Journalist Spotlight: Katie Bo Williams, The Hill

Welcome to Journalist Spotlight, where we go behind the scenes with a journalist and ProfNet user. This installment features Katie Bo Williams of The Hill, whose work has also been seen in The Atlantic and The Washington Post.  

If you’re a journalist who uses ProfNet, email evelyn.tipacti@prnewswire.com and you could be featured next.

Katie Bo Williams, Journalist at The Hill

Katie Bo Williams is a staff writer at The Hill covering cybersecurity policy.

A graduate of the University of Virginia, her work has appeared in The Atlantic, The Washington Post, Discover, Nautilus and others.

Her “bread-and-butter at The Hill is making the legislative process, as it relates to cyber law, accessible to the general interest reader.”

We talked to Katie recently about her career path from horse racing over to journalism. Check out the Q&A with her below.

Where was your first professional job in journalism?

I covered horse racing at a daily called The Saratoga Special. It’s a small team that tells the kind of Damon Runyon-style stories that make up a lot of great sports writing. I still miss doing the boots-on-the-ground feature work I got to do there – and I had a once-in-a-lifetime editor that taught me to pay attention and trust my own voice.

For many years you worked in the thoroughbred racing industry. What was that like and how did you make the switch to becoming a journalist?

Unreal is probably the best shorthand. Racing is an exciting business, full of interesting characters and stories. I spent four years living out of a suitcase, working with horses in barns all over the world. You can’t beat watching the sun rise over the Hunter Valley in Australia, drinking a bad cup of instant coffee and turning out a bunch of young horses to stretch their legs.

45ca8d417fabde7177bfd32211bb881b

But as always when you are working with a living animal, there are incredible highs and lows. Horses will break your heart – they lose races, they get hurt, they bite. It’s why people cry when they play “My Old Kentucky Home” over the loud speakers at the Derby every year – because to get there is such a fragile dream.

I loved the animal and I loved the game, but I think I fell in love as a writer, not a sportsman. I was in it for the stories and when I felt I had told my share, I hung up my tack. I was lucky enough to snag an internship with Nautilus and went to starve in New York City (as you do). My first story for them was about a genetic test used to determine whether a racehorse will be a sprinter or a stayer.

And I can still give you a good tip for Keeneland if you need one.

What type of stories do you focus on the most?

My current beat is the politics of cybersecurity, although I’ve also written about criminal justice, gun legislation and health care.

From a personal perspective, I’m particularly interested in the big, unanswered questions. Cyber is still an incredibly unsettled theater, from a geopolitical standpoint. We don’t know what constitutes an act of war. What are the rules of engagement? And a lot of lawmakers are still scrambling to educate themselves.

My daily bread-and-butter is making cybersecurity policy accessible to a general audience. If it doesn’t have a Capitol Hill angle, I’m usually going to pass.

Are your stories assigned or do you pitch story ideas?

I pitch my own ideas.

Is there something you like best about being a journalist?

I’m not the first journo to say this and I won’t be the last, but I like being paid to learn. I want to know everything. More specifically, I like the “zone” you go into when you’re structuring a story –  putting the building blocks together in a way that helps a reader understand a complex topic is an exercise where I can lose my sense of time.

What advice to do you have for those in PR or anyone else who may want to pitch you a story idea?

Know my publication! Nothing bugs me more than getting a pitch that doesn’t have anything to do with politics or policy – it says to me that you haven’t even looked at TheHill.com. So, for example, product pitches or “how your organization can avoid being hit by malware” are almost never a good fit for me.

What should they always do and never do?

Don’t offer me unnamed sources – I’m usually on a tight deadline and am hesitant to agree to “Do you want me to connect you with a source that can talk about this?” I want to know who he or she is before I commit time. I also pretty much immediately delete offers of “cybersecurity experts.” It’s too vague and suggests to me that you don’t know what I’m looking for. I say yes to “threat researcher who specializes in ransomware,” for example.

Always: Know the news cycle! I often mine source offers I get when I’m working on a story on a tight deadline – if you know what story broke that morning in the security world and pitch me a relevant source, that’s a resource I advantage of.

Think like a journalist. When I’m looking for sources, I’m looking for someone to answer unanswered questions. The more tailored the pitch – “This guy can talk about x, y and z” – the more likely I am to talk to your source.

Further to that point, be aware of where your client fits into the larger narrative of a given news story. For example, does he or she have a vested interest in supporting one side of a debate or the other? Here’s a really simple example: The CEO of a company that makes an encryption software offering expert commentary on the encryption debate. It doesn’t mean I never talk to those people, but it can help you introduce a source to me in a way that’s useful: “This guy can talk to you about why cryptologists believe back doors are so bad,” for example.

 

How can someone approach you in order to develop some sort of work relationship?

Coffee, coffee, coffee! Always best to meet someone in person.

Do you use social media and what is the best thing about it?

