Meet the Media: Sean O’Kane, Senior Reporter at The Verge

I’m a senior reporter at The Verge, and I cover the emerging technologies and business side of transportation companies big and small, with a special focus on electric vehicles.

Can you tell us what types of stories, trends or issues are on your radar now?

An overwhelming number of the startups I cover have recently gone public by merging with special purpose acquisition companies, or SPACs, so I spend a lot of my time now closely following and writing about that transition. Many of these startups spent years scrambling for cash, some nearly to the point of extinction, and now they’re flush with it. That’s totally changed this corner of the industry, as these companies now finally can try to do what they’ve promised, but it’s also got them all under an intense spotlight.

Describe the craziest or most fun story you have written.

I’m a nerd so in some ways I have the most fun digging for and uncovering difficult-to-find secrets. But I’ve also been lucky enough to experience first-hand the extremes to which some people are pushing electric vehicle tech. To that end, in 2019, I got to drive one of Formula E’s second-generation electric racecars in Spain. It was a major turning point for the series, but it was also just a total out-of-body feeling to pilot that thing around a race track.

What story or stories are you most proud of?

Anything where I’m putting new information in front of our readers. That could be revealing a surprising relationship between Apple and Tesla, or reporting Apple’s interest in buying an electric vehicle startup. I also love poking holes in the big promises that get made in this industry. A lot of companies bet that people won’t put in the effort to — or, for a host of other reasons, aren’t able to — do the work required to tell the whole story.

What elements or characteristics do you look for in a story?

What isn’t being said? I’m a big fan of trying to tell the stories that have gone untold, zigging while other people are zagging.

How long have you been in journalism and how did you get started?

I got a journalism degree in college but I graduated in 2008 — not the greatest time to try to find a writing job in the media industry in New York City. So instead I leaned on my photography experience, and was lucky enough to score a series of full-time and full-time freelance gigs as a photo assistant and photo editor. I bounced around those for about six years while doing my own photo work on the side before finally spotting an internship at The Verge with the reviews team in 2014. They let me write while I did that, and I’ve been with them ever since.

Finish this sentence: If I am not reporting, I am …

Walking my one-year-old dog or playing with my one-year-old son. (Or, at night, rifling through stock exchange or court filings or some other online database in search of the next story.)

What advice do you have for PR people that want to pitch you?

Be as clear and concise as possible. Understand that I can probably find some value in connecting with whoever you’re trying to connect me with, even if it doesn’t turn into an article. To me it feels like the pitch process has gotten so focused on being able to draw a direct line between reach-outs and posts published. (Maybe I’m wrong!) And if I don’t respond to your seventh email… there’s probably a reason.

Any pet peeves with PR people?

When I get pitched something that isn’t even remotely in my beat. My inbox is already enough of a mess without someone asking if I’m interested in the latest smart waffle maker or whatever.

Tell us a little about yourself (family, interests, hobbies, background, some fact about you that few people know, etc.)

I recently moved to Austin, Texas with my wife, and we had the aforementioned son and acquired the aforementioned dog. It’s a big change from New York, where I’ve lived my whole life, though the pandemic has kind of flattened that whole experience. I read a few too many John Grisham novels growing up and wanted nothing but to be a lawyer until right before I graduated high school — which actually probably goes a long way to explaining my tolerance for sifting through legal documents.

You can follow Sean on Twitter at: @sokane1

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