Interview: Paul Boutin

Paul Boutin has been documenting the intersection of pop culture and technology for more than a decade. Formerly a senior editor at Wired, he is now a freelance writer who often appears in Slate, Wired, and Valleywag.

Paul Boutin has been documenting the intersection of pop culture and technology for more than a decade. Formerly a senior editor at Wired, he is now a freelance writer who often appears in Slate, Wired, and Valleywag.

PRWeek: How has coverage changed over the past 10 years in Silicon Valley?

Paul Boutin: I'm not really sure. I never paid much attention to the business of technology or the business of journalism.

PRWeek: So is your interest in technology and its impact on pop culture?

Boutin: I have zero interest in what Facebook's valuation is, but I'm really interested in the 50-year-old who's adding applications and signing up friends on