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Katie Burke is the Silicon Valley and Volvo beat reporter for Automotive News, covering the intersection of the technology and automotive industries.
Without revealing any secrets, can you tell us what types of stories, trends or issues are on your radar now?
As a reporter in Silicon Valley – especially covering transportation – it feels like you’re in the middle of this great transition, but you can’t yet put your finger on what exactly this change will bring or what it will look like. I’m trying to focus on the questions that are incredibly difficult or impossible to answer now, but will have a huge effect on the future – who will own the vast amounts of data that will come out of connected and autonomous vehicles? How will regulation change, or will it change, in response to new vehicle technology? What will our cities, roads and daily commutes look like five years or a decade from now? When do you know a sensor stack is capable enough to be considered safe for full self-driving and what will that combination of sensors look like?
I like to think that the more these topics are covered, the closer we get to answers. In my experience, however, the more I learn, the more questions I have.
Tell us about your dream assignment.
Growing up in D.C. with a mom who fed me the complete works of Woodward and Bernstein, I always thought I’d end up as a watchdog political reporter. Though as eventful and necessary the White House beat is these days, I prefer where I am covering the auto industry — it needs its own set of watchdogs.
Describe the craziest or most fun story you’ve written/produced.
Covering self-driving cars, I’ve seen/done a lot of things my friends and family still don’t believe are possible. But I also used to cover the legal marijuana industry for MarketWatch, and I’d say a cannabis convention is one of the most interesting events to cover. From the diversity of people who are involved in that industry to the different ways people are turning it into a viable business, there was a lot to write about. At one point, I was interviewing a group of ex-NFL and NHL players who are marijuana legalization advocates, and they kept listing all their favorite ways to consume marijuana. (I did not partake.)
What is your top pet peeve with PR people?
Receiving email pitches about stories that are nowhere near your coverage area is pretty annoying. But not as bad as the follow-ups checking if you read the email in the first place.
Tell us a little about yourself (family, interests, favorites, background, etc.)
I grew up in D.C. and lived in New York for a while after graduating college, but I’m a Midwesterner at heart. I went to the University of Michigan, am a huge Michigan football fan and would always rather be in Ann Arbor. Now I live in San Francisco, with one sister in D.C., one in Arkansas and a brother in Wisconsin (my mother is constantly worrying). I love physical activities – running, spinning, yoga, hiking – and never say no to joining an intramural basketball team.
Finish this sentence: People would be surprised to know that I ___was on an episode of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.
You can follow Katie on Twitter at @KatieGBurke