In this episode of Inside the Media Minds, our host Christine Blake sat down with Lindsay McKenzie of StateScoop and EdScoop.
From a London-native Biochemistry graduate, to a U.S. Technology Reporter, Lindsay dives into her unique path to covering technology, State and Local Government, and Education (SLED). Her journey started after completing her Science Journalism Masters at City University in London, where she got into reporting on research and science policy. Then in 2016, she took a leap of faith and moved to D.C. to do an internship at the Chronicle of Higher Education. Since then, she has embedded herself into the world of technology.
Listen to the full podcast or read the transcript to discover more insights from Lindsay on:
- How she approaches writing for her niche audiences
- The top issues affecting states and higher ed institutions
- The importance of relationships when it comes to pitching reporters
- Some of the hottest takes she’s heard from vendors about the industry or technology
- How she’s brushing up on all her hobbies – with a special guest feature from her rescue pitbull, Dave
0:36 – Lindsay’s Introduction to the Industry
1:45 – Lindsay’s Journey to America
2:16 – Her Roles at EdScoop & StateScoop
5:18 – The Scoop News Group’s ‘Wow’ Factor
6:21 – The Biggests Tech Issues Affecting the SLED Space
8:57 – 2023 Predictions: SLED’s Top Headlines
11:13 – Favorite Story Throughout Her Career
13:02 – How to Get Lindsay’s Attention
14:52 – EdScoop’s Cutting EDge Podcast
16:24 – Deeper Dive Into One of Lindsay’s Articles
18:41 – Lindsay’s Favorite Hot Take She’s Heard About Industry
21:22 – Lindsay’s Slew of Hobbies
23:13 – The Future of EdScoop & StateScoop
Want to hear more from Inside the Media Minds? Check out the full repository of episodes here.
Christine Blake (CB): Welcome to Inside the Media Minds. This is your host, Christine Blake. This show features in-depth interviews with tech reporters who share everything from their biggest pet peeves to their favorite stories. From our studio at W2 Communications, let’s go Inside the Media Minds.
Hey, everyone, this is Christine Blake, the host of Inside the Media Minds and I’m super excited today to be joined by Lindsay McKenzie, reporter at StateScoop and EdScoop. Welcome, Lindsay, happy to have you.
Lindsay McKenzie (LM):Thank you. I’m excited to be here.
CB: Yay! I’m so excited to learn more about you and what brought you into this role. So, let’s start there. Can you give us a quick overview of your background and how you got into the industry?
LM: Sure. Um, it’s been a long and winding road, so I’ll try and keep this short.
LM: Um, I studied biochemistry at university thinking that maybe I’d be a scientist or go into medicine. And then I realized that I loved reading about science more than I liked doing it. Um, so I did a couple of random science-adjacent jobs before I found a science journalism masters at City University in London, which is where I studied, um and once I completed that I got into reporting on research and science policy, which is a pretty niche area, but it got me talking to a lot of professors. So, I started covering higher education. And then I started covering tech and tech is my focus now. Uh, yeah, so that’s how I [inaudible].
CB: Wow! Okay. And so, I know you went to school, like lived in London, what brought you to America?
LM: I really wanted to move to New York and apply to lots of jobs there. I was actually born in the U.S., but just never lived here. So, I moved to D.C. in 2016 to do an internship at the Chronicle of Higher Education. And I just never left. It wasn’t really part of the plan to stay here, but that’s where I am.
CB: Okay, that’s awesome. I love that. Yeah, it sounds like your, your mixture of interest in tech and journalism really brought you to write for StateScoop and EdScoop. So, tell us a little bit about your role at those publications and how you contribute.
LM: Sure. So I’m a reporter. I split my time, so 50/50 between the two publications. So, StateScoop, covering state and local government IT, and EdScoop, covering higher education IT. Um, the beat is broad, I can pretty much cover anything sort of technology related, but there are some some common themes between the two publications and things that I’m interested in. And those are digital equity, diet, excuse me, data privacy and security, and web accessibility. And I’m also really interested in following policy developments and kind of trying to understand the impact of policy decisions on real people.
CB: Okay, that’s interesting. And, I know you described the audience for each publication, which can be somewhat niche and specific. How do you write for that type of an audience?
LM: Yeah, our audience is primarily, or at least I think of them, as IT decision leaders, so people who make technology decisions, whether that’s the CIO at a college or university or maybe the CISO at, you know, a state, local government office. And when I write with them in mind, I’m aware that they are the subject expert, so I’m not trying to tell them how something works. I’m trying to present to them something maybe that’s thought provoking or at least interesting or useful. So maybe, you know, a case study of someone that’s doing something really interesting that not a lot of other people are doing, maybe an example of, you know, best practice that could be helpful, or just covering something that’s really new and developing and people are still figuring out. Um, and I also try to think about, you know, who would they want to hear from? If they were trying to understand something, you know, who would they, if they had the means, pick up the phone and want to talk to and then I pick up the phone, and I do that for them.