Twitter. It tips me off to angles, questions, problems that I might not have seen about a particular story. It’s like having a 24/7 focus group I can tap.

Can you tell us about one of the most memorable moments you’ve had in your career?

Seeing a story with my byline on it lead the front page of The Atlantic was pretty damn cool. I spent an hour and a half on the phone with a bounty hunter for the story, and it’s one of my favorite things I’ve ever written.

What advice do you have for new journalists and even for those who aren’t so new to the field?

In my first months working for a daily, I was laboring over an 800-word story, tweaking every word, moving grafs, rewriting my lede 50 times. My editor told me to stop. “Just write it as well as you can in the time you have, then write the next one. It will be better. Then write the next one. It will be better.”

It has always served me well in a daily environment. Don’t get sloppy, but don’t kill yourself on a single story, just keep writing. Produce a volume of content. Each one will be better than the last.

Whether you’re a reporter, blogger, author or other content creator, ProfNet can help you with your search for expert sources. Send a query to tens of thousands of experts and PR agents to find an expert you can quote on virtually any topic. The best part? It’s free! Start your search now: Send a query.

Evelyn Tipacti is a audience relations specialist at ProfNet. She is a former broadcast journalist with years of experience behind the television camera and radio mic.

You may also like...

34 Responses

  1. Dana says:

    I was not impressed with her comments to the questions asked. She needs more insight about her topics and needs to focus on what makes up the story which she is writing about. She needs to just state the facts and not put a twist on what those facts are.

  2. I appreciate you sharing this blog post. Thanks Again. Cool.

  3. very informative articles or reviews at this time.

  4. Van Chambers says:

    very informative articles or reviews at this time.

  5. Marc Thomas says:

    Hi there to all, for the reason that I am genuinely keen of reading this website’s post to be updated on a regular basis. It carries pleasant stuff.

  6. I truly appreciate your technique of writing a blog. I added it to my bookmark site list and will

  7. Fatima Ware says:

    There is definately a lot to find out about this subject. I like all the points you made

  8. I appreciate you sharing this blog post. Thanks Again. Cool.

  9. Pretty! This has been a really wonderful post. Many thanks for providing these details.

  10. I really like reading through a post that can make men and women think. Also, thank you for allowing me to comment!

  11. Tiffany Cole says:

    I appreciate you sharing this blog post. Thanks Again. Cool.

  12. This is really interesting, You’re a very skilled blogger. I’ve joined your feed and look forward to seeking more of your magnificent post. Also, I’ve shared your site in my social networks!

  13. Rylan Newton says:

    For the reason that the admin of this site is working, no uncertainty very quickly it will be renowned, due to its quality contents.

  14. Aydan Tanner says:

    I do not even understand how I ended up here, but I assumed this publish used to be great

  15. Antwan Mejia says:

    I truly appreciate your technique of writing a blog. I added it to my bookmark site list and will

  16. I like the efforts you have put in this, regards for all the great content.

  17. Julien Petty says:

    I really like reading through a post that can make men and women think. Also, thank you for allowing me to comment!

  18. Amiya Lynch says:

    I very delighted to find this internet site on bing, just what I was searching for as well saved to fav

  19. George Meza says:

    naturally like your web site however you need to take a look at the spelling on several of your posts. A number of them are rife with spelling problems and I find it very bothersome to tell the truth on the other hand I will surely come again again.

  20. This is really interesting, You’re a very skilled blogger. I’ve joined your feed and look forward to seeking more of your magnificent post. Also, I’ve shared your site in my social networks!

  21. very informative articles or reviews at this time.

  22. For the reason that the admin of this site is working, no uncertainty very quickly it will be renowned, due to its quality contents.

  23. Good post! We will be linking to this particularly great post on our site. Keep up the great writing

  24. Delaney Ross says:

    This is really interesting, You’re a very skilled blogger. I’ve joined your feed and look forward to seeking more of your magnificent post. Also, I’ve shared your site in my social networks!

  25. Good post! We will be linking to this particularly great post on our site. Keep up the great writing

  26. For the reason that the admin of this site is working, no uncertainty very quickly it will be renowned, due to its quality contents.

  27. This is my first time pay a quick visit at here and i am really happy to read everthing at one place

  28. naturally like your web site however you need to take a look at the spelling on several of your posts. A number of them are rife with spelling problems and I find it very bothersome to tell the truth on the other hand I will surely come again again.

  29. Gerald Lynn says:

    Pretty! This has been a really wonderful post. Many thanks for providing these details.

  30. Adalyn Cowan says:

    I just like the helpful information you provide in your articles

  31. Aspen Woods says:

    I truly appreciate your technique of writing a blog. I added it to my bookmark site list and will

  32. Good post! We will be linking to this particularly great post on our site. Keep up the great writing

  1. March 19, 2016

    […] Read the full story on mediablog.prnewswire.com […]

  2. December 22, 2016

    […] 6. Journalist Spotlight: Katie Bo Williams, The Hill (March) […]

Leave a Reply