Kate Knibbs is making things interesting

Kate Knibbs is a senior writer for Wired. In her work, she wants stories to be true and interesting. In pursuit of those goals Kate is a determined researcher. In this conversation, she shares her process and talks about stories which presented unexpected turns in the reporting which lead to better–that is more truthful and interesting stories. Strategists and knowledge workers of all kinds can benefit from this insightful approach.

Kate can be found on Twitter: https://twitter.com/Knibbs and Wired: https://www.wired.com/author/kate-knibbs/

We discussed two stories you will probably want to read after hearing about.
We worked at Vice, then went to jail. The ClickHole odyssey.

Transcript of this episode:

Adam Pierno 0:02
This is The Strategy Inside Everything. I’m Adam Pierno. The Strategy Inside Everything is the podcast for people who think for a living. If you have an idea, a question or you want to push back on something you hear in this episode, go to thatsnotaninsight.com and leave a message or a voicemail for me. The best and most interesting messages will be added to future episodes. And I can’t wait to hear from you.

All right, welcome back to The Strategy Inside Everything. I am excited today because I am joined by senior writer at Wired, Kate Knibbs, Kate, how are you?

Kate Knibbs 1:01
I’m great. Thanks for having me. How are you?

Adam Pierno 1:04
I’m doing fantastic. I’m really looking forward to talking to you and learning more about your approach to writing and how you research and figure out what you’re going to write about exactly, and how the the research shapes your projects. But before we get started on that, would you mind giving people a sense of how you started your career and how you got to where you are?

Kate Knibbs 1:28
So yes, so I’ve been a journalist professionally for 10 years now, or I’ve been a writer professionally for 10 years now. A decade ago, I was teaching English in South Korea. And I was basically just writing for fun when I was a teacher I would work like write restaurant reviews for magazines that were run by like the expat community. And I really enjoyed writing more than I enjoyed teaching. So after I had been teaching for almost two years, I decided to like actually make it go have a writing. And so I just applied to any jobs I could find on the internet. Even internships, I didn’t get any of the internships and I was rejected on like, so many jobs, there’s so many embarrassing, like, cover letters that exist floating around out there, like 2025 year old K. But I did get one place took me and it was a it was a tech blog called Mobilia. And it does not exist anymore. And they really just wanted me to do like pure aggregated blog posts like it was it was not glamorous work at all. But I use the clips that I had from Mobilia to sort of jump to butter publications. And so I did that for like a year and a half. And then I was able to get hired by the Daily Dot, which is a great website that covers internet culture. And then shortly thereafter, I was offered a job at Gizmodo, which I was very excited about because I love like the Gawker Media, family blogs. And I worked there for several years. And then I was I was very I’ve been very lucky because I’ve been presented the opportunities to work for some companies that I’ve wanted to work for. And so I was approached by Sean Fennessy, who’s now the head of content, I think at The Ringer, but he was like, we’re working on this thing and former Grantland people, if you want to join,

Adam Pierno 3:36
that’s great. That’s humble of you to say you’re you’re lucky to get those opportunities, but you get those from people reading your your work, right? I mean, it’s not like they’re like, tick, tick, tick. noobs. Like, let’s call her. It’s I did

Kate Knibbs 3:52
get pretty lucky there though, because the Grantland was such a prestigious project, like everyone immediately loved it. And I don’t think if the ringer had been launching without a tech vertical, they ever would have approached me. But they wanted. They wanted like funny tech writers, which is kind of a strange sub genre. And so that’s where I came in. And so I worked at the ringer for three years. And it was wonderful. I learned so much. I got to write some of my favorite stories ever. But I I had really always wanted to write for a print magazine. And, and also the ringer. We’re sort of shifting into podcasting, which is amazing for everyone who loves podcasting, but I’m just not a natural podcaster

Adam Pierno 4:40
so you’re you’re doing great.

