We at Technical.ly are excited to announce that Sameer Rao is joining our newsroom as an editor, starting Monday, Feb. 21. In this role, he will oversee reporting on technology careers, growing businesses and the changing economy, with a dedicated focus on Baltimore and DC.
Rao’s experience includes past local and national-focused roles as a legal industry reporter for Law360, arts and entertainment reporter for the Baltimore Sun, culture reporter for Colorlines and neighborhood editor for Philadelphia City Paper. He also brings mentorship experience from the Asian American Journalists Association’s Voices program.
He rounds out a distributed newsroom made up of Technical.ly Managing Editor Julie Zeglen and reporters Holly Quinn in Delaware, Paige Gross in Philly, Donte Kirby in Baltimore, Michaela Althouse in DC and Sophie Burkholder in Pittsburgh, plus a Report for America corps member in Philadelphia come this June. (Psst, we’re also hiring an engagement manager right now.)
A former Philadelphian who has long frequented Technical.ly events such as Klein News Innovation Camp, Rao, now based in Baltimore, is a familiar face to us in the newsroom. In the coming weeks, we hope you’ll take some time to get acquainted with him, too: His inbox is officially open at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Being journalists, we asked him a few questions to get the conversation going.
You’ve reported on entertainment, arts and culture, and the legal industry. You’ve edited for local and national publications. You’ve served as a mentor to younger journalists. What do you hope to bring from those experiences to this role?
A thread linking all of these experiences, however disparate they may have looked on paper, is an interest in making sure that people understand that localities matter. What goes on locally is as important as more ostensibly national developments. Some of the most innovative products, artists, companies and projects — things that have the capacity to influence people throughout the country — happen in regional hubs like Baltimore and Philadelphia, where I’ve spent the bulk of my career.
This understanding influences how I’ve reported on all of these topics (all of which have tremendous economic and cultural influence on the way cities work), how I’ve advised colleagues, and how I plan to approach editing and supervising reporters for a publication whose local focus has certainly influenced my own.
What’s exciting to you about the topics Technical.ly covers? What questions are you hoping to answer in your work here?
The economic, social, political and cultural impacts of technology and social entrepreneurship on our cities is so significant, but can often be somewhat poorly understood by those who don’t [see] how these sectors work from the inside. The opportunity to engage more with these topics, particularly in the city where I live, is so important to me, and probably what I look forward to most with this job.
I’m hoping to answer the persistent questions I have around how money actually moves in these cities, and to what extent their tech and social entrepreneurship worlds are actually benefiting the communities — particularly those of color, who’ve endured the brunt end of racist and segregationist economic and political decisions while being the biggest innovators in DC and Baltimore for hundreds of years — that they need to.
What are your favorite spots in Baltimore and DC?
While I’m far more familiar with Baltimore than DC at this point, my favorite places in both cities largely include dining spots and cultural institutions.
For DC, that includes the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, music venues like the 9:30 Club and breweries like Half Acre.
In Baltimore, some must-visit spots (particularly for non-locals) include the Creative Alliance, Ottobar, Baltimore Museum of Art, Ministry of Brewing (in a converted old cathedral), Mt. Royal Tavern, Ekiben, Checkerspot Brewing, Mobtown Brewing, Camden Yards, Chaps Pit Beef, Cindy Lou’s Fish House, Motor House, Patterson Park, Keystone Korner, Water for Chocolate, the whole neighborhood of Highlandtown (especially for Mexican and Central American food) and the Rawlings Conservatory. And we haven’t even touched the suburbs, which have so, so much.
And any fun facts we should know about you?
Outside of journalism, I’m a committed (if not quite prolific) musician. I used to front a shoegaze/hard rock band in Philly called Taxes and am now slowly but surely getting back into making my own music. I currently live in Baltimore with my spouse and two cats.
Lastly, while this is my first time working for Technical.ly, my life has intersected with the company a bunch of times; I started my career in Philadelphia, freelancing for places like the now-defunct Philadelphia City Paper (alongside Technical.ly Managing Editor Julie Zeglen) and used to attend journalism innovation events that Techincal.ly organized. It’s an honor to have my career come full circle, working for people I’ve admired in the service of where I’ve built my life since leaving Philadelphia.
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