We’re very thrilled to kick-off this series with Nikhilesh De, a Business Reporter at CoinDesk. He covers cryptocurrency regulation, law and institutions. From DOJ indictments and cryptocurrency’s notorious scandals like Quadriga to anything the SEC says about crypto, Nik would be first on the scene for CoinDesk.
Let’s meet the man behind the breaking news and scoops.
Tell us a bit about your background in journalism?
“I started learning how to be a reporter in college at the Daily Targum, the school newspaper. Covering news, science, technology and community as a reporter and editor is where I got all my experience. Straight up just trying to report local and hyperlocal news. I was a part of the science section and covering different sorts of stories like research drugs that will be released in 10 years for example. It was hard. The challenge was explaining why people should care about something that would only be a thing in a decade which is similar to what it’s like covering crypto.”
How did you land your role as CoinDesk’s business reporter?
“When I was looking for internships in 2017 after university, I saw an internship at CoinDesk. The way CoinDesk did it at the time is that new candidates met with a bunch of different folks. Pete Rizzo who ran the main editorial team and Stan Higgins, now at the Block, brought me on.
I knew nothing about crypto before 2017. The most I knew was from a College Humour video and they had a joke about Bitcoin in it. That was it.”
What’s a day in the life of a reporter covering crypto and blockchain regulation, law and institutions, like?
“Crypto itself is just such a niche field right now and the regulatory aspects are a niche within that niche. Part of the challenge is figuring out what is important and what’s the best way to share it. One of my favourite stories is when SEC Chair Jay Clayton was nominated as US Attorney for the Southern District of New York. This would basically make him one of the top prosecutors in the US who investigate people like President Trump’s former aide, Michael Cohen. Game planning what the possibilities would be with this news was the challenge. This is one of the top stories that could bridge cryptocurrency into the mainstream coverage and the way it rolled out is this huge political fight. This is significant because the future of the SEC will really boil down to how the election goes in November. Something like this story takes a couple of days to write. The longest amount of time I took to cover a story was when I reported that the SEC and Finra were not approving broker-dealer applications from companies dealing in crypto assets. We beat the WSJ by two days when we published the article. The SEC actually responded to the issue and they published a document saying they have concerns about how things fall under the law. This topic is not one that people were willing to speak on the record about because they want to do business without upsetting the SEC. So I had to make sure I had accurate and correct information that could be relied upon for the story. Speed is good but correct is better.”
Where do you find your stories?
“Twitter has been a huge part of getting help to digest all this information. I message people on Twitter often to get help understanding documents especially legal or financial reports. At the beginning of this year, we published an article about accredited investors. The story came about because I saw a person Tweet about that accreditor update proposal and thought that would be an interesting angle. I tweeted them and got them on the phone pretty quickly. Another big part is to go to conferences, to meet folks who are knowledgeable in their fields. This year has been weird, COVID19’s a thing now. At the beginning of the year there were all these plans to host conferences and get these things rolling and planning to hold Consensus 2020 at the New York Hilton and suddenly we can’t do that. On the reporter side, Consensus has been a great opportunity for me to meet people, but now it’s different.”
How has COVID19 impacted crypto journalism?
“One of the best things about being a journalist is about the ability to meet people. Now all of that is happening remotely and you can’t do it the same way you did before.
We are now cold emailing and cold calling folks and hoping they have the time capacity to return. On top of that, some folks don’t want to talk about things online and they are concerned about privacy.
When we worked in our office it’s pretty easy to say hey let’s meet at this coffee shop. And now it’s like, ‘hey you want to have a zoom call at this time’?
I do think the crypto media is in a unique position. Everyone’s on Twitter, Telegram, or Signal and in this respect, we have had an easier time.”
How has the cryptocurrency and blockchain industry evolved in 2020?
“I’m going to be honest I still haven’t recovered my inbox since Consensus: Distributed. I have 1,200 emails to go through. There’s a lot going on. More companies are committing time to building things.
Bitcoin’s price is the least interesting price to me but the fact that it’s stable for a while makes it feel like there’s less going on, but there’s just as much happening now. It’s like things are happening on their own merit. People don’t have to look at them under the veil of Bitcoin‘s price.”
What’s one thing you wish companies pitching you would know?
“For starters I get so many pitches that are not crypto related but are trying. One tried to transition into a story about french fries. Unless you are putting french fries on the blockchain, don’t try. Some things I get are so off the beaten track.
Also, I am terrible at responding to emails. I don’t know if it’s a psychological thing but it’s easier on Twitter, where I don’t feel the need to compose a fully fleshed out response.”
What’s the worse or best pitch you’ve received?
“I got one that read, “Hey here is a legal document you missed and here are three points and by the way my client is an expert on this” — That was a very unique document and there was an actual significance to it. They weren’t introducing the client and that stood out to me. It was out of the norm. Show don’t tell.”
How has COVID19 impacted the way you work?
“Working remotely has been ok for me. I really like that I don’t have a commute anymore. PreCovid was pretty much an hour both ways for me. Now, I wake up, brush my teeth, get coffee and breakfast in 20 mins. Not having to make sure I catch a boat and bus is a lot easier. It’s also cheaper because I don’t have to pay for a pass.
Instead, I can blow that cash on LEGO….”
Turns out Nik has a whole LEGO railway system equipped with buildings and LEGO people!
Thanks for the chat, Nik!
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