Kate Knibbs 4:43
Yeah, and so I just really wanted to stick with writing and I wasn’t that interested in making podcasting, like a big part of my career. Yep. So when the opportunity to work for Wired came up, I just thought it was going to be an amazing chance to work for a minute resume that still had a print arm. And it’s also like a legacy publication. So I just thought it would be something different since up until that time, it only worked for digital media startups.

Adam Pierno 5:13
Yeah. And working for Wired must be amazing.

Kate Knibbs 5:16
It’s really cool. I mean, I’m constantly almost overwhelmed by how smart My coworkers are. So it’s, it’s really, it’s really cool. That’s a great um, yeah, yeah. And I’ve been there ever since I’ve been there for since January 2020. In January 2020, I was so excited because I was gonna go to the World Trade Center every day. And in being the Conde Nast cafeteria, I was very excited for this, like glamorous magazine life that I had for three months.

Adam Pierno 5:48
And then something happened that I think everybody familiar

Kate Knibbs 5:51
with, it’s hard to, it’s hard to remember exactly.

Adam Pierno 5:54
It’s kind of a blur. But, but unfortunately, I do remember, um, well, what I was what I reached out to you about and what I wanted to talk about was, you cover a lot of ground in your the various things that you write, you know, you write about culture you’ve written about, yes, you write about technology, but I don’t feel like you’re ever writing about nuts and bolts of technology, you’re you’re always relating it to bigger things, bigger parts of culture. And so when you get an assignment, how do you where do you start with trying to understand how do you know what the scope is at the outset?

Kate Knibbs 6:33
No, almost never. And it’s interesting. I’m actually beginning the reporting process for two different features. I have been assigned at Wired right now.

Adam Pierno 6:43
Okay. This is perfect timing. I know you can’t talk about them. But in generalities, maybe this is perfect timing.

Kate Knibbs 6:50
Oh, for sure. So but normally, I don’t get assigned features. This is sort of an anomaly. I mean, I’m not complaining, because it’s much easier to get assigned features, like thinking of the ideas is hard. But in the past, I say most about

Adam Pierno 7:06
pitch about that case, why is it hard to think of that idea? Like what? As a not a not a feature writer? You mean thinking about it and getting it into a pitch format that other people can understand what’s in your head? And why it’s interesting? Or what is it about it that makes it so challenging?

Kate Knibbs 7:23
It’s hard to figure out what deserves a deep dive, at least for me, okay, um, because I, you know, I’m a huge reader. That’s why I love journalism, I want to be like the people whose work I read. And I think that you can make almost anything interesting. And I think that there are stories that are worthy of examination behind almost anything in this world, which is why I’ve never been drawn to a specific beat. I really love being a generalist. And I think with the right writer, and the right approach to a story, almost anything can be interesting. That said, you need to make sure there is a story that can captivate readers before you devote so much time to it. And I haven’t I don’t have 100% success rate on this. I’ve wasted a truly astonishing amount of time. Starting to report stories, and then just realizing that they weren’t as interesting as I initially thought, or starting to report a story. And then someone else publishes the story I’ve been working in tragic. So yeah, finding, I mean, it’s easy to find interesting topics, finding the story that you can go to your editor and say, I think there’s something here can I kind of explore it? is, for me a challenge. Yeah.

Adam Pierno 8:55
That’s interesting. How do you know? Like, how far do you have to get into it before you realize, oh, this I thought it was this but it’s really not there’s nothing there. I mean, it’s a wrap it when you’re actually writing, or is it during the research phase?

Kate Knibbs 9:10
During the research phase, I’ve never gotten to the point where I’ve been like actually drafting a story and then killed it. Okay. Luckily, I’m sure that that might happen to me at some point. It’s usually in still the information gathering stage, although I do have a fairly intensive information gathering stage, which I’m very, very lucky to be able to have, like a lot of people who work as journalists and writers nowadays have very short lead times for, for how to turn stuff around. Wired gives me a decent amount of space. There have been stories that I’ve answered the ringer. There have been stories that I’ve worked on for like six months to a year, not exclusively, but that they’re allowed to just date. And that has really made them what they are like had I had to file something Within a month, it just would not have been the same story at all, because they involve like, I struggle with pitching. Because I really don’t like to come into the reporting process with like a thesis in my head. Sometimes I have to make one up to like, get my ears on board. Yeah. But I always try to really make sure not to have that be rigidly what the story is about, because they can just totally evolve. And I want to be able to give them the space to evolve and not try to heal. Like it’s never a good thing, when a journalist has a conclusion that they’re gathering research and information in order to reach

Adam Pierno 10:39
right then you end up with his confirmation bias reported.

