This week on Inside the Media Minds, our host Christine Blake spoke with Rachel Jewett, Managing Editor for Via Satellite. (Read the transcript here.)
Starting her career in 2016 with The Washington Post’s Express newspaper, Rachel trimmed national news articles and human interest pieces into daily bite-sized stories for Metro riders. When Express was, unfortunately, shut down in 2019, she took a new step in her career and joined the team at Via Satellite.
In this episode, Rachel provides us with insight into her unique segue into the world of satellites and space, the mission of Via Satellite, the latest trends in the satellite industry and much more.
- The big topics being tackled by Via Satellite including Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and satellites as a service
- Rachel’s interview with Elon Musk’s right-hand women
- How Rachel approaches identifying resources for her stories
- The importance of incorporating the end user into a story
- Her approach to social media as a journalist
- Rachel’s love of The Bachelor
If you are interested in more from Via Satellite, subscribe here for the Daily News newsletter for satellite news directly to your inbox six days a week.
0:39 – Rachel’s start in the world of Satellite journalism
2:28 – How Rachel approaches writing for Via Satellite
4:05 – How Rachel dove into the Satellite space
5:50 – What are the big trends Via Satellite is covering
9:13 – Rachel’s most memorable stories
11:39 – Her approach to identifying resources for stories
12:55 – What makes a well rounded story
15:21 – The pandemics effect on coverage and work
17:30 – Rachel’s panel on SAR
18:27- Managing social media as a journalist
20:28 – Rachel’s interests outside of work
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.
Hi everyone. This is Christina Blake, the host of Inside the Media Minds. And I’m excited today to be joined by Rachel Jewett, managing editor at Via Satellite. Welcome, Rachel.
Rachel Jewett (RJ): Hi, Christine, thank you so much for having me.
CB: Absolutely. Thank you for coming on the show. We’re excited to talk to you and learn more about Via Satellite and what you cover and how you approach this, you know, very unique niche space.
CB: So, can you kind of start by giving us a quick overview of your background and how you got into it?
RJ: Yeah, so I knew nothing about space before I joined Via Satellite. I have a traditional news background; I have a journalism degree. And I was doing a lot of editing before this. I worked for a publication that sadly doesn’t exist anymore. The Washington Post had a metro paper called Express that was passed out to people when they were riding the metro. And I worked there for three years. And I did, I did like a wide variety of stuff like mostly editing, like national and global news coverage into like, short, like, more bite-sized pieces for our readers on the metro. But I also did some like human interest, local stuff and I ended our celebrity news page for a while and that was super fun. But anyways, Express was like abruptly shut down in September of 2019. And I was just like, really open to anything for my next step. And I came across Via Satellite, and they had an opening and they weren’t scared by my lack of space experience. So I just kind of dove in. And here I am.
CB: Oh, wow. I do remember that Express. I remember getting that. You know, getting a metro and everything. That’s yeah.
RJ: Yeah, it was. It was super fun. It was I really believed in the mission of the paper. It’s sad that it’s gone, but I don’t think it would have survived COVID anyways, so rest in peace.
CB: Yeah, I was wondering if those things correlated, but it yeah, I guess I shut down right before then. So that that makes sense.
CB: So, tell us about Via Satellite and it must’ve, I mean, it must have been a bit of a learning curve for you, right, getting into this space. And maybe tell us about what that was like, and then what your role was and how you approach it.
RJ: Yeah, it was kind of crazy the first few months just because it is so niche. Like I literally would have, I was like dreaming about like terms like NEO, GEO. I just it was like kind of like learning a new language, you know, because there’s so much there’s so much like acronyms and terminology. But yeah, so how I like to describe Via Satellite is we are obviously a business-to-business publication. So, it’s geared toward people who work in the industry, but that’s also changing as the industry is growing so much. And now with all the SPACs, like, we have a lot of readership I think now for retail investors trying to like learn more about the companies. But anyways, so all aspects of the satellite value chain. So, from manufacturin, to launch to the operators and services they’re providing, and including the end users and the enabling ground technology. So all aspects of the satellite value chain, and we go a little bit beyond that. Some general space stuff, and then obviously any, like, regulations or policy that impacts the satellite sector. Also cyber. You had said that you tend to have a lot of cyber journalists on this podcast, and we are getting more into cyber as it is becoming a bigger and bigger issue for satellite operators.
CB: Oh, that’s interesting. That’s fascinating. So did you feel like it took you a little while, you know, you mentioned having dreams about the terminology. Should it take you a while to get up to speed on that?
RJ: Yeah, it definitely took me a few months, like I remember in the early days of like, being like, Okay, I was like, okay, they’re like, cover, write up what happened with this launch. And I was like, what is a payload? Like, I don’t even understand like, you know, the basics of it. Yeah, it definitely took a few months. But also the industry, I think, is in a period of change. And it’s been really interesting to come in, like, while that’s happening, and not necessarily having, like, the history of when satellite operators were mostly just serving broadcasters and Via Satellite was covering broadcast issues and now we hardly cover that at all.
