5 minutes with the media – Simon Cocking

Journalism, Technology
July 10, 2017
by Conor Hawkins

In this week’s 5 minutes with the media, we have a chat with Simon Cocking of Irish Tech News. 

What is your current role in the media and what does it involve?

Senior Editor, Irish Tech News

My role consists of planning and promoting events, looking for sponsors, creating content, looking for new contributors (text, podcast, vlog and more), editing other writers content, mentoring interns & generally looking at the data to work out how we can continue to grow our audience and readership.

Did you always want to be a journalist? If so, why? If not, what persuaded you to become one?

No, not exactly. I have always been a writer, so even though it is only approx 4 years as a tech journalist, I’ve been writing for 3 decades now in my adult life. I wrote for the college newspaper (film and play reviews, sports events, feature pieces), and then in Dublin in the 90s I wrote for Circa Art Magazine, Visual Arts Ireland (or rather it’s predecessor ‘The Sculpture Society of Ireland) among other publications. Then in the 2000s we had founded an environmental education company (still going 17 years later) and wrote many press releases about our achievements which ended up in various national Irish media outlets. So I’ve always been writing, this is just a new(ish) field for me, but it requires all the same abilities, insights and talents.

How long have you been working in the media? Is it what you thought it would be like?

Since 1987.

Working in PR is a good way to get an understanding of what journalists will and won’t use. Also being an editor is really useful for knowing what will and won’t work for articles that our writers submit.

One thing is that it is constantly evolving, Twitter is really useful, and journalists these days tend to need to have some online presence to be credible (and contactable).

What do you like most about your job?

I set my own working hours, as long as the piece is done by the deadline it is my choice when I write it – this is especially useful in the summer with all the kids off on the lonnnng summer holidays!

What has been your own biggest challenge to date?

Getting paid is important, and often the part that can take the longest – sometimes from the most distinguished outlets too, they are the most bureaucratic and slow when it comes to getting paid – maybe that’s intentional?

What do you feel is the biggest misconception about your job?

Hm, tough question. I guess people expect you to be right all the time, but they forget that we are usually dealing with other humans who often change, misremember and alter the stories they’d like to tell us. Many, many times, we’ve run a piece and then had the interviewee complain that they didn’t like how they came across, or what we said that they said. So usually this means they say ‘I never said that’, what they really mean is ‘well yes I did say that, but now I see how that makes me look and so I’m not going to admit I said that!’.

What piece of work are you most proud of so far?

Tricky, if I’m happy with a piece, and it then also does well, then that’s a win. Also hitting ‘publish’ every time a new article is finished is also very satisfying. Overall I think we are covering a lot of positive stories that help shine a light on the amazing, inspirational things that people are doing around the world. Therefore it is never one piece that will win the day, but rather the knowledge that we are building up a mosaic of stories that helps to illuminate and showcase the great things happening around us.

What, in your opinion, is the biggest challenge facing media in the future?

To monetise the work that we do, and the value that we deliver.

What would your dream job in the media be and why? Is this your career goal?

I’m happy doing what I am doing now. I have the freedom to cover any story that I feel is important and worth featuring. I get to travel all over the world, meet lots of interesting people, and I no longer commute on a daily basis to an office in Dublin Monday to Friday, these are all things that I appreciate and value. I have had a few head hunters come calling, offering silly money to consider high profile positions in major organisations, but none of these positions come without a cost – they want you 24/7. Currently, I enjoy the portfolio aspect of how I work, and what I work on.

You never say never, and perhaps someone will offer me something that I can’t refuse, but it hasn’t happened yet, and I’m not even sure what it might be.

As a journalist, it’s also good to write books occasionally, although there is very little money in it. I’ve done three so far, and have another three currently in the works, so I guess that is a mini goal, and to have some in print again rather than just ebooks.

Have you any advice for people pitching stories to the media?

Yes, lots. We do a series of articles about this.

Here is one of my favourite pieces which also seems to resonate with our readers and is constantly being viewed and shared.

Finally, what advice would you give to anyone who is considering a career in the media?

WordPress and other blogging platforms have been great inventions, and have really levelled the playing field. Use whatever your preferred platform is to create your content. Don’t tell us you want to be a writer, show us that you already are one, wow us with your content. Blogging / instagram / whatever your medium is, use it to show us why you are awesome.

Those that do are quickly snapped up!

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