Kate Knibbs 10:42
Yes, exactly. So that is like a huge tension within within this process. Like you have to have a pitch that makes enough sense to get assigned. But you can’t have a pitch that’s so defined that you’re like just working towards proving it while you’re reporting. So far, it’s gonna be terrible.

Adam Pierno 10:58
Is your pitch typically, then does it end with a question or is it you know, the directionally. And so, I want to find out why this is this way? Or is it because they have to an editor has to hear enough to know that there’s a story there. But if I understand why you wouldn’t want to go in so hard in a direction about, you know, a thesis.

Kate Knibbs 11:21
So I’ll give you an example. At the ringer, the last like big feature that I wrote there, we were chatting for a second a bit before we started recording the podcast was a story about a vise editor who became a drug trafficker. And

Adam Pierno 11:40
an incredible story. I will add the link. Thank you.

Kate Knibbs 11:45
And so I had been interested in that story for years. I used to live in Toronto. And so I didn’t know this man, his name, Slava. I didn’t know him. But I sort of knew some of the people who worked for Vice who knew him. And so I was just absolutely my mind was blown, that there was this insane crime ring at this arc, this digital media office that I thought was just sort of like a boring Canadian digital media office. And so no offense to Canada that they know what I mean. Um, so then National Post, had released stories like newspaper stories when Slava was arrested. But there hadn’t been like a magazine deep dive into it. And I didn’t really understand like, I wanted to know how he got in that position. I was like, how do you go from a music blog or to a drug trafficker? Like, we know that this happened, and the reporters, Adrian Humphries, and Shawn crack did an amazing job with their stories, but I was like, just so curious about his motivation, and how, how you even how you even got from point A to point

Adam Pierno 12:58
B. Yeah, their reporting was news reporting. It wasn’t it was facts. It was timeline, it was establishing the main parts of the story, the elements that are making the news. You wanted to know like, where’s the slippery slope that got you? What’s the what happened? All that doesn’t make the news story?

Kate Knibbs 13:17
Yeah. And so I had had that question in my head for three years. And I had pitched it, I think a few times to the ringer. And they were sort of like, okay, like, if you could, how are you going to report that out though? Like, and I wasn’t sure I’d never done. I’d never done true crime reporting before. So I was a little intimidated. But the way that it got greenlit was I DM Slava, who was the drug trafficker, and I said, I want to write about you. And he responded, which I was very surprised by because he was a big fan of the ringer. And he was curious. Oh, wait, actually, I’m misremembering. This. I did not DM Slava. Slava DM me about something separate. He was I actually did have a podcast for the ringer for a short amount of time. Okay, which I was shocked that he listened to. Because I was I just, I had a hard time with it. i It was not a natural fit for me. My co host Justin, charity was great, but I was really struggling. But Slava really liked my podcast, and it went it. It stopped being a podcast, like they were like, we’re not going to do this. So what

Adam Pierno 14:34
he DM do asking when the next episode was like, What happened to your show?