But also, you had asked what my role is, and I forgot to answer that. But we are a super small team at Via Satellite. And so really, it’s me and the editor Mark Holmes, and then Jeff Hill, who’s the chair of the show. He also he does our podcasts and he helps out with editing and some coverage. But I manage and I do a lot of writing for our daily news email that’s like, you know, short hits on contracts and industry news. But, you know, definitely some deeper dives as well. And we have a monthly magazine that is digital and it’s in print at certain trade shows, and I manage the freelancers for that and I work with Mark to figure out what we’re going to cover. And those are like, much more in depth stories where we’re getting like, you know, six companies to talk about the same issue, and really dive into it. And I love working with the freelancers and making sure those stories are, are as good as they can be. That’s really rewarding for me.
CB: Yeah, that sounds like it. So, how do you determine or I guess, you know, what are some of those big topics that you all are covering now? Like, what are some of the, you know, the top three targets in the satellite space currently?
RJ: Yes. Big question. Okay. So, if I was gonna say, kind of like the three biggest, like, maybe trends, and it’s kind of four. Obviously, LEO is like, the super hot topic. Whether it’s if a major operator is thinking about investing in it, or if it’s like the constellations like SpaceX and one web, like, what progress are they making? How are they structuring their business model? What do their, you know, what end users are they targeting? How is this going to impact the industry overall. That is, like, probably the biggest topic that our readers are interested in. And then in the new space, like some of the smaller companies, I mean, they’re not small, a lot of them are not small anymore. But like the evolution of those business models and, with a lot of them going public in the past year, like Spire and Black Eye, Black Sky and Hawkeye and Rocket Lab. How those companies are evolving and as part of that a lot of them are getting into satellite as a service, which is interesting. And then the how the ground technology is evolving to keep up with all of these changes. I think that we cover satellite ground technology deeper than any other publication out there. And that’s actually a really big portion of the industry and it’s just it’s not as sexy so it doesn’t get, you know, the big headlines, obviously, that SpaceX gets, but the ground technology that the end users are using that is going to make or break whether or not these business models work. So that’s a that’s a huge part of what we cover.
CB: Yeah, that sounds interesting. I, I wouldn’t, you know, not being super privy to this space, I don’t see any of that. So that’d be interesting to look at some of those articles about the importance of that ground technology.
RJ: Yeah, yeah, I guess. Yeah. And I mean, I feel like it’s funny because like, it is so niche, and like, when you’re, like, absorbed in it, it’s easy to get carried away. But yeah, so I, for anyone, any listeners who might not be familiar with LEO, that’s low Earth orbit. There’s like low earth orbit, medium Earth orbit, geostationary orbit, where big satellites have traditionally been out in GEO. But now companies like SpaceX are putting like 1000s of satellites into LEO, like Starlink. And you get a lot lower latency on your service. Like if you’re, you know, whereas before, you may not have been able to stream a video using satellite connection. Now, you can do that much easier. And it’s, it’s very, I guess, it’s a like really disruptive technology. People are unsure if the business model is going to work. There’s a lot of excitement about it. And yeah, so that’s, that’s kind of a little more information on that big industry trend.
CB: No, thanks. Yeah, thanks for describing that a little bit more. That sounds really interesting. Out of all of the articles that you’ve written over the years or even oversaw by freelancers, what do you think is one of the most memorable stories that you’ve written?
RJ: Yeah. I think that, so two came to mind when I was thinking about this. Last year, yeah, last year, I got to interview Gwynne Shotwell, who is the Chief Operating Officer of SpaceX. So, she is like Elon Musk’s right-hand person. And that was that was amazing. Like, she is incredibly smart. Also, super well-spoken and dynamic. And she doesn’t give a lot of interviews. But, she won the Satellite Executive of the Year Award, which is an award we do every year and it’s voted on by our readers so it’s really an honor for people in the industry who receive it. And so, I got to talk to her about and it was this was like, you know, they had launched 1000s of satellites that year for the Starlink constellation and they it was also the same it was after they did, they did the successful commercial crew got that up and running with NASA taking astronauts to the ISS. So, it was a huge year for the company. And that was that was really exciting for me, I guess. So yeah. So, I interviewed her in 2021, she won the award for 2020.
And then another story that was that I was really proud of. I did a like a deep dive into Japan’s new space economy, about like how the government is trying to encourage space activity and what some of like who some of the new players are and like public-private partnerships that are encouraging that. And I got really great response from some of the Japanese players that were involved with the story. And we also got it translated into Japanese and published a version in Japanese and got a really strong readership response out of that. So, like, that was just that was really exciting. And it was great to highlight a space economy that maybe some people don’t know as much about.
