ShopTalk is The Charlotte Observer’s weekly small business section designed to educate and connect the Charlotte community. The print version is published every Wednesday, and in conjunction with its blog, can be found online here. To learn more here’s a Q&A we did with reporter Jonathan McFadden…
Thanks for meeting with us, Jonathan! Tell us more about your role with The Obsever, specfically ShopTalk. I am the reporter, I do a lot of writing, video and help to maintain the blog. I also help out by contributing to daily business stories. I’ve been at The Charlotte Observer for eight months now and I’m really enjoying it.
To you, what’s the main purpose of ShopTalk? I would say the purpose is to provide tools, give advice, and show what others are doing – either to replicate or to avoid.
I noticed you do conferences and after hours events. Can you elaborate? Yes. We’re responsible for all the planning of those, which keep us busy. We’re in charge of finding the venue, conducting rehearsals, moderating, and interviewing panelists beforehand to provide takeaways to attendees.
What should folks keep in mind while pitching you? I get a crazy amount of pitches a day. It’s hard to give specific criteria to use because I usually find something good in each pitch. Definitely make sure each pitch is personable and compelling. We get a ton of stuff outside of Charlotte, which we don’t want, so it doesn’t hurt to put Charlotte in the subject line. Also, don’t get frustrated if we don’t run with your story right away. You could very well be on my radar and we might do something down the line when it makes more sense or I could tie it to a bigger story.
What kind of stories to you personally enjoy doing? I love the rags to riches or struggle stories — ones that are born out of frustration are particularly interesting to me.
Define small business. SBA says 500 employees or less, but sometimes we make exceptions. Be ready to disclose revenue and, yes, we usually share that information because it’s relevant. It’s an indicator of your success and provides a metric to our readers.
What about the ShopTalk Blog? It’s great because print is once a week, so a daily blog allows us to cover many more stories than we could otherwise.
What issues would you like to write more about? I’m Interested in getting more into public policy issues for small business. There’s a lot happening in the state house regarding taxes. Hopefully we can tap into that a bit more in the future. The state of entrepreneurship is also of interest to me as there are behind the scenes things to consider. For example, getting capital is difficult here. I know people are working to change that.
Is there collaboration between ShopTalk and business beat reporters? I have a meeting every Monday morning with my editor, but everyone has their own sub-beats under the “business” umbrella. All-in-all there is a lot of communication with each other and we help each other out. It could be as simple as passing something along you know is appropriate for your colleague. With a really big story, there are times where everybody pitches in and helps out with it.
How do you conduct your research? My main sources are trade association reports, industry experts and online research; we also have a researcher on staff. Sometimes I use social media and the Better Business Bureau is helpful. I cast a wide net. It’s important to substantiate legitimacy of our sources.
What else should our readers know or do? Tell your story. I’ll get it out of you, but it’s helpful that when you know you’ve got something compelling, tell it! Don’t bury it. I understand there can be things you don’t want out there, a tragedy or something horrible that has happened to you, but others can learn from it! I want the story behind the story. If you’re working with a public relations agency, make sure they drive it home too. Don’t use industry jargon. Also don’t forget to follow me on Twitter! @JmcfaddenObsBiz