Qwestion & Answer with Sandra Gittlen, Editor at Large at TechTarget

Madelynne Kislovsky January 6, 2021

Qwoted is committed to exploring the current state of the media by speaking to industry leaders and educating future generations of media professionals. What has social media and technological innovation brought to the table? What can we expect for the future of journalism?

Technology Editor Sandra Gittlen smiling at the camera in front of a blue background.

Sandra Gittlen’s journalism career began with a copy-editing role at IDG’s Network World, where she would later work as a reporter and editor. Gittlen has reported on the information technology industry for nearly 25 years and has over a decade of freelance experience covering technology, education, and healthcare. She has written for dozens of publications and organizations, including IDG’s Computerworld, The Boston Globe, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Holy Cross Magazine, and HealthLeaders Magazine. She joined TechTarget’s Networking and Security Group in 2019 to write on a wide range of networking and security topics. Gittlen aims to help her readers understand complex emerging technology and implement it in their organizations.

“I never imagined I’d be 25 years into a technology journalism career, but I fell in love with this genre of journalism. If you do it right, you’ll learn new things every single day – and that’s my favorite thing about being a technology reporter and editor.”

– Sandra Gittlen

What advice would you give to aspiring young writers and reporters?

SG: Write about everything and don’t be afraid to say “yes”! The best thing I did as a young reporter was write for any outlet I could on any topic offered to me – from legislative news and local politics to lifestyle articles about pet care, home décor, and landscaping. This versatility allowed me to build a diverse clip portfolio that led to many other opportunities. Saying “yes” and being curious is how I landed in technology and how I first added healthcare expertise to my resume. Never limit yourself to a single topic of interest – markets shift too fast, and you need to be agile. Not to say you shouldn’t become a subject matter expert, but remain open to opportunities.

If there’s one thing you could change or improve about journalism—in any area—what might that be and why?

SG: Although I admit I am a breaking news addict, I feel journalism overall has become too immediate. I think it is okay to take time on a story to ensure proper fact checking and allow for multiple rounds of editing. Great journalism is worth the wait.

I was fortunate in my freelance career to have editors that still put my writing through its paces with great editing and copy-editing. I would love to see more of that in the freelance world. Many writers are never even edited, let alone copy-edited. That lack of questioning can often be detected in the final product.

What do you think about the role of technology in journalism? Is it helpful? harmful? Something in between?

SG: The immediacy of sharing news is taking a toll on the overall quality of writing, editing, and fact-checking. I enjoy finding breaking news on Twitter, but ingesting news every few minutes without much context can lead to the information losing impact. Drinking from a fire hose makes it hard to get any water. I prefer well-reported, well-written, and well-edited features – the kind that The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, The Atlantic and the like do so well. Substack also has become a place to find these meatier pieces. Somehow we must find the balance between fast and contextual.

Social media has upended the traditional media landscape. One of the great challenges it creates is authenticity and malevolent actors. How do think journalists and reporters should deal with the rising tide of misinformation?

SG: I follow a lot of fantastic journalists and subject matter experts on social media and I think that amplifying the messages of professionals like them can help stem the tide of misinformation. I do think it’s easy to get tripped up thanks to the savviness of disinformation campaigns these days. However, we must question everything we take in and identify the source of each piece of information – as if we’re writing an article on it.  Often that means tracking it back to its original source and being more discerning about the poster’s point of view.

I’m also learning that it is okay help friends dissect their sources of information, as having those conversations goes a long way toward stopping the flow of misinformation.

What do you see as some of journalism’s biggest potential pitfalls? And what gives you hope for the future of journalism?

SG: As the job market has shifted over the past few years, writing has become a commodity. Previously, quantity was valued over talent, and the name of the game was low fees for more words. As a freelancer, that was very hard for me to accept – and I am not sure I ever did. But I believe many of the outlets churning out content and tilting the balance toward quantity, not quality, realized they were getting exactly what they paid for – less than great content. Seeing the value of talent rise again – slowly, but steadily – has given me hope.

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