CB: Yeah, exactly. And it really gives you that extra reach the global reach.
RJ: Yeah, yeah, there’s I mean, we plan to do more of those. Actually, have a freelancer working on one about New Zealand right now. Because space is global and it is exploding all over the world.
CB: Yeah, definitely. Wow. So, when you’re, you know, writing stories, and you’re talking to resources, how do you how do you identify what resources you want to talk to you? And how do you approach that?
RJ: Yeah, that’s a good question. Um, usually, I mean, definitely the, you know, if it’s like writing up a, if it’s like a contract announcement or some type of like, partnership, it’s definitely going to be the players who are involved, the companies that are involved. And then we also have a number of like, there’s really good analyst firms that cover the industry a. And so we have strong relationships with them and get a lot of perspective on what’s happening from the analysts. And then also, like, what other companies are affected in the value chain. So, you know, if it’s, you know, like, using the LEO example. Like, okay, so it’s something about these 1000s of satellites in low Earth orbit, but what are the ground tech providers think about that? Because this is, that is going to be something that they’re going to have to adapt to. So yeah, trying to bring in like different aspects of the industry into stories.
CB: Mm hmm. No, that’s interesting. Um, and then I guess, what would you say, um, you know, makes a good, a good, well rounded story focus on the satellite space, like, what are the aspects you look at? Including?
RJ: Yeah, okay. Actually, I was thinking about what I just said, there were two other aspects that are really important. Government is like one of the biggest customers of satellite connectivity. So, if the government is involved, like that’s, that’s who the end user is. So, who is the who is the entity or person or organization using the satellite connectivity, and that can really make the difference in any story. So, we talk to, like, telecommunications providers, and like, sometimes it’s an airline or a cruise line or a maritime shipping company that are the ones using the satellite connectivity. And that can really make a good story. And they’re the ones who can put the industry to task and say, hey, you’re not delivering on this, or like, we we need more of this from you all and that is really valuable to our readers.
CB: Yeah, I bet.
RJ: Yeah, one example of that, of a story that I really liked, that was a little bit less obvious was about how so in the Arctic, there isn’t, there hasn’t been a lot of satellite connectivity. I believe that satellites in GEO, they don’t really, they don’t reach it very well. And so there haven’t been a lot of options. So that would be like researchers and there’s military operations in the Arctic. But now with these LEO satellites that are like crisscrossing the whole globe. It’s really, they’re really looking to disrupt that area. And so, we had a feature story where a freelancer talked to the companies but also talked to the military about how it was going, how it’s like changing situation for them. And then also there was like some geopolitical analysis. Because it’s not just about space technology, there are like geopolitical and even climate change aspects to that.
CB: Oh, yeah, I’m sure there must be so much and information they can gather and that area of the world.
RJ: Yeah, and I mean with every story because face touches so many aspects it can be it can be challenging to like narrow down what is what’s actually going to make it into the final piece.
CB: Mm hmm, definitely. Um, so there are a couple listener questions I want to get into.
RJ: Oh, my gosh.
CB: One being, you know how hat I know, you started, you mentioned in 2019, before the pandemic, but how is your coverage and approach even for the publication change since the pandemic started?
RJ: Oh, that’s interesting.
CB: I know, so many of us, you know, we’re grim out now or, you know, previously, a lot of reporters worked remote anyways. And it’s just kind of a different level.
RJ: Yeah. So I was like, partially, I mean, I guess it was mostly in-person when the pandemic started. And now I’m pretty much all remote. During the pandemic, there weren’t any trade shows and that was kind of a big impact to our coverage because we, at Via Satellite, typically, we are going to trade shows, we have the Satellite show that we’re affiliated with. And there’s a lot of like face time with the industry and stories that come out of that. And so, digital, you know, like webinars and like virtual meetings became much bigger. So that was something that that was a way to interact with the community more actively during the pandemic that we were participating in. But now trade shows are coming back so that’s been great. We, yeah, we also only distribute the print version at targeted trade shows, so there were no print copies during the whole pandemic, which was one, it was less work for me, but it was also kind of sad, because it is really cool to see the addition in print. So now we’re back at that I’m producing print editions now and sending them out to to all kinds of trade shows.
CB: Oh, cool. Yeah, I think I saw something that did you guys have the Satellite show this year? I think I saw something that.
CB: Yeah. It must have been so great kind of reconnecting in person, getting that print publication out. And then getting to talk to those resources and learning those new things.
RJ: Oh, yeah, absolutely. It was a fantastic show. Actually, I got to moderate a panel. It was, I think, I moderated the one in 2021. Also, yes. So it was my second in person panel. That was exciting.
CB: That’s great. What was the panel on?
