Casey Coombs joined the Puget Sound Business Journal (PSBJ) as a tech/biotech reporter this summer. The Fearey Group sat down with Casey to learn more about his experience as a journalist and what we can expect to see from him in the year ahead. For more, follow Casey on Twitter here.
Tell me a little bit about your current position at the PSBJ.
At the Business Journal, I cover tech companies big and small – from Amazon to startups – and biotech companies throughout the Puget Sound region.
What is a typical day like for you?
I get in between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. We have our list of stories ready for the day by 10 a.m., when we meet for a daily stand-up with all of the journalists, editors, designers and our photographer.
Our first newsletter of the day, “TechFlash,” goes out at noon. The next one is the healthcare newsletter, which is up at 2 p.m. Then we have the afternoon push at 3 p.m.
When I’m finished with the afternoon push, I go to work on print stories for the week, monthly cover stories or I develop story ideas that can be used down the road.
What is your process for reporting?
Once you’ve been at the Business Journal for a while, and you’re well-sourced and on your feet running, you can queue up stories on the schedule days in advance. You’re building your stories based on continuous contact with sources in the business community, SEC documents, tips and company announcements.
How did you get started as a journalist?
Throughout college I loved to write, but I didn’t really have in mind journalism as a career. When I finished grad school in 2010, I got this opportunity in New York to cover the United Nations Security Council for a year. It was kind of half academic style writing and half journalism.
I was enrolled to go to law school at the end of that year. Luckily, I discovered journalism before that happened.
After covering Security Council debates around the Arab Spring uprisings for a year, I felt compelled to go to one of the countries and report on what was actually happening on the ground.
I decided go to Yemen for a month and ended up making it my home for almost four years. It was life-changing in so many ways. Seeing how people there were dealing with the political revolution and new opportunities and uncertainty and trying to survive was often quite different from a lot of what was being reported about the country. People aren’t going to truly understand this stuff unless you go there and delve into the untold stories and come up with creative ways to tell them, so readers here can relate and understand what’s going on.
How did you end up in Seattle?
I’d planned on coming back to Seattle to visit for a while and decide where I’d report from next. My sister moved here about 10 years ago and started a family. My mom settled here after that.
What are you most looking to cover this year?
I’m covering technology and biotechnology, but I’m interested in the social issues going on in these industries.
I want to hear about what people in tech struggle with but don’t talk about. You hear a lot of talk about work-life balance in the tech industry, but actually striking that balance isn’t always that easy.
Is there one story that you’re most proud of?
Human trafficking in Yemen was one of the most important issues I have covered. I was traveling throughout remote towns on the Red Sea coast, meeting with migrants from Ethiopia who had just been released from human trafficking gangs. It was the most moving thing to connect with these people who had left everything behind in Ethiopia to chase dreams of work and stability in Saudi Arabia that turned out to be a mirage.
I produced a short documentary style video for Human Rights Watch that I felt added meaning to the conversation. It put a face on what was happening.
When you’re not reporting, what do you like to do?
I write about my time in Yemen. I’ve found a couple little coffee and book shops in Seattle that I like to hang out at on the weekends.
What would you be if you weren’t a journalist?
I’d be a cultural anthropologist.