Julianne Pepitone – Technology Staff Writer, CNNMoney.com
There’s no denying the current tech boom: industry leaders now share the spotlight with startups that haven’t even launched yet, South by Southwest draws as much media attention for its tech conferences as it does for its music, and celebrities like Justin Bieber and Ashton Kutcher are investing heavily in the industry. There’s a lot to digest, and it’s easy to get lost in the headlines.
Julianne Pepitone hopes to cut through all the noise in the technology business and zero in on emerging stories to provide thoughtful, detailed analysis rather than just a simple headline. As one of three staff writers on CNNMoney.com’srecently assembled tech team, she plays an integral role in giving that shape to the site’s technology coverage.
“With only three of us, we’re not going to be covering every single app, or every single startup,” she said. “We don’t generally cover funding, things like that. We’ve had to draw a line in the sand of what we’re going to cover and what we aren’t going to.”
Opting for restraint allows Pepitone and her cohorts to carve out a unique niche in the tech business space, to explore business models and revenue streams and explain what that means for consumers.
“Even if we are covering some kind of breaking news – something about Apple or Google that everyone is going to be covering – we want to follow-up with a lot of analysis,” she explained. “We want to get expert comments; we want to give you the context of what’s been happening over the past year.”
Pepitone joined CNNMoney in 2008, just six months after graduating from Syracuse University with degrees in magazine journalism and psychology. Her first position with the publication was as a freelance reporter, covering general assignment three or four days per week.
“Before I came here I didn’t have any background in business whatsoever and I never would have expected to be working in it,” she admitted. “CNNMoney really schooled me about business because I really could not have known less before I came here.”
Pepitone’s talent as a versatile, fast-learning reporter was recognized, and in 2009 she joined CNNMoney as a full-time staff reporter. Stints on general assignment and healthcare reform eventually led her to the technology beat in July 2010.
Named a technology staff writer in August 2011, Pepitone is now able to devote all of her attention to the tech beat – specifically mid-sized media tech companies, content services and e-commerce.
“I’m looking forward to having more time to really dig in on those sources and be following trends,” she said.
In CNNMoney.com, Pepitone found a publication that shares her passion for serious, high-quality reporting, a trait that undoubtedly helped her secure her current role.
Looking back on her interview for the job, Pepitone said, “I made it clear that I wanted to be doing serious reporting about things that matter.
“It doesn’t mean much if you are just trying to report every rumor as soon as you hear it,” she continued. “We want accuracy here and that’s something that was really important to me… I wanted to be doing serious stuff, but work for a place that has credibility, has a reputation.”
With that, Pepitone expressed that she looks forward to the opportunity to pitch more original story ideas and focus more time on long-term investigative journalism.
Since taking on the tech beat, Pepitone’s enthusiasm also bled into other creative projects with the site. In 2010, she co-founded the CNNMoney Tech Tumblr, a supplement to the main site’s coverage that offers a more light-hearted take while serving to broaden the site’s readership and spark a dialog with readers.
“I love writing for the Tumblr. I have lots of favorite parts of my job, but that’s one of my favorites,” she said.
“It’s really just kind of been about a new way to interact with our readers and I think online journalism really is all about that. People want to be involved in the conversation…
“I’m hoping that it’s brought the awareness of our brand to possibly a younger audience, especially because…the kind of ramping up of tech coverage on CNNMoney specifically has been relatively new, so it’s been a great way to get our brand out there in a more casual way.”
Pepitone realizes that CNNMoney is expanding into a market already saturated with tech business news, but remains assured that her team’s balance of deep reporting and consumer interest will resonate with readers.
“I really think we do stand out with the distinctive analysis with finding the smart analysts and players in the space and getting that real-people aspect out there,” she explained.
“I think it’s a really tough mix to get right, and it’s something that we continue to work on, but it’s really what differentiates us at the end of the day.”
Pepitone prefers to receive pitches by email only.
“I get so many phone calls a day that if I answered every single one, I’d literally be on the phone for 12 hours,” she joked.
She is especially interested in pitches that provide insightful analysis on developing stories, saying “anything that’s ‘what does this mean for the reader’ day two-type stuff really stands out.”
Regarding her beat coverage, she specified, “I cover mid-sized media-focused tech. If it’s about content, e-commerce, that’s great. We don’t generally cover funding news or a single app.”
Because the site is consumer-focused, Pepitone notes that enterprise technology will be ignored entirely. Likewise, while the site occasionally offers product review videos, it never publishes text reviews.
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Julianne Pepitone, technology staff writer
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