Q&A with Charlie Osborne

Cathy By Cathy

For our latest journalist Q&A we caught up with cybersecurity journalist and regular ZDNet contributor, Charlie Osborne, to get her views on technology, journalism and PR.

What is your background, how did you get into journalism? My background is in medical anthropology, and as quite a few of us do, I stumbled into the world of journalism - in my case, after a stint travelling and teaching English abroad in different countries. I began writing about EdTech and gradually progressed into business technology and cybersecurity as my interests changed.

What is your favourite thing about being a freelancer and what is the biggest challenge? My favourite thing is working with a global team at ZDNet. The biggest challenge is maintaining a work-life balance, a concept I'm still working on over seven years later!

What is the most interesting trend you are seeing in technology today? It's one with an element of dread, but the movement of China's surveillance state as part of a seemingly global push towards more surveillance and spying on the average, innocent citizen. I think China can be viewed as a testbed for technologies, such as citizenship scoring, which other countries unfortunately may also choose to adopt in the future.

What was your favourite story from the last 12 months and why? I enjoyed this story on the BBC regarding the positive impact gaming had on a disabled boy in Norway before he died. I enjoyed it immensely as it offered a glimpse into a digital world often frowned upon as a waste of time. In this case, the relationships the protagonist formed and how many lives he impacted globally despite his own limitations showed that for some, it is a crucial element of their lives and has intrinsic value.

Do you find that PRs know enough about the tech they are pitching or the issues impacting your audience? I would say 50-50, but I do receive a huge amount of irrelevant, cold pitches on a daily basis.

Any advice for PRs out there that want to pitch stories to you? What do you look out for in a pitch? First thing - check out my bio. The moment you refer to me as Mr, it shows you haven't really considered who you are pitching to or their beat. A short snappy summary and a 'why' it is important are key. Capital screaming subject lines are an immediate bin job. Also, please keep in mind that we often work with hundreds in the PR field and not every pitch is relevant or will be responded to (due to time constraints) - but that doesn't mean we don't want to hear from you next time!

What is your biggest frustration with the PR community? The inability to accept well-meant, polite feedback on a pitch. As an example, last year I explained to a lady in PR why a pitch proclaiming a '100% hacking and malware-proof' antivirus solution would be laughed out of the InfoSec community. I was told I was a worthless 'hack' who knew nothing and so, could I give her the contact details of a journalist at another publication? Not the best example of public relations!