Kate Knibbs 14:38
Yeah, he was like, Who should I reach out to? I want to listen to more episodes. And I was like, Oh, don’t worry about that. Thank you. But I was like, Hey, I’ve actually always been curious to hear more about your story. If you would consider talking to me for an article. I would love that. And he said yes, as long as I would come to his mother’s house Brampton, Ontario, because that’s where he was on house arrest. And he did not really want to talk over the phone. And so at that point, no one had spoken to him like the newspaper reporters they hadn’t, they hadn’t interviewed him. So I had a potentially like, exclusive thing that no one had reported out yet. So I went to my editors, and I said, Hey, you know, the story that I’ve been talking about, how did this vise guy become a drug trafficker? Like, he will talk to me? If you let me go to Canada? And so they said, Yes, it also helped that I had a bunch of friends and family still in Canada, I’m Canadian permanent resident, my husband’s Canadian. So I stayed with friends for most of my reporting, expenses way down and cut the expensive debt. So that was how that reporting process started. quite unconventional for your subject to reach out to you. But that is what happened. It’s pretty good timing. Yeah, and but here, he starts me, I think in April of 2019. And then I went, I started reporting the story after that, like talking to Vice people. And then I went to visit him and in July of 2018, and August, and then the story didn’t end up being published until December. So it was a it was a large chunk of time that I was primarily reporting that story, because there are a lot of different. There are a lot of different elements. It was also

Adam Pierno 16:40
that story is a great example. Because you can’t you couldn’t possibly just have taken your time with him as the gospel. But you’re also dealing with drug trafficking. So how do you go to get other sources? I mean, how are you even able to contact some of those people or get people to speak comfortably about it?

Kate Knibbs 17:03
So I anything Slava said, I had to fat check before I included it in the article. And there so there’s a lot of stuff that he told me that did not make it in there, because I was like, I have no way of verifying this. And if there was ever something that he said that was contradicted I included the contradiction. And then it became clear that he was definitely not the most reliable narrator. And so I tried to make that very explicit in the piece. Like this is not someone whose word you should be taking as gospel. Right. And I was really sad because his co conspirator a legit co conspirator is awaiting trial still, because he’s pled not guilty slobber, pled guilty. And so I didn’t get to speak to him. He wouldn’t speak to me, I got to speak to his lawyer, who was a total character and included that but there were voices that I really wish I could include. What kind of included? Yeah, so that a big reason why that story took so long to report was because I was doing all this secondary reporting to try to confirm what slavery was saying or offer a different account. And, yeah, so I didn’t, I didn’t always like that story very much ended up being about the circumstances. That led him to be a drug trafficker. And it was sort of a media story. Like my, my angle was very much like, what happened at VICE Canada that made this chi become a drug trafficker, right, there’s like a million different versions of that story that could be told that like, weren’t so vise heavy, but that just seemed like the most appropriate angle for the ringer to take. Because I was I had been writing about media. There’s like another version of that story. Like there were you know, there were associates in the criminal underworld that he discussed that like I could have chased it up the pyramid. But I recognize my limitations there. Like it was my first true crime story. That ringer is not really in like a It’s not an investigative journalism outlet. Right? Um, my editor Amanda Dobbins is amazing, and I’m sure she could handle that kind of story, but like, it just seemed like it would have been a weird choice for me to try to really like expose the the underworld

Adam Pierno 19:37
bigwigs. Yeah, that goes, goes beyond what what the ringer is about. So how much of your work then is that one of the boundaries that you create for yourself as understanding the tone of Wired, or the ringer or Gizmodo and saying, like, oh, I can talk to that person, but that’s probably over the line. But let me let me think through is that one of the first checkpoints that you have make for yourself as is like a tone or topic.

Kate Knibbs 20:05
So yes, yes, definitely. I mean, there are stories that I would love to write. But because I work for Wired, it wouldn’t make any sense for me to write them. And same with same with the ringer. Wired actually has a history of doing amazing true crime reporting. So that I’m excited about opportunities there. But, you know, I wouldn’t be writing like a profile of a athlete at Wired, unless there’s some sort of

Adam Pierno 20:36
some Yeah, start over something. Yeah.

Kate Knibbs 20:38
Yeah, exactly. So yes, that is always important, figuring out whether the story that you want to tell is appropriate for the publication that you are writing it for, or pitching it to. Because I’m a staffer, I don’t really freelance for other publications. So right now, it is essential for me to figure out stories that make sense for wired.

