901 Tower Drive Suite 420
Troy, Michigan 48098
I’m editor-in-chief at IndustryWeek, a magazine that traces its history back to 1882. These days, we publish our print edition quarterly and focus most of our attention on our website. I manage of staff of six fantastic editors who produce enough great material to make every day to make my job look easy.
Can you tell us what types of stories, trends or issues are on your radar now?
We focus on a few big general topics — talent, leadership, technology, operations — and a lot of issues are crossing those lines these days. Dealing with staffing issues touches on operations (dealing with worker shortages), talent (recruiting and training enough people) and technology (automating as much as possible). Supply chain disruptions and how companies are managing them are another big topic.
Describe the craziest or most fun story you have written.
I think I shared the craziest stories with you the last time we spoke. I’ll add an oddball in there. When I was writing about appliances in Louisville, GE was starting to push induction cooktops. I was researching the story, and on a whim, I reached out to Alton Brown’s people and had a lengthy phone interview with him about chefs using induction systems on set for Iron Chef America, which was at the height of its popularity. I’ve interviewed a lot of famous people, but he was a real pleasure to talk to. I left with the strong impression that the biggest challenge on his shows is capturing his natural personality, not trying to generate a character.
What story or stories are you most proud of?
I’m not writing as much as I used to, but I’ve been really proud of the work my staff has been doing since I joined IndustryWeek. Our first full issue with me as editor focused on the concept of innovation, looking at how companies can tap into the great ideas of younger workers, how they could maintain the make-it-work spirit of the pandemic, how to keep people during the Great Resignation, how to use technology intelligently to boost output. I didn’t write any of them, and in most cases, my edits were minimal. But I’m proud of their work and my role in making sure the articles touched on the same theme without becoming repetitive.
What elements or characteristics do you look for in a story, and why?
The biggest thing is surprise. I want to finish reading a story and think to myself, ‘I wasn’t expecting that!’ If you’re constantly giving readers information that leaves the impression of ‘Well, that makes sense,’ you’re doing your job, but you’re never going to stick in their brains later.
How long have you been in journalism and how did you get started?
I started my journalism career in South Texas as a newspaper reporter in 1997 and followed that with newspaper jobs in Mississippi, Kentucky and Ohio. I left newspapers in 2013 shortly before The Plain Dealer in Cleveland started cutting back print publication schedules. That led to a brief stint in marketing before I joined GIE Media to start Today’s Motor Vehicles, a magazine dealing with automotive manufacturing and design issues.
Finish this sentence: If I am not reporting, I am …
managing social media channels, attending meetings, checking in with editors, coordinating coverage of big issues with editors of different publications within our parent company or hosting webinars — digital-first media takes a lot of planning.
What advice do you have for PR people that want to pitch you?
Just understand the volume of material we get. Even if you do everything right, there’s a good chance I didn’t have the time to consider the pitch. And, every pitch has to stand out these days because we’re so inundated. A colleague in our marketing department recently asked me how many pitches my staff gets a month. I looked through my emails and messages, and the figure was right around 5,000. Of those, 250-300 were personalized with the rest just mass email blasts. We’re drinking from the firehose every day, so if you don’t get a response, it’s not personal.
Any pet peeves with PR people?
Fewer these days than in the past. The biggest would probably be press releases with no contact information. They’re rare, but a surprising number of large companies seems to pump lots of information into the world without any way of seeking more information or clarification.
Tell us a little about yourself (family, interests, hobbies, background, etc.)
The last time I wrote this, I bragged about my gymnast daughter. She’s now a freshman in college and thinking about majoring in communications (despite my warnings).
Is there anything else you’d like to share with our audience?
My only regret in taking this job is that I’m not writing about cars as much as I used to. I’m still not a car guy, but I love the industry and the ingenuity of the people who work in it.
You can follow Robert on Twitter at: @rschoenb
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