Aarti Shah 21 Feb 2016 // 8:10PM GMT
SAN FRANCISCO — Stories that set a scene, make people more compassionate and make companies behave better have the strongest draw for Guardian’s newest tech reporter Nellie Bowles, she told attendees to the Holmes Report’s 3rd In2 Summit in San Francisco last week.
Bowles joined the Guardian’s growing Silicon Valley team in January 2016. Before this, she was a staff writer at Re/Code.
“At Re/Code a lot of people who rely on you are traders,” Bowles said in the session moderated by Cision/Gorkana managing director Jeni Chapman. “At the Guardian, you’re dealing with a bigger, broader more international audience. You have to show people why they should be interested in Silicon Valley.”
The reason, she says, is the technology that emerges in Silicon Valley ultimately reaches the rest of the country — and world— within a few weeks or years.
“The next billion-dollar fortune in Silicon Valley will be made in [virtual reality],” Bowles forecasted. She added, over the next six months she’s curious how the industry will respond to potential market volatility.
“[My coverage] has been a boom town report — the wealth, the parties,” Bowles said. “It will be interesting to write about the other side. A lot of interesting companies start in corrections, there are so many angles when markets start moving. But I don’t think this is all a bubble — AirBnB, Uber — these are legitimate companies.”
She said she scans Eventbrite for tech ‘scenes’ to write about. She told attendees she once attended a VR event intending to cover the excitement around the technology.
“I got there and a PR person followed me around and wouldn’t let me into some rooms,” Bowles said. “She made me feel like a criminal and I couldn’t get any meat for my story because she was so nervous about me finding out anything ‘bad.’ Even if I had discovered a story that was was complex — how cool VR is but also the headsets can be itchy — the important thing is, the story would have read well.”
She advised PR people to “be human” meaning don’t be afraid to be self-deprecating or tell a joke. “I’ve never worked a formal job so I don’t know how people are trained to send emails,” she said. “But be human.”
She tends to skip stories that are pushed as embargoes, scoops or exclusives.
“If someone tells me they have a story for me, I tend not to like it.”