CB: I love that perspective. I was going to ask you about, um, like how you gather your resources and what types of people you talk to, and I think that’s a really cool perspective. It’s like thinking about the audience and who they would want to hear from.
LM: Yeah, I think I’m still fairly new, but there are definitely a community of people that the publication has built a relationship with over time. And I’m trying to tap into that and also identify people that, you know, we haven’t heard from previously much, but we should be listening to, right? The people who are really interesting…
LM: …you know, leading the way.
CB: Exactly. Um, I know, we’ve talked to a lot of different people. We’re big fans of the Scoop News Group. Um, how does that group of publications, how do you think it differs from like other publication groups?
LM: Yeah, it’s an interesting question. I think. I think it’s the focus on IT leadership that distinguishes it for me. I’ve covered technology at broader publications and publications that are specifically covering higher education. So, I worked at Inside Higher Ed and I mentioned, the Chronicle of Higher Education. And the audience there is mostly professors may be administrators. You know, people who work in universities, but are not necessarily engaged in making tech decisions every day. But here, I’m really thinking about those tech leaders and the people who have to make big tech decisions. And yeah, that focus is a little bit more distinctive.
CB: Yeah, no, that makes sense. And so as you’re, you know, doing your reporting and learning about this subject matter, another question I had is, what are some of the biggest tech issues facing states and higher ed institutions that you’re most interested in?
LM: One of the things I’ve been thinking a lot about, very recently, is the shift to remote work. And um obviously, everyone shifted during the pandemic. But we’re now kind of in a moment where people are making decisions around whether to go back to in-person or completely stay remote or do something in between. So, there’s a lot of kind of tension right now, especially with IT staff at higher education institutions. Um, because some people need to be on campus to deal with, you know, in-person IT support questions or maybe, you know, they’re like a AV person and they just be there. But some staff don’t need to be there to do their jobs and keeping everyone happy on a team when, you know, the work environment is changing or could change is something I’ve been hearing a lot about. So that’s one of the issues I’ve been riding around recently. Um, yeah, I’m just kind of making sense right now of what are the practices or the tools that we started using in the pandemic that we want to keep? Or what are the tools that we maybe don’t need to be using anymore? That evaluation right now, I think is really interesting.
CB: Okay, yeah, that that actually is super interesting. And, you know, you think about IT modernization when it comes to the government and also higher education as well. It’s like…forced at that point in 2020 to go remote to find solutions to these problems that kind of were on the backburner a little bit. So, it’s interesting now to see that evolution of this hybrid model currently.
LM: I think everyone’s finally had a chance to step back and think about it now, you know, everything was kind of thrust upon everyone.
LM: Yeah, there were decisions that were made because there was really no other choice. And now we’re in a moment where, you know, we have vaccines and people can go back to work and do things the way they did before. And that pause, that moment is allowing people to evaluate, you know, actually, you know, should we do this this way?
CB: Yeah, definitely. And then, you know, talking about looking ahead and forward-looking, what do you think will be some of the biggest stories in the New Year, some of the biggest headlines that we may see coming up in higher ed or state government?
LM: Well, I don’t wanna…jinx myself. I do think there will be a lot of stories next year in tech, um, just following you know, the the Twitter craziness and…
CB: Gosh, right?
LM: …things like that. I mean, that’s a lot happening. Um, I think some themes that we’re going to be really closely following in the SLED sphere are cybersecurity and evolving reporting requirements, that’s going to be a big issue for everyone covering IT. And that’s something that people have been thinking about for some time, but I think awareness has really spread to everyone at this point, right? Like even very small offices have to think about it now. It’s just part of something you have to do. Um, digital equity is going to be a major theme, I think. Um, cause with every cool technology and development, there’s the potential for that gap to widen between the people who have access and the people who don’t. So, I think that’s something over time, that’s just only going to increase unless we take kind of steps to avoid that.
And I’m also really interested in what will happen with web accessibility standards. I really enjoy writing stories about, I guess in higher education specifically, how students with disabilities access course materials, and you know, their LMS [Learning Management Systems], and all of the tools that they have to use online.
LM: And historically, I would say higher education institutions and higher ed vendors have not been super successful in meeting their needs always. And there’s some big changes coming to web accessibility that we don’t really know what they’re going to look like yet.
LM: But I think I think it’s going to become a pretty big focus next year.
CB: Yeah, that sounds really interesting. I think all of those are certainly things that have been talked about a little bit, but then, you know, over the next year or so we’ll maybe become more predominant in the new cycle. Um, and then just kind of a more personal thing, like, what has been one of your favorite stories to write so far in your career?
