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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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Sams assumes AFR fashion editor post

By Jonas Lopez in Media News on

Lauren Sams has been appointed to a fashion editor position with the Australian Financial Review (AFR). 

She had spent the past year with the paper as correspondent and luxury editor, which included editing the quarterly Luxury insert.

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Camilleri takes up Herald-Sun opinions post

By Jonas Lopez in Media News on

Rosie Camilleri has moved up at the Melbourne Herald-Sun as its new opinions editor.

The post will also see her process opinion materials for the Herald-Sun’s weekend edition.

She had previously been subeditor for the paper and Leader Community Newspapers.  

Follow Camillieri on LinkedIn.

Dutton promoted to Canberra Times news director post

By Jonas Lopez in Media News on

Chris Dutton has been appointed news director for the Canberra Times.

He had spent the past five years at the sports desk as editor. 

Follow Dutton on Twitter @BlockaDutton.

Marshall to edit Camper Australia

By Jonas Lopez in Media News on

Veteran outdoors writer Glenn Marshall has joined Camper Australia as its new editor-at-large.

Chris Jefferson, GM of Camper Australia parent firm Adventures Group Holdings, said Marshall’s experience in covering Australia’s outdoor adventure scene made him the perfect fit for the magazine. 

Marshall is well-known for his contributions to leading travel publications including 4×4 Australia, Pat Callinan’s 4×4 Adventures, Camper Australia, and Caravan World.

“I will continue doing what I love: Living the dream, Sharing the Experience,” said Marshall of his new appointment.

AusGamers and the fight for a better game culture

By Seamus Byrne in Media News on
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Stephen Farrelly has run AusGamers since its shift toward covering games, and with a monthly audience in the 250,000 per month ballpark he’s proud of what the site has become since then, and proud that he pays the people who contribute to the site.
“We were the first site that Metacritic invited from Australia, we were the first site invited to be part of Geoff Keighley’s voting processes for E3 judging and The Game Awards,” says Farrelly. “From those early times we got access to all the good stuff and all the good people.”
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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

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