(Photo by Chris Kendig)
Technical.ly’s first-ever employee sits across from me at a booth in El Fuego, cradling a bowl of spicy soup.
The plan for the afternoon is to talk about the tech scene with former Technical.ly Philly Lead Reporter Juliana Reyes, who last week began an exciting new role at the Philadelphia Media Network. (Editor’s note: JR, as she is lovingly known in this newsroom, went on to serve as Associate Editor and then Editorial Product Lead at Technical.ly, but the move to the papers gets her back to her strongest roots: writing great stories.)
The chat, however, quickly slides into reporting and how it can impact a subset of people. See, after five years covering the tech scene with an authoritative-yet-effortless verve, her move to the Philly.com is aimed at a return to community reporting. She’s not leaving the tech scene, she said, since workplace culture will be part of her new beat.
I meet Juliana, my tech scene sherpa for the better part of a year, a couple of weeks after she cleared her desk at Technical.ly HQ. She left me with two parting gifts: a strange dried-orange snack and a swag water bottle. She took with her a hat from bankrupt Philly startup Brand.com, spoils of her gripping coverage of the shutdown, and a handful of lessons on the might of a notepad.
Technical.ly Philly: You covered the tech scene since its early, transformative years. What lessons do you walk away with?
Juliana Reyes: The first four years taught me about the power of community reporting. I was really able to see it when I left, but what we choose to prioritize as reporters means that’s what other people are going to think about. For a while I didn’t want to acknowledge that power because it’s scary but I realized towards the end of my tenure that what we find important sets the tone for what other people think is important. I could see the the ripples of our coverage all over the place. It’s not useful to be modest about it. Technical.ly held this role in the community.
TP: What’s a lesson on journalism you got from tech founders?
JR: Early on, Dreamit had a project called Dreamit Access for entrepreneurs of color. I was moving fast, writing four to six stories a day. I emailed everyone in the cohort something like “What’s it like to be an entrepreneur of color?” Maybe half replied and most said really generic things. I couldn’t get anything of substance. For a while I didn’t get what went wrong there and I later realized that these people don’t know me, why would they answer such a personal question? I learned trust is really important. You can’t expect someone to give you something when you haven’t laid the groundwork and paid your dues a little bit. In my head it was a great idea.
TP: Any lessons from your 50onRed story?
JR: Writing about tech itself can be so daunting. With that and other stories where I worked really hard to understand the technology, I learned not be afraid to tackle the harder stuff. It was hard and frustrating but really rewarding once I got there. “People stories” don’t need to be devoid from hard tech, it can actually make the stories better.
TP: What’s exciting about your new job?
JR: I’m excited about covering more than tech. Covering corporations, labor unions, organizing. Covering other parts of the city and the region that tech doesn’t really touch. I’m looking forward to writing about different types of people, more than just the college-educated, upper-middle-class people who have the means to start a company. There’s a lot of stories that come out about how many startup founders are able to take the risk because their parents are rich or they made a lot of money investing. I’m excited to talk to different types of people.
" I could see the the ripples of our coverage all over the place."
TP: What’s a thing you bring to PMN?
JR: What I wanna do there is take my community reporting skills and use them to cover specific communities and cover them closely. I want to use the same spirit, cadence and eye that I used on the Philly tech scene for different communities for stories at the Inky. I want to see the impact of our work and I think it’s hard to do that with a general-interest outlet and a wide audience. It’s very different, I think it’s going to be a challenge and I’m a little nervous.
TP: What would you task Technical.ly with for the coming years?
JR: I would like to see Technical.ly break out of that subset of people that we always cover. There are stories out there that cover other kinds of people that touch tech and entrepreneurship, stories on jobs and workers that we could do. Sorry! I mean Technical.ly could do. Still hard for me not to say we.
TP: Any parting message for the tech community?
JR: Well, it’s not going to be goodbye for anyone because I’ll be writing about workplace culture and that can mean anyone. It’s hard to leave the tech community in this capacity; it’s been my home for the past five years, and a reluctant home if that, because as a reporter I wasn’t supposed to be in the community. As a reporter, the tech community really welcomed me.-30-
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