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How to cover technology: An introduction

May 2, 2011

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By G. Pascal Zachary

Journalism about technology spans a few broad but distinct areas, most of which share a common origin in digital electronics. Once known as “high-tech” and now increasingly simply called “technology,” the subject covers computing, software, consumer electronics and telecommunications; the Internet, “new” media and “social” media; parts of bio-medicine and biotechnology that rely heavily computational tools; some military technologies such as drones; and some parts of energy technology, especially batteries and solar cells.

Technology journalists also cover the world of scientists and engineers; and the inventors, innovators and entrepreneurs who imagine, build and market new instance of the technologies cited above. Technologists can work in industries or universities, in privately-owned enterprises, non-profits or government-run programs.

The tech beat also includes aspects of economics, especially coverage of the financiers, venture capitalists and government agencies who fund digital innovations; and also the marketing, engineering and management executives who define the projects and products that turn broad innovations into specific products and then bring these products, and future iterations of them, to consumers and the market, not only in the U.S. but around the world.

“Tech reporters” usually work out of the “business desk” of a news organization, though sometimes they are grouped together in their own section or as part of the “science section.” Technology stories sometimes lead the news, and the since the practice of journalism is being reshaped by new information-technologies, leaders of journalism often learn a good deal about the subject.In recent decades, technology has spawned many important news and analysis stories, about business, economics, society and even politics.

No matter where tech reporters work, they are recognized as breed of their own, with a distinct set of skills, knowledge and experience.

This primer aims to provide the basics of technology journalism — and instill an appetite for learning more about it.

G. Pascal Zachary reported on Silicon Valley and business technology for the San Jose Mercury and The Wall Street Journal (1987-1995). He’s been an innovation columnist for Technology Review, Spectrum, and The New York Times. He is the author of two books on technology: “Showstopper” about the making of a software program at Microsoft; and “Endless Frontier: Vannevar Bush, Engineer of the American Century.”


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