RJ: Synthetic aperture radar, which you’ve probably never heard of?
CB: I know I know those words separately, but not maybe not together.
RJ: Yeah, SAR is like the shorthand for it. It’s a type of, I don’t want to call it imagery, because it is kind of imagery, but kind of not. You know, how like, you know, satellites, like take pictures of the Earth. Well, SAR is like it collects a different type of data and it can see through night and through clouds. And so that’s really, really valuable. And it takes like, artificial intelligence to like, analyze it, and like, you know, take, kind of, take information away from it. But yeah, it’s only recently been allowed to be like commercial. So it’s an interesting, evolving market.
CB: Yeah, that sounds fascinating. That’s cool. I should look into that. Um, and then another question is, how do you leverage social media as a journalist?
RJ: Oh, yeah, definitely. 100%? Yeah, yeah, a number of things. So, I have a like Master Twitter list that is like space and satellite industry, where I have like a ton of companies that we cover in it. And like, you know, their executives and industry organizations. And so I can just like scroll through that every single day and kind of like, get the pulse of like, what’s going on. In case I like missed an announcement on the wire, on the news wire or something like that. And then also to, you know, to see what kind of conversations people are having. The industry is really active on LinkedIn as well. So, you could definitely get story ideas from seeing what people are talking about on LinkedIn. And there’s also some, there’s one Twitter account called mega constellations. And honestly, I feel like they’re a better reporter than I am and they’re not even a reporter. But they like track regulatory filings for a lot of the big satellite constellations and that is really helpful to see, you know, if there’s like discussions with the FCC and sometimes they’ll flag it before I’ve seen it. So, that’s super helpful.
CB: I bet, yeah, it’s like, you know, the mix of Twitter and LinkedIn, it’s a contributes to that 24-hour, like, news cycle of constant information coming in from all different, different areas. So, I bet I always wonder about that. It’s like do journalists find that helpful or distracting or what, but it sounds like you find it very useful.
RJ: Yeah, I definitely find it helpful. It can get, yeah. I mean, it’s funny when you’re…because…I also follow other space journalists. And I’m like, oh my gosh, there’s so many amazing talented journalists in in space. I mean, not so many maybe because it’s kind of niche, but the ones that cover space are super smart. And sometimes you’re like, oh, man, like, I wish I had got that story first.
CB: That’s great. And then just to kind of wrap up more so about you outside of journalism, I guess, what are you interested in outside of work? What is something that listeners wouldn’t know about you?
RJ: Hmm. Oh, I mean, you know, I just I, like, you know, on the weekends, I like to explore the city. I recently moved back. I moved to Cincinnati, which is where I’m from, I was in the DC area for the past like five and a half years. And so, I love to like go to breweries and parks and city events and just like, explore the city on the weekends.
But maybe a little bit more like, funny or like interesting. I am, I know a lot about The Bachelor franchise. It’s kind of like a sport to me. Like I like host watch parties and I like listen to podcasts and I like, I don’t really participate on The Bachelor reddit, but I definitely read it. And yeah, it’s kind of like a sport. Like I know a lot about it. I’ve been watching it since, honestly, since I was in elementary school.
CB: That is so fun. Yeah. I used to watch it a lot. I did. I did follow. Jojo and Jordan’s wedding last weekend.
RJ: Oh, yeah. They had a gorgeous wedding.
CB: Yeah. I think that was one of the last seasons I watched. And I was like, oh, they finally finally got married. It looks beautiful.
RJ: So yeah, that was a good season. Yeah, for better for worse. Some, you know, it’s a hot mess, usually. But it’s a fun.
CB: Exactly. No, that’s fun. Yeah, it’s like I see people do brackets like that for like sports. And they do it for the Bachelor too. Yeah, that’s super fun.
Oh, well, Rachel, it’s been so fun getting to know you more and more about your coverage area via satellite and what you’re looking at and definitely give a lot of information to our readers. And I think you know, everyone should go ahead and subscribe to The Daily News email, you said you put that together and get news straight to your everyone’s inbox six days a week, correct?
RJ: Yes. Yep. Yeah, if you go to our website and go to subscribe, that is the best way to follow the satellite. You can also sign up for the monthly magazine, but you won’t miss anything if you get the Daily News emails. Yeah, I mean, I would just encourage you know, I’m sure some of your listeners are not necessarily space people, but there’s so much activity happening and space touches much more of our lives than we realize. So, I would encourage everyone to subscribe.
CB: Absolutely. Well. Thank you so much, Rachel. And thanks for everyone listening and tuning in.
Thank you for joining us on today’s episode of Inside the Media Minds. To learn more about our podcast and hear all of our episodes, please visit us at W2Comm.com/podcast and follow us on Twitter at Media Minds Show, and you can subscribe anywhere podcasts are found.