Q&A with Phil Muncaster

Alex By Alex

We recently caught up with Phil Muncaster, freelance technology writer and UK/EMEA news reporter for Infosecurity Magazine, to find out how he got into journalism and his thoughts on working with PRs.

How did you get into journalism? I was stuck in Japan teaching, knowing only one thing: that I definitely didn’t want to be a teacher for the rest of my life. My legendary Aunty Betty suggested I apply to do a journalism course during my final year there. I did a phone interview late at night, got on the course and about nine months later was shivering my way round a campus in Edinburgh.

Who do you write for? I’m a freelance writer, but I’m the UK/EMEA news reporter for Infosecurity Magazine and contribute APAC tech opinion and features to IDG Connect.

What is your beat / areas of interest? On my second day at IT Week my boss told me to choose a beat, and as I’d written one story by that stage, on information security, that’s what I chose. I cover a much broader sweep of tech really – privacy/censorship is another area of interest – but cyber security is the one I always go back to.

How have you found going freelance? How does it compare to being a staff writer? I’ve got to say I love it. The first few years were quite hard. I quit to live and work in Hong Kong, covering the Asian market, which I did for two-and-a-half years. But by the time I came back I think I was beginning to establish myself and picking up enough clients to keep things ticking over.

Any advice for PRs out there that want to pitch stories to you? Email, all the way. I check my inbox every 10 minutes so will always get back if something’s of interest.

What is your biggest frustration with the PR community? Clichéd pitches, badly briefed account execs who can’t deal with follow-up queries, “circling back” emails – all the usual stuff.

Do you find that PRs know enough about the tech they are pitching or the issues impacting your audience? I think there’s a real problem in the larger agencies is that knowledge just doesn’t filter down fast or far enough. They resort to soundbites and rote learning. That said, I think there’s a problem in general with new entrants to the workforce with memory retention, common sense, interpersonal skills and the ability to think on one’s feet. The problem seems to have become more acute over the past 10 years, but that might just be my perception.