Lessons from the tech CEO grilling session

By Seamus Byrne in Media News on


When you get the chance to sit down and ask a Silicon Valley CEO some questions, you’d better be prepared.
At today’s congressional subcommittee hearings into anti-trust concerns over Amazon, Google, Facebook and Apple and their associated market power, too many committee members had not done their homework. Maybe they thought they had, or maybe they just thought they were the smartest people in the room. But both the good and the bad questions showed textbook lessons for journalists – and corporate executives – on how to prepare and conduct yourself in a big interview.
The big failing was the classic: thinking you could possibly ask something they were not expecting to be asked. Anti-conservative bias on Facebook? Conservative bias on Facebook? Zuckerberg’s answers weren’t great, but they were the ‘standard words’ we hear repeated on a regular basis. If you go too broad, you let them say what they were prepared to tell you.
The truly great questions thread the needle perfectly. Like Skywalker’s shot on the Death Star trench run, almost every question is just going to impact on the surface, but with good preparation (and a little help from The Force) you can land a shot that forces an answer to go somewhere they were hoping you wouldn’t reach.
These questions go directly to specifics. When asked broadly about ad targeting toward children on YouTube, Pichai had answers we’ve heard many times before. When asked by Mary Scanlon if Sesame Street can block junk food advertisers from its channel? Pichai leaned back on “user choice” and “subscriptions so you don’t see ads” because the answer was really “no, Sesame Street can’t do that”. Specificity reveals the canned responses where there is no good answer to be the weasel words they are.
Others know how to thread the needle, usually with a one-two punch. Ask them one question you expect a certain answer to so you can make them trip over their prepared response, or skip to the second question because you already know the answer to the first. Don’t waste your time by letting them make their obvious speech.
Pramila Jayapal pinned Bezos on the misuse of seller data to crush its competition. He admitted it might still happen. He might not have admitted as much if there wasn’t a Wall Street Journal scoop in April that showed it was happening. Jayapal knew she had that ammunition in her back pocket, and Bezos decided to give the honest answer first instead of getting trapped. But it still meant he had to give the honest answer.
It’s important to know that the CEOs knew this was live. This is not the same as when we get the chance to sit in a quiet room and talk. In that context they know their every facial expression won’t also be analysed frame-by-frame like they were in today’s hearings. Poor Bezos was the ‘every man’ who forgot to unmute at one point. Maybe that was staged to make him seem more human? It’s hard to know…
There were so many more moments, and I thank my learned colleagues for doing most of the viewing so I didn’t have to. But it’s worth watching more than a few minutes to see what both sides did right and wrong. The CEOs were coached by the best in the business. Thinking of ways to get something genuine out of them is a great exercise.
What would you have done differently?

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More Media News

Ahern leads new STEM publication

By Jonas Lopez in Media News on

Ex-Cosmos Media CEO/co-founder Kylie Ahern has come forward with a new STEM newsletter called The Brilliant.

Scheduled for release every Thursdays, the publication is designed to educate the public on STEM-related matters, including profilers on leading researchers and new scientific advances. 

It will also support the advocacies of industry body STEM Matters, of which Ahern is the CEO. 

“There’s definitely a hunger from within the STEM sector, and from the wider community to hear from the experts and be inspired by the progress and results in meeting the biggest challenges that we face as a society. The Brilliant plugs that knowledge gap,” said Ahern.

The plan calls for The Brilliant to be published as a free newsletter, with paid advertisers to follow if readership grows.

Catching up with David Hague on the Australian Videocamera journey

By Seamus Byrne in Media News on


David Hague is an industry stalwart and has been carving his own path with his Australian Videocamera website and e-magazine for a good long time now. We asked him a few questions to help catch us up on his approach and how the efforts have been going.
How long have you been running in this format now? How often has it been tweaked along the way?
About 7 years now. Major tweak was going from web only to jointly with an interactive approximately monthly PDF once I discovered how to embed video into a PDF as a streaming file (NOT an easy task!). Adobe tell me they have made this easier in the latest updates of InDesign and I am investigating this now.
We have also changed from the original monthly magazine template designed web hosting system to a flexible WordsPress one (3 years ago). We did a brief flirt with a name change to Film Video and Virtual Reality (and the website still reflects this behind the scenes) but it didn’t have the right “ring&rdq

Stock assumes Weekend Herald-Sun editor spot

By Jonas Lopez in Media News on

The Melbourne Herald-Sun has appointed Dan Stock as its new weekends editor.

The remit calls for him to focus on celebrity profiles and new lifestyle material relatable to Victoria readers.

He has been with the paper for over six years, primarily as Victoria food and restaurant writer. 

He also contributes for Delicious.com.au.

Follow Stock on LinkedIn.

Kitchin opens new publishing firm

By Jonas Lopez in Media News on

Magazine editor Sido Kitchin is going forward with a new company called School Road Publishing (pictured).

The company is slated to produce four new titles in print and digital form starting October 2020. 

School Road will be Kitchin’s first major undertaking since wrapping up as editorial director of New Zealand Woman’s Weekly, Australian Women’s Weekly, Woman’s Day, and Lucky Break when Bauer Media closed down its NZ division. 

Former Bauer Media ANZ CEO Stanley Dykzeul has agreed to be School Road’s new consultant.

“I know how much New Zealanders love magazines, taking them into their hearts and homes across generations. It’s a buoyant market for mags right now and in a COVID world, readers are relishing the comfort, connection and inspiration they bring. I’m thrilled to have this opportunity to create fresh, new titles that will enhance Kiwi lives with 100 percent locally-generated content and I look forward to anno

In praise of sub-editors

By Seamus Byrne in Media News on


Throughout my two decades in the media they’ve been under threat from tightening budgets and leadership that doesn’t much care for finesse work. So here’s a quick shout out to those unsung heroes of the industry – the sub-editors.
I’ve had a lucky run over the years to have worked with subs at Next Media, Allure Media, CBS Interactive, and ScienceAlert. That’s a pretty amazing run through an awful lot of my career – and through periods when subs were being dropped out of budgets all over the industry.
Like all the best support roles in this world, most people only notice a sub when they weren’t there to save an egregious error from being missed in plain sight. But a good sub can do so much more than just fix a few words and point out mistakes.
Subs can be guardians of style, champions of voice and flow, and trusted advisors when you really want to make a feature sing. What is missing? What needs more substa

Pezeshki joins Chattr

By Jonas Lopez in Media News on

Ariana Pezeshki has signed on with young-adult content platform Chattr as its sub-editor.

She had previously written for Happs and was recently a freelance reporter for Pacific Magazines.

Follow Pezeshki on LinkedIn.

5 minutes with Alex Walker

By Seamus Byrne in Media News on
Alex Walker joins Influencing this week for our latest 5 Minutes, with plenty of thoughts on his journey through journo land.
What do you do and where does your work appear?
I'm the editor of Kotaku Australia, and all my stuff appears on https://www.kotaku.com.au
Anything else in your career you’ve been known for?
I basically led all the gaming coverage for ABC Technology + Games, I've written for PC Powerplay, Cybershack, games.on.net when that was around. Main thing was doing a lot of esports coverage for the first decade of my career, but my job now requires me to be more of a generalist. Before that, I used to run a lot of esports -- just gaming in those days -- tournaments around Sydney, which was a great experience.
What did you really want to be when you were growing up?
An astronomer!
Which story or stories are you most proud of?
Writing about drugs in esports, an interview with my Discord impersonator, breaking local stories th

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