Adam Pierno 20:59
Got it? So you stay in that wheelhouse and really know that how long does it take? When you start at a place like wired? How long does it take for you to figure that out? Or do you start in a more conservative mindset and push push with your elbows as you go?

Kate Knibbs 21:14
Um, I tried really hard before I started wired. There were a few weeks in between starting and ending my ringer job, I was on a spree of like reading all the back issues that I could get my hands on, and just trying to understand what the publication needed from me. Luckily, it is there, you know, they publish a pretty wide variety of articles that are only like loosely related to technology, it’s very much more about like, the stories need to have some sort of hook that pertains to like, the way we live now or the way that we’re going to live in the future. It’s like, they need to be sort of forward thinking in some way more than like, have an explicit. This is about an app. Engel. I’m still learning what makes a great wires sorry, to be honest, it’s been my tenure at word has been kind of weird, because I started in the pandemic happened. And then I ended up being sick and going on maternity leave for like most of 2021. So I’m sort of like re re entering the world of Wired right now. And yeah, it’s a it’s a process.

Adam Pierno 22:33
So you start with a direction for the story of not not, you don’t have yourself into a an angle yet. Yeah. And then. So in the case of the vise story, you had the subject, you know, that kind of serendipitous contact with them. But in the case of like the story you shared about Clickhole. Where do you where do you start? When you know, it’s going to be or could be the sprawling story.

Kate Knibbs 23:02
So click poll. I was also I was interested in writing about Clickhole because I love Clickhole. It’s one of my favorite websites. And I saw that they had separated from the onion, which was it was a spin off of the onion originally, yep. And it had, it was an independent company. Now it was Cards Against Humanity had purchased it, but then like giving it back to the Clickhole staff. And I was fascinated by the fact that the Clickhole staff a was separate from its original, you know, it was separate from the onion now, and it was this like media Co Op. And I was also personally interested in it because it had been owned by great health equity, which is a private equity firm that had also purchased the Gizmodo Media Group. So I had sort of like a personal interest in the story because I felt sad seeing what was happening to like Jezebel and Gizmodo and other blogs and because I had worked at Gizmodo, and I loved those blogs and they were really being like desiccated by great home media. And I had seen that happen to the onion as well, like they changed the format. It just made me so sad that these very wonderful digital spaces were being treated this way and it seemed like Clickhole had managed to escape. And no one had written like a deep dive how to click hold do this, how are they going? Like what’s their business model? What does this mean for digital media is a viable path forward? So those were like the questions that I started out wanting to answer. I also really wanted like to offer up like a pocket history of Clickhole because I loved it so much and I wanted I wanted something I wanted to you know, sorry. I’m kind of rambling. But I wanted to just record document it for the historical record because I thought it deserved, like a serious look. So that’s what that’s how I sort of pitched it was that, you know, this company is doing something very unprecedented. And so this is a media story is a story about digital media. But because it’s also, particularly about this really wonderful, special website, it can double is like a history of the website and a history of online comedy.

Adam Pierno 25:32
And you would have, I mean, you pitched it as a feature. Yes. I wonder if even if you only ended up with the pocket history of it, if you if it would have still been valuable published in that way where it didn’t get into some of the areas that the territories that the final story covered? Because it is a weird, winding road that I knew now when you’re when you’re saying it, I’m like, oh, yeah, I remember a headline about that. I remember a headline about that, because that’s all I read is, you know, it’s a tweet, and I go, Oh, they bought it, they bought it, they sold it, they sold it back. But reading the articles like oh, yeah, but look at all this other juicy parts of it that are in the background that that we get to know about because of the research you did and the conversations you have.

Kate Knibbs 26:19
Yeah, I would have loved to it was funny, because during that process, because I loved football so much. I think one of the drafts that I turned in was my time that wasn’t words long, and they were like you can’t like this is too much for Wired speakers as like this goes back to what we were saying about making sure your story is appropriate for public like what publication you’re writing for. My editor, Sandra Upson, who’s also amazing really helped me shape that story into like the best version of it for Wired, which was not a 10,000 word history at all, even though I wanted to write that.

