CNET Australia & Asia editor Seamus Byrne announced plans to leave the outlet today, and embark on a new career reporting on the world of science. He will finish out the month at CNET before moving to the as-yet-unnamed science publication.
Byrne first took over as the local CNET editor in 2011, which followed a previous run as the local publisher of Gizmodo, Kotaku and Lifehacker. In his time in Australia, he has also taken home a formidable number of Lizzies IT journalism awards.
He explained the change of course in a post to Facebook where he wrote that the would miss the CNET team greatly, and hoped that “the best people in the land” would fight it out for the editor’s chair.
Speaking to Influencing Byrne said part of what inspired him to make the change was watching his kids’ interest in the STEM field grow, and also seeing the world take a turn towards an anti-science mentality.
“That's a terrible state of politics and society, so I've been mulling over what I could do to help promote positive messages around science and the general idea that this is what the future is built on,” said Byrne.
“So when I had this opportunity come my way, it felt like the thing I needed to do.”
As part of his change in focus, Byrne also said that he plans to use more of his own time to advocate for STEM education.
“On one level, I'm going to be doing new segments with Seven's Morning Show and Daily Edition focused on these STEM discussions,” he revealed.
“So stepping out of the consumer tech discussions into more of an applied discussion of what new tech and new scientific discoveries mean for families. How to discuss things with your kids, how to encourage scientific thinking, that kind of thing. There's plenty of tech attached to that, but the focus is totally different. Not ‘what should I buy?’ but ‘how does this change our lives today and in the future?’”
On his long and successful career in technology journalism, Byrne joked that one of the highlights was receiving hundreds of press releases per day.
But more seriously, he pointed to the colleagues and editors he has worked alongside such as Paul Smith when first starting out in London on MIS magazine, as well as Quentin Long, Stuart Ridley, Chris Janz and Matthew JC Powell
“I had amazing editors and bosses who encouraged me to find my voice and say what I thought was the right thing to say to our audiences,” said Byrne.
“I've tried to do the same for my teams over the years, when I started leading others along the way.”
Byrne also included the teams at CNET and Allure Media which he helped to build as high points from his work in tech media.
“I'm proud of hiring Mark Serrels at Kotaku and what he made of that opportunity. The advocacy we did around R18+ laws while I was there was genuinely influential. I'm proud of hiring Claire Reilly here at CNET and seeing the amazing work she's produced here, particularly her work on our Road Trip series last year around the intentional technological isolation of offshore detainees. And seeing Lexy Savvides leap into the spotlight over in the US HQ for CNET,” said Byrne.
Lastly, he warned journalists not to get too caught up in “the weeds of ‘what’s new’” and spare a thought for the actual effects of the technology that gets talked about day to day.
“Personally, I've loved being able to take technical information and make it interesting to mainstream readers. Speaking to mainstream people about tech is so important. I love getting into nitty gritty with enthusiasts too, of course, they're my people. But interpreting tech for people who need help understanding the implications and the influences of something is an important function for society.“
“I'd encourage everyone to remember that annual iteration isn't as important as the bigger picture trends and changes that people need help understanding.”
For anyone considering throwing their hat into the ring for CNET’s soon-to-be-vacant editor's chair, Byrne is happy to provide tips on pitching for the role. He can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org.