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The Journo Grill: Graham Pitcher, Editor, New Electronics

Posted by Andrea Berghäll on 29th June 2012

This month we’re talking to Graham Pitcher, Group Editor of Findlay Media and Editor of New Electronics the leading magazine for the electronic design sector and a central hub for design engineers since its launch more than 40 years ago.

1. Describe your typical working day.

Going to the coffee pot about every five minutes.

No days are the same; there are always different priorities, depending where the magazine is in its production cycle. Trying to keep on top of content for future issues, but there’s usually some kind of panic. Plus all the other things a modern publishing house has to get involved in – exhibitions, conferences, events and so on.

2. What’s the best tech story you’ve ever written?

Having been in electronics journalism for more than 30 years, there have been a few good ones.

My first ‘scoop’ was with Electronics Times in the early 1980s, when I revealed that a building society planned to use Prestel (anyone remember that?) to provide online banking facilities to its customers. 

The best story you’ve ever written should be the one you’ve just finished, but ones I like are where you’ve talked on a bad line to someone with the brain the size of a planet about some narrow aspect of ‘rocket science’, struggle to make sense of your notes, write something and don’t get a complaint.

We run some interesting cover stories in New Electronics and I’m particularly interested in the ones in which David Boothroyd writes about artificial intelligence and research into the functionality of the brain.

3. What’s the next big news in tech?

For the electronics industry, it’s going to be about how chips are made in the future. Today, leading edge devices are being made on 28nm processes, with Intel there or thereabouts with a 22nm process for its microprocessors. Moving beyond those dimensions is going to be a challenge because some of the layers in the transistors will only be a few atoms thick. At those dimensions, atoms just don’t behave as might be expected. And there’s the challenge of creating those features. Engineers have worked out ways to continue using photolithography processes from previous systems, but that won’t last for much longer. Solving this will be a big challenge.

Oh, and silicon might just run out of steam; that’s why there’s a fuss about graphene.

4. How important is social media in sourcing stories?

It’s beginning to be a factor, but I still believe the best way of getting stories is by personal contact; either me calling people to find out what’s going on or them (whoever ‘they’ are) calling me.

It’s an interesting balance to maintain. You want to be as current as possible with what is posted on the website and magazine content, but you don’t want to spend all day monitoring RSS feeds, Twitter and so on. At the moment, I don’t see a suitable tool which would monitor all the different feeds available for the kinds of story I’m interested in. 

5. What are your thoughts on the future of the printed press?

One of things that’s beginning to focus my thinking is the balance between magazines, the web and other forms of e-publishing. A while ago, I didn’t see a time when magazines wouldn’t be printed. Now, I think that day is closer. But it’s not simply a matter of putting a magazine on a tablet; more imaginative solutions will need to be developed.

Controlled circulation magazines need advertising in order to publish. As advertisers move away from print, magazine publishers now look for revenue from a range of sources beyond print; we all have websites; run events and so on. The one direction in which many publishers have been reluctant to head is the subscription model. Readers in the electronics industry, for example, have been getting their trade magazines for nothing for 50 years; changing that to a pay to read model will be a challenge.

It will only be achieved by publishers applying strong editorial values to their products and generating valuable content that readers can’t get from the web.

Andrea Berghäll

Andrea Berghäll trained as a journalist and has worked in technology PR for over five years across a variety of IT and electronics clients, delivering high level campaigns.