Adam Pierno 26:59
I mean, I was, that’s half a book, actually. Right. Yeah.

Kate Knibbs 27:02
And I was really sad. Because I talked, the people who worked at politico and the onion were like, incredibly generous with their time. And that was one of the reporting processes where like, I talked to Chad knackers. That’s his real name. He is the current editor in chief of the onion for like an hour. And he said, so many wonderful things. He walked me through the whole history of his time at the Union. That’s when I think I quoted him. He’s like a sentence in that piece. Like that was really a case of me a little bit over reporting, because I just was so psyched to talk to all of these people that I might, my research process was possibly too intensive, because I had to write some some of the wonderful people that I spoke to and say, like, I loved our conversation, none of it actually made it into the final piece. But like, Thank you, because it really did inform it. And it really did give me I think, like, I felt like I was an expert on the onion, Coco when I was done with that reporting. And it was because they were so generous with their time. Yeah, so it did not quote most of them.

Adam Pierno 28:05
That’s what you just touched on something really interesting. When you do an interview for that story, or for any other story, and you talk to five people, but you only ended up using one sentence, how valuable are those other interviews at providing? Like, how do you employ the context that you gain? How do you does it? How does it shape the story? Or how do you know when something’s valuable, even if you say, I can’t use this quote.

Kate Knibbs 28:29
But I mean, it just makes me feel confident that I’m portraying this situation accurately. Like, even, I almost always get something valuable from my interviewers, even if I don’t use any of it. In the finished piece, it almost always is enriching my background knowledge that I like, do need to be confident that I’m not totally screwing the piece up. Yeah. And that story, um, I was probably like I had talked to about, I think, like, 25 people. And I think, I don’t know the exact numbers. But I was pretty far along into the reporting process when I talked to someone who actually had something critical to say about click holes, work environment. And I was shocked because I had talked to so many people who really only had positive things to say about it. And so that really threw me for a loop that was actually that sort of extended the reporting process considerably, because I was like, Oh, my gosh, okay. I need to check this out. And then, you know, a few different people ended up having some critiques of the workplace culture, and that did end up in the final product, because it seemed like I couldn’t write an accurate and honest, like, complete depiction of this company without incorporating the fact that some of its alumni thought that it had like room for improvement. And then it ended up, you know that that piece was recorded in 2020. That was like a really big summer, where people were reckoning with, like racial disparities on staff. And so it just seemed like something that I couldn’t ignore, because I’d already done too much reporting. And I loved the website so much like it really pained me that I had to know how it was like calling my editor being like, I’m going to need more time this story because I have to look into all of this and check it out, and I am likely going to include it. And that’s like another example of how you don’t really know what’s going to come up in the reporting process. I didn’t really see that coming. And then I had it was, it’s also an example of how like, how painful it can be to be a reporter who’s conflict averse, because then I had to go back to like all of these people who loved the call and currently work there and say, Hey, like, some people have complaints about you, yeah, and you to respond.

Adam Pierno 31:02
And it’s not like you’re working at a daily where you’re talking to the local politician and in their face every day challenging them on those those kinds of bullet points, you already talked to them as a kind of a friendly face. Yes. So it’s hard to go back. I get it.

Kate Knibbs 31:16
It’s rough, but it’s necessary. like had I published that story without incorporating those critiques and giving the people who had I think, like valid points to make about the staffs, overwhelming like whiteness and maleness and what that meant for its content. I don’t think it would have been as accurate or fair piece, and I still love Clickhole. And I love all the people that work there and wish them the best, but I just had to, that’s what journalism is. You have

Adam Pierno 31:47
to tell the whole story. How many words? How many words that story ended up being from your 10,000 word draft?

Kate Knibbs 31:55
I think it’s between three and 4000.

Adam Pierno 31:59
Yeah, still a pretty hefty story. Yes.

Kate Knibbs 32:03
And I don’t know if I’ll ever get around to actually writing that complete history of what I hope someone does. Because they’re, it’s a fascinating place.

