By Leigh Anne Varney, Senior Account Supervisor
Alastair Goldfisher wears two journalist hats, serving both as the editor of Venture Capital Journal and as the venture capital editor for PEI Media. In both cases, he’s got his finger on the pulse of the VC world and, as a result, has a lot to say about how the current pandemic is impacting his world.
How has the pandemic affected financial journalism?
At first, there was a lot of adjusting for us, mostly because of getting used to a new way of working. None of us were in the office and we had to quickly adjust how we did a few things. For instance, we put out a print magazine and that quickly changed as we were concerned about the effects of the pandemic on the supply chain, with the printing and distribution being delayed because of coronavirus. As I’ve told my production colleagues, people like the PDF because they’re not in their office to receive the print version in the mail. Literally overnight, everything we had been doing changed – Zoom and all that – to get the job done.
Are you tired of penning COVID-19 stories?
Initially for the first 4-8 weeks after calling all our sources, we were writing one coronavirus-related story after another. Such as how firms were adjusting, working from home, how it impacted deals and fundraising and how our readers were cancelling trips and attending conferences. We were trying to figure out our plan while we were doing it. After a while, we thought people didn’t want to read another COVID-19 story, but we realized a good story is a good story whether it’s coronavirus-related or not. We as a staff decided that we need to be smart and focus on the long-term impact and not just write the basic story that every other publication was writing. Our mission is still the same: find out how investors are surviving, identify lessons to be learned and be cognizant of how we’re all managing within the current environment. This is true pre-pandemic, pandemic and post-pandemic. Many stories still have a coronavirus spin or even a section. For example, when reporting on a new hire, how does a person transition into a new job and get to know virtual office mates that they probably didn’t know ahead of time?
Describe a day in the life as editor of Venture Capital Journal.
I manage Venture Capital Journal, an email alert, an online site and a print pub that is a downloadable PDF. Plus, I oversee two reporters: one in the Bay Area and one in NY. I was on the verge of hiring another reporter in Europe before COVID-19 hit. I am in the loop on what my two reporters are working on and help them throughout their week while we work on deep- dive analysis stories as well as filing shorter pieces for the online site. I look through all my notifications – email, Google alerts, social media – to keep up to date. Here’s another way things have changed during the pandemic: Daily Zoom calls with staff and I try to have 1:1 calls at least once a week with my reporters. I also will reach out multiple times a day and make sure they’re on track with their assignments. And I check in with their well-being, remind them to take time off if they need it.
Worst PR pitch?
Pre-pandemic: I have one bad PR pitch story I tell a lot. I have had a lot of bad pitches over the years. They’re bad because the PR professionals don’t take the time to find out who I am and what the publication is about. I also receive bad pitches directly from entrepreneurs and investors themselves. They usually misspell my name and pitch things we’ve already covered or we’re not interested in because they don’t read the publication. But single worst was several years ago, when Foursquare was a thing (before they split into Swarm), and I checked into the app for a San Francisco Giants game with my son. Almost immediately, a PR person sent me a message within Foursquare that said, ‘Hey, I see you’re with your son at the game, I hope you’re having fun. By the way I have a pitch for you.” It wasn’t someone I was deeply connected with. Needless to say, I didn’t respond.
Pandemic: A lot of the pitches I receive just don’t have anything to do with what I cover. I just get on these lists and I spend a lot of time deleting emails. I’ll get pitches about major league sports and how will they get to business as usual. Healthcare – how is a hospital dealing with PPE shortages? My advice: Know your audience.
How have you adjusted to working from home?
Since I had been in our SF office for most of the last year, my home office was not ready for the lockdown. I tried to do a Zoom from my home office and my coworkers would ask, “What is that old paint can behind you?” And then I would go into the dining room or living room, but there was too much home life distraction to make that work. I finally cleaned my office and the background. No more paint cans!
What are your hobbies?
Pre-pandemic: I was having fun taking lots of photos of San Francisco since my office was there, so no more street photography but I still take some photos (via @agoldfisher on Instagram). Plus, I haven’t been to a museum in months. Photos and art usually keep me going.
Pandemic: I’m into wood-making projects. I made a table to go next to the BBQ in the backyard and I’m working on shelves and a side table for the inside of the house. I already owned all of the power tools and such, but maybe I finished the table sooner because of the pandemic. Lots of gardening, playing with Dottie our dog and Zany our cat, both were rescued pets. And, of course, more exercise, too. I do yoga every morning and I’m biking a lot more, too.
Any questions or comments for Alastair? Please tell us about it below.