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The Orion

Todd Bishop: Founder of GeekWire and Chico State alumnus speaks with The Orion

Todd Bishop the co-founder of Geek Wire and 1996 Chico State graduate in Journalism and Business Administration. Image Credit: Kurt Schlosser

Todd Bishop, founder of GeekWire and a Chico State alumnus and former Orion staffer, returns to campus this month.

Based in Seattle and launched in March of 2011, GeekWire is a news site dedicated to covering trends in the national technology world. The company follows big names such as Apple, Google Amazon, Microsoft and Google, as well as covering start-ups companies.

Todd Bishop is a Chico State alumnus who double-majored in journalism and business administration who graduated in 1996. The former Orionite credits his Chico State education for teaching him valuable skills that helped with his entrepreneurship.

“It’s interesting a lot of times the principles that you apply to journalism: asking questions, listening, being able to think on the fly and figure things out apply well to watching a start-up,” Bishop said. “It’s much harder, watching a start-up than to do journalism purely but a lot of the lessons applied. I was also a double-major at Chico State and majored in business administration. So I have a little bit of a business background. It’s one of those things that’s exciting and scary and extremely fun.”

Still editing and doing his own journalism, Bishop’s career spans more than a decade, working in places such as the Philadelphia Inquirer, Puget Sound Business Journal and Seattle P-I. This experience has helped grow GeekWire to have 15 people in the company, with a newsroom of six reporters and outside contributors, also help chronicle Seattle’s technology world.

With so much experience in the journalism field, BIshop has years worth of advice to offer graduating journalists.

“In terms of journalism specifically, my big thing is, it’s good to be a generalist when you start, Bishop said. “Cover a wide range of things. Over time if you have in mind the specialty you want to get into, whether that’s a beat like courts or community coverage or something specific like a business sector… Start developing specialized expertise that you can apply your general journalism skills to. That is the kind of thing that will really set you up and also get you into the media landscape. Then you also have other expertise that you can fall back on.”

Bishop states that’s the beauty of learning journalism – it makes you very flexible and lets you speak on and learn about a wide variety of subjects, he said. You have to adapt when needed in this business and those skills translate to any job. This is not a job where you can coast – you have to love journalism to make a living off of it, he said.

“When I started I was writing one to two stories a day for a daily newspaper with a deadline of 5 p.m,” Bishop said.

“Every day, for a story that would land on people’s doorsteps 12 hours later. That was the state of the industry and sure the internet in the mid-90s was starting to come up, but it was more of a novelty in terms of the business of media at that point. I never would have expected that we would be going to hourly and half-hourly deadlines. The way the industry has changed is dramatic and incredible and exciting and scary. One of the advantages that journalists have is that they’re learning about and adapting to new things every day because of the different topics that they cover and if you can apply that to your overall approach, big-picture, you’re going to be fine.”

The most valuable class Todd Bishop took at Chico State he said was The Orion. He loved the structure of the class and that he got to learn through doing. With proper instruction, he learned how to approach and think about problems and issues in a way that benefited him throughout his life.

“The thing that I loved about Chico State was the mix of big-picture theory, big-picture understanding, with a practical application of the skills, said Bishop. “So you’ve got both the insight on the high level and the experience in the trenches. I feel like those two things just set me up for doing well.”

When asked what some of the big things he is working on currently, he mentioned Amazon having their big device unveiling. He covered it and went to the reception afterward that Jeff Bezos was at, and picked up on his comments about facial recognition regulation. Bezos acknowledged for the first time that Amazon is open to Federal Legislation to “guard rails around how facial recognition technology is used.”

Bishop feels this is information is important because of people’s concerns about bias, civil rights and transparency with that kind of technology.

Bishop then gave advice to journalism students.

“Take advantage of your connections,” Bishop said.

“Don’t be shy about asking for things. Work hard, find a passion and pursue it inside journalism. That’s the best advice I can give. I think sometimes people are hesitant to ask for things. We have a great sales team here and they sell sponsorships and ads and they are not afraid to be explicit in what they ask for. More often than not if you do that enough times, you’re going to get what you’re asking for. Making connections, making sure to be clear to people and say, ‘Hey, I am looking for a job in journalism. I want to work in this field and I can do a great job for you.’ The more upfront and ambitious and clear you can be, I think, the better.”

Ricardo Tovar can be reached at [email protected] or @rtovarg13 on Twitter.

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