers care?’ It helps when PR practitioners have a good understanding of the areas we cover. If you’re coming to us, it’s important to remember we’re Asia’s number one business and financial news network with a C-suite, affluent audience. We’re writing stories to help that audience get ahead!

As a young reporter and having been in the media for five years, what do you think young journalists can bring to the table to newsrooms in the region?
I think the most important thing young journalists should bring to the newsroom is curiosity. Skills are easy to learn and refine with practice, but being curious about why something is the way it is or how something works is equally important. Reading widely on topics in and outside coverage areas is also important. As a reporter, it’s fundamental to ask questions - when I don’t understand a concept or something doesn’t make sense to me, I’d reach out to my sources and ask. They’re the experts and often I find they’re happy to share their expertise.

What are you looking forward to in the tech world, post COVID-19?
A couple of months back I did a story about startups and one of the investors said something that resonated with me - “calamity leads to creativity.” I am interested to see how the tech world responds to the COVID-19 crisis and what kind of new technologies become commonplace in the coming years.

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