LM: It’s not a tech story, actually, but probably one of my favorite pieces, was when I was interning at the Chronicle of Higher Education back in 2017. And Donald Trump had just become the President of the United States. And I wrote a piece about how literature professors were working his inauguration speech into courses on dystopian literature.
LM: Yeah. So, it was a really fun mix of current events and politics and then kind of arcane areas of academia. And it was a really fun story to do because I spoke to some professors who are just wildly entertaining and I think often professors can be scared to work politics and current events into their courses, but I found some professors who were absolutely not shying away from that and drawing very interesting parallels between Trump’s words and 1984. And..
LM: …you know, apocalyptic literature, which I thought was really, really interesting. It was interesting convergence of different topics.
CB: That sounds really interesting, actually, that sounds almost like a, like a paper you’d write in college like analyzing those, that comparison. That’s interesting.
LM: Yeah. It was fun.
CB: Cool. Yeah. And then, um, I guess, how, you know, a lot of our audience consists of PR professionals, communications professionals at different organizations who are always interested in hearing how reporters are preferred to be pitched. So, I guess, how would you prefer to be pitched? Any kind of anecdotes or best practices or tips that you can share on that topic?
LM: Sure. Yeah, I get this question a lot. And I really sympathize with everyone whose job it is to do this…
LM: …because I think it’s so hard. I would say, most of the time, I’m probably not going to write a story based on a pitch. But I do really appreciate seeing press releases and hearing people’s ideas because it, it definitely is something I pay attention to. And, um, you know, over time, if I get a series of really good pitches from someone, I start to, you know, build a relationship with them. And, you know, I start to respect you know, the things they send me are relevant to me. And, you know, over time, it sort of builds up. I would say that relationship piece of it is really important and please don’t be afraid to like, reach out and just say, “Hey, this is who I am, this is who I work with and this is their expertise.” That kind of intro is really helpful because often when I’m writing something on a topic I’ve never covered before, maybe I’ll just, you know, in my email, type in some search words and see who’s pitched me on that topic and then reach out to them that way or just reach out to people who I know work with people with expertise in that area and ask for their help. So, I would say focus on building the relationship and not trying to get someone to write this thing that you’ve already written.
CB: Yeah, exactly. And I know that you all have a podcast as well. Um, does the same kind of…how did, how do you all determine like who’s going to be on the podcast? Any best practices for a guest coming on to the podcast?
LM: Yeah, I think it’s a mix of interesting people that we want to hear from. Um, people who’ve won prizes is a big thing.
CB: Oh, interesting!
LM: Or, you know, industry recognition, whether that’s, you know, our own awards or, you know, industry awards. I know, my editor, Colin has been interviewing a lot of people who’ve been recognized by NASCIO recently.
CB: Oh! Hmm.
LM: And yeah, I mean, I have been contributing a little bit to the EdScoop podcast, which is called Cutting EDge and I’m hoping to do more of that. Um, yeah. And it’s just talking to interesting people. I mean, just trying to find something topical, something we haven’t necessarily covered before. And someone who speaks well is always helpful. Um, you know, you don’t have to be an amazing public speaker or someone who can speak for 20 minutes uninterrupted to go on a podcast.
LM: But, I think it helps if they are someone who’s thoughtful as they speak. And not everyone has that skill. You know, it’s not, it’s not easy, actually. It’s difficult. But yeah, people who are interesting and can tell a story is something we’re always looking for.
CB: Yeah, no, that makes sense. So, we do have a couple of listener questions for you as well, Lindsay. So, the first one is about an article that you recently published about higher ed institutions being hesitant to report on cyber attacks or breaches out of fear of being fined or penalized. Um, have you seen any other factors that play into the hesitancy of reporting these incidents? And can you talk a little bit about what you saw during your reporting for that piece?
LM: Yeah, I thought that was a really interesting, a really interesting problem that was raised. Um…I don’t know if it’s the same for every institution, but something that I have heard is that there is some confusion around at what point you’re supposed to report a suspected breach. And they put the emphasis on suspected there because I think they want you to report as soon as you think something has happened. And I think for institutions it’s really hard to do that and to pick the point at which you’re supposed to know, with some degree of confidence that something bad has happened, right.
LM: So, you know, do you in the first instance that you think something has happened, go and report? Probably not because you’re busy putting out that fire. And then you’re trying to figure out the scale of the problem: how big it is, and maybe have to call the FBI, and maybe you have to let people know. And it all has to happen very quickly. So, I think juggling the priorities and not quite knowing what level of confidence you should have that something has really happened that is significant is something that trips people up a little bit. I think, I think they want they want reports as soon as possible, right? Because they can help you manage it. Um, but I understand the hesitancy to not maybe do that right away, to want to get a handle on what’s happening before you tell other people. Yeah, it’s a tricky one. I, I really don’t envy people in that position because there’s so much you have to do all at once. And if you haven’t rehearsed that sequence of events so much, and it’s really tricky.