Adam Pierno 32:12
more meat on that bone.

Kate Knibbs 32:14
Oh, yeah. Yeah. Or what is you

Adam Pierno 32:17
get an assignment, we talked about Vice, that was a story you were interested in Clickhole was something you were passionate about and wanted to know about? What if you get an assignment that is for something that you could care less about? Your? You know, not negative about, but more like?

Kate Knibbs 32:34
Yeah, so that has happened to me. I’m almost always I take the assignment, actually, because I when I wanted, like, when I initially got into writing, I truly did not care about technology at all. I didn’t have a smartphone. I just it wasn’t my thing. And that was those were the days before the smartphone. No, everyone else had a smartphone. I was like one of those people who was a diehard I’m I don’t care about gadgets. And then I ended up working. My first job was for like, literally a gadget blog. So one of the things that that taught me was that there’s almost always an interesting story, like, as I was saying before, like, doesn’t really matter what the topic is on the surface. It’s like, what, what you can what stories you can find underneath. And so, for example, recently, I was assigned a story like on sort of a broad topic or to like, find, find a story. And I didn’t really care that much about the broad topic. But while I was trying to think about what I can write, I found, like something within that broad topic that I was interested in, and I thought I could make a good story. And so I like to say yes, and then try to figure out if I can say something before I say no, right away. I assume that my editors want me to look into something because they think it’s interesting, and it’s interesting, they’re all really smart. So there must be like some reason

Adam Pierno 34:05
there’s something there for sure. Just about finding it. Yeah. Because they will they also won’t send you on a direct crash course with a hypothesis or like a a direction that they want you to take it’s more find out more about this and see if there’s something there. Yes.

Kate Knibbs 34:20
Like if I was to get assigned fully a story that would be great, because like, determining what thread to pull can be tricky. And also time consuming.

Adam Pierno 34:31
Is that is that gut? Or is it at this point now you’re doing this 10 years is is figuring out which thread to pull. Is that now intuitive to you? Or do you have to go talk to it not Do you have to but do you get it from saying to an editor like I found these three directions? Can we talk through them or or how do you know which which third is the right one?

Kate Knibbs 34:51
I tried to think of like what, what would I want to read about this? Like, just as someone who’s flipping through a magazine What would interest me about this topic that I would like sit down and read the story? It’s always a good gut check for me to like, tell my family what I’m thinking about working on, because they don’t really ever. They’re not like huge readers, they’re not super plugged into the worlds that I’m plugged into. So if they think something’s interesting, then I’m usually very competent that it actually is. And if they’re kind of like, oh, maybe I know I need to, I’m gonna need to do a little more work to get the story where it needs to be for like a general audience.

Adam Pierno 35:35
I do I do the same. I pitch I pitched book ideas to my wife. And she’s like, Yeah, yeah. Like, why would I? Why would I read that? Yeah. Okay, fair. Is the research process the same on a story that you pitch versus a story you get assigned? Yeah. information gathering go the same way? Or is it very,

Kate Knibbs 36:01
it more depends whether like how to find my question is so like, with the vise story, I had already done on this background research, just being generally interested in the topic. And then once I decided I was going to write about it, and I was going to interview Slava and it was sort of going to be about how to do this guy go from point A to point B. That was like a more narrow question. If, if I’m assigned a story on like a topic that’s more general, like, say, a company, and in particular, my background research is, is more extensive, because I need to read everything I can to figure out like, what then more narrow thing I’m gonna say about the company is my big tip for anyone who like wants to research sayings, is I’m a big fan of using Google’s like, you can set the time parameters of what you’re looking up. And so I’ll all go back to make sure I’m not getting just like random news articles. And I’ll basically just tried to read everything that’s been written about a topic like since the thing happened. And yeah, those those like time settings can be really, really great for that because they can pull articles up from like, the the time period that you’re looking into versus more recent

Adam Pierno 37:24
stuff versus most have the best Google tips of all time. I’ve never heard I don’t know that one. Actually, I’ve never Yeah,

