‘My entry into crypto has been looking for what global adoption actually looks like’ – On the Record with Leo Schwartz, Fortune

Leo Schwartz is a reporter for Fortune covering the global impact of crypto, regulation, cybercrime, and all things blockchain. He previously worked at Rest of World, covering tech from Mexico City. His work has also appeared in the Washington Post, PBS NewsHour, and The Nation. He graduated with a dual master’s in journalism and Latin American studies from New York University and a bachelor’s from Columbia University.

How did your journey as a crypto reporter begin?

In 2020 I started working at Rest of World which covers the intersection of tech, politics, culture, and business. I was covering Latin America. Obviously, crypto is very different in Latin America from a crypto adoption standpoint, where a lot of use cases are positioned for remittance and inflation hedge. This was where I first got interested in covering crypto from a tech side. Then in August 2022, I got the opportunity to work at Fortune as a full-time crypto reporter. 2 months after I started, FTX collapsed so that was a great re-entry into the space. 

You cover a lot of different topics ranging from regulations, and institutions, to politics. Are there any specific narratives you love to cover or stories you seek out?

When I first came to Fortune I came with a unique background where I looked at the impact of crypto and tech outside of the US. So, my entry into crypto has been looking for what global adoption actually looks like and if there is this use case that is often put forward for crypto for remittance or cross-border payments. So, that is something I still do a lot of work on. I’m very interested in regulation and what regulation means for crypto in the US and globally, how lawmakers and politicians are approaching crypto, and how this will shape the future of the industry. At Fortune, one of our main focuses is the intersection of crypto and traditional finance and how regulation will shape that. But I also enjoy deep dives into exchanges or companies that are trying to cross that boundary, like Coinbase or Circle which is a bigger piece I recently worked on. 

As a mainstream journalist covering crypto, do you have to be mindful of how you cover the industry or what stories you chase for your audience?

You just have to make sure all the explanations and terms are accessible, understanding that it might be someone’s first introduction to crypto. We also look for other factors that will connect with a more mainstream audience, whether it’s the participation of a well-known company, funding, or adoption metrics.

What piece or story that you’ve written are you most proud of?

There are many. The recent deep dive I did into Circle is something I’m really proud of. I think stablecoins are one of the most interesting applications of crypto right now.  There hasn’t been too much examination into what the future of stablecoins will look like, how that will impact payments, even how people are using stablecoins, and then why Tether, this incredibly controversial company, has become so prominent. A lot of people have tried to investigate Tether without much success, so I tried to go a different route of examining Circle, which is one of the oldest companies in the crypto space, at least in the US, and tried to figure out why they’re having such a hard time beating Tether

What makes a really good or really bad pitch?

It takes 3 seconds to know if a pitch is worth it or not. The worst pitches are ones filled with buzzwords that don’t mean anything. It’s pretty obvious to the reporter when the pitcher doesn’t really understand what’s happening in the space. The pitches that are good are the ones that are sending me interesting exclusives that offer an interesting perspective or have an inside scoop. It’s worth it to tailor your pitches. If I’ve been put on a list and am pitched something that 100 other journalists are also receiving, it’s very unlikely I’m going to pick it up. 

What industry trend are you most excited about at the moment?

Stablecoins. It’s so interesting that crypto started as this alternative to the traditional financial system, and now the most popular asset is basically replicating the US dollar, and I think it’s going to expand beyond that. But the capability of stablecoins to fulfil all the promises of cross-border payments and regulatory challenges makes it a pretty fascinating topic.

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