CB: Yeah, exactly. Absolutely. It’s a lot to disclose and you want to get all the facts and everything together before you disclose anything. So yeah, that makes… And then another question here for listener questions. What is the most interesting hot take or opinion you’ve heard about the industry or technology lately from a spokesperson?
LM: This is a great question. Um, well, I love to gossip and hear people’s hot takes. I don’t think I’ve heard many recently that I thought were really out there, but at the EDUCAUSE conference recently, I went to a session where some higher ed IT leaders were talking about topics they thought were overhyped or covered too much. And um, one of the topics that came up that they thought was overhyped was AI and, um, concerns around AI. I thought that was really interesting and…
LM: …I guess, in the media, or, you know, I am part of the media. So, I guess I speak to this. We do have a lot of concern about where AI could go or how it could be used in a way that is not helpful to society or, you know, may disadvantage certain people. Um, but a lot of those concerns, to some extent, are still theoretical or sort of, you know, future concerns. And I, I get where they’re coming from, you know, I still have concerns about AI, but maybe, maybe I’m not communicating them well enough that not all of the concerns have come to fruition or will come to fruition. You know, it’s, I think it’s something we should rightly be concerned about. Um, but maybe there is a little bit of hysteria around some of the problems that can emerge.
CB: Yeah, I mean, just surface level, you do see a lot of headlines with AI in the title, right. You see, you hear a lot of things about AI, this AI that. So, it is interesting how much it is covered these days, and I think it’s going to continue to be covered, but it’s a matter of what’s being conveyed in those stories, right?
LM: Yeah. And I’ve heard too, that a lot of vendors will say a product is AI and it’s not really, you know. It’s, it’s become something of a marketing term. So, it’s something we hear a lot, and I think it’s not always what it is, you know what it says it is.
CB: Very true. And then what is something in the that you’re interested in outside of work or any shows you’re watching or anything of interest or hobbies that you’d like to share?
LM: Sorry, that was my dog shaking in the background. Um, Yeah, my my dog Dave, who is currently digging in the couch…
CB: Oh my gosh.
LM: …he does that all the time.
CB: What kind of dog?
LM: He’s a rescue pitbull.
CB: Awe! Dave.
LM: He’s genuinely digging into the couch right now.
LM: Yeah, so we love him, love taking on my walks going to the park, he takes up a lot of my time.
LM: Recently, I’ve been trying to resurrect a lot of hobbies that I had in school. So, I really loved drawing and painting. And I’m trying to pick that up again and make time for that. I used to be in lots of choirs.
LM: So I’m hoping to do choir and sing again. I was in a choir, which got dissolved during the pandemic.
CB: Oh no!
LM: And just never never got back together, which is kind of sad. In terms of TV shows, one really random thing I’ve been watching is the German version of Queer Eye.
CB: Oh! Interesting!
LM: It’s really entertaining. Um, so I studied abroad, oh gosh, 10 years ago in Germany, and I’m trying to pick my German backup and I watch really random reality TV shows in German.
CB: I love that. So it’s in German. I did not know there was a German Queer Eye. That’s fantastic.
LM: There is, it’s completely their own version. It’s not just you know, the US one that’s been dubbed. But it is very similar. And yeah, it’s it’s it’s funny, and uh it’s been very entertaining to watch that.
CB: That sounds like very entertaining. I need to check that out, for sure.
Great, well, Lindsay, it’s been so great getting to know you. Is there anything else that you’d like to share about anything that StateScoop or EdScoop has coming up here in the near future?
LM: Um, well, I mean, as we’re closing the year out or at least coming to the end of the year, I’m definitely reflecting on big trends that we’ve seen. And, you know, we’ll be thinking a little bit about how we cover things going forward. I’m still fairly new so I’m just trying to, um, develop a beat and, you know, come into my own a little bit.
LM: And data privacy is something I really want to focus on moving forward. So, I’m trying to build more connections with people who are thinking about that, whether it’s for students or, you know, residents of a city. It’s something I’m really trying to zoom in on so I’ll be working on that next year. But yeah, I mean, news changes every day.
CB: Yeah, it sure does.
LM: [Inaudible] of the great things about reporting when you wake up, you just don’t know what’s going to happen. So, I’ll be on my toes.
CB: Yes, absolutely. Well, thank you so much for your time this afternoon, Lindsay. It’s been great getting to know you more, really appreciate it.
LM: Thank you so much. I’m really pleased to be here. Thank you.
CB: And thanks for everyone who tuned into this episode of Inside the Media Minds.
Thank you for joining us on today’s episode of Inside the Media Minds. To learn more about our podcasts and hear all of our episodes please visit us at w2comm.com/podcast and follow us on Twitter @MediaMindsShow and you can subscribe anywhere podcasts are found.