Kate Knibbs 37:32
it’s it’s really helpful. Internet Archive. I don’t know if you use there. They have like a way a thing called the wayback machine where you can see older versions like that super helpful. But yeah, I try to read, I’m really extensive reader, I try to like read everything that I possibly can, that’s been written about the topic that I’m going to write about. First, and then that also helps me find sources in a lot of cases. Another great way to find sources is to go on LinkedIn, like LinkedIn rules, especially if you are going to like write a profile of a company or you’re writing about a company like that’s how I find a lot of former and current employees. And yeah, I’m trying to think but yeah, so basically, like step one is always read step two is figure out who to talk to, and try to get them to talk to you. Those are like, basically always the two, like, parallel backbones of the research process. And

Adam Pierno 38:38
that’ll usually should give you the framework you need to know, after that point, you know, if you have a story or not, for the most part,

Kate Knibbs 38:45
yeah, yeah, like, story that I’m currently working on. I was I read everything that I could about this company that I’m going to write about. And I was like, you know, there, there had already been a lot of great pieces that were just sort of like general profiles. So I was like, I’m not going to do that, because it’s already been done. Right. So now, what am I anyways, I found like something that hadn’t been written about them. And I was like, I’m going to focus my efforts on this and like exploring this particular part of this committee. But I wouldn’t have known to do that had I not looked at like what had already been said about it, and what should be said about it in the future, if that makes sense.

Adam Pierno 39:28
Yeah, so you’re using those other stories as your foundation in the background to know you can make an assumption, okay, people may already know this, or this is this is ground has already been covered. So I can stand on those shoulders and figure out what’s the next part to be told?

Kate Knibbs 39:44
Yeah, because like, I really see journalism as a collaborative process, like across the space. It’s like we’re trying to write the first draft of history. That sounds very grandiose. We’re, I’m coming to you from a basement like it’s not that exciting but we are Are, we’re all doing the same thing I never want to write, I never want to report something that someone’s already reported. Like, to me, that’s just a huge waste of time. And so it’s really important to acknowledge other people’s work and look at other people’s work and see what can I bring to the table that has not been brought already?

Adam Pierno 40:21
And because you’re trying to add, if it’s if it’s a subject that’s already been covered, you’re trying to add new dimension to that, to give someone who’s really interested in that topic, who does that same Google search you do? Then they get this other facet of it that they could say, oh, okay, but here’s this part of it. I didn’t know about this.

Kate Knibbs 40:37
Yes, totally. That’s incredible.

Adam Pierno 40:42
Well, Kate, this has been fantastic conversation. Thank you so much for making time and coming to me live from your basement. I appreciate it. Anytime. This was really great. Where can people people can find you on wired and in print and wired? Where else can people find you online?

Kate Knibbs 41:00
So I have a Twitter account. I will warn you that I tweet some really stupid things. But if you want to follow me, they’re great. And it’s my last name is Kanye BBs at Kanye best nips? And that’s really the only place that I am professionally, like, I have an Instagram but it’s mainly pictures of my baby. So I’m not even.

Adam Pierno 41:24
That’s the more important stuff but yeah, yeah, yeah.

Kate Knibbs 41:26
And yeah, so right now wired. It’s a great magazine website, you should subscribe. They’re very cool.

Adam Pierno 41:33
That’s fantastic. I will link to your writer page on wired into your Twitter account. Thanks again for making time. Of course. The Strategy Inside Everything is produced by me, Adam Pierno If you like what you’ve heard, leave a review wherever you listen to podcasts. Actually, I have no idea if that helps, or if it’s ever done anybody any good. If you really want to help the show, and you liked what you heard, share it with someone else who you think will dig it. That’s the best way to help the show and keep the conversation growing. New Music for the strategy inside everything is by Sawsquarenoise. If you have an idea, a question or want to push back on something you hear here, go to thatsnotaninsight.com and leave a message or a voicemail for me. If you want more information on your host Adam Pierno you can find it on adampierno.com and learn about my books, speaking and consulting practice. Thanks so much for listening.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai