Welcome to ‘On The Record’ with YAP Global, a series where we speak to the journalists and leading figures in the digital asset, fintech, blockchain and cryptocurrency industry.
This week we caught up with Leigh Cuen, a globally renowned freelance journalist who has written for esteemed publications including Business Insider, Al Jazeera, Vice, TechCrunch and CoinDesk. Based in New York, Leigh covers important cultural issues and topics such as fashion, beauty, human rights, travel, internet culture and technology.
Thanks for joining us Leigh! How do you keep up with developments in all the fields you write on?
I spend way too much time on Twitter. I read widely and often pay for news that I find valuable. Every day is a roller coaster in crypto news. For me, the key is using interviews to decide which trends are worth focusing on. You’ll never be able to know everything. Choose what is valuable to know and focus on understanding it deeply.
What is the best part about your job?
I get to talk to almost every type of person around the world, from a software developer in Yemen to a stripper in London to a billionaire banker in New York. I get to ask them questions that no one would answer in another social context. When I’m lucky, I get to help inspiring people share their stories with strangers who never would have known these insights. Sometimes, no one had ever written about this person’s story before. And now it exists in a format billions of internet users can access!
What types of stories do you enjoy writing about the most?
I love writing stories that change people’s lives. Sometimes a subject will tell me their career took off after my article was published, or readers tell me they learned about a life-changing tool or opportunity. I also enjoy cheeky nonfiction writing sometimes.
In your opinion what is the most exciting thing happening in the crypto space this year?
I think Bitcoin is the most exciting part of the crypto space. It actually works! It’s still experimental, so it’s exciting to watch how people use it and contribute to it.
What’s the one thing you wish PRs or companies would know / do when pitching you a story?
Personally, I’m not looking for many crypto pitches right now. As such, it would behoove PR companies to skip pitching me small companies or nascent projects entirely. Broadly speaking, the applicable advice there is to know what reporters are looking for in order to pitch them relevant opportunities. The fewer emails I get from a PR rep, the more likely it is I’ll give a thoughtful answer. If they are working with a celebrity client or a top tier company, I might be keen, so please keep the outreach direct and concise.
What’s the worst or best pitch you’ve received?
The best pitches I’ve ever received are usually a single sentence. Something like “Leigh, I know this person doing XYZ you write about and will gladly help you schedule an interview.” The worst pitches are testnet trials and other routine updates. It’s not news when your software company continues *checks notes* working on experimental software! It’s news when real people gain real value from it, rather than merely the academic possibility that a software could do something.
How has COVID19 impacted the way you work ?
I work from home these days instead of traveling. I was constantly on the road before. As a freelancer, I write fewer stories and focus almost exclusively on investigative features. When I was on staff and in an office I did a lot more timely news coverage.
How can more women get into fintech?
Use the fact that people will underestimate you as an advantage. People are more likely to brag to a young woman and sometimes that leads to interesting scoops. Find women mentors as often as you can. They don’t have to be in your field. It can be women investors or engineers, but someone who understands at least part of your beat. Ask them to introduce you to people.
What are you reading or listening to these days?
I’m a huge fan of the FemStreet newsletter and the Writers’ Co-op podcast. In terms of crypto reporting, Rest of World is undervalued. That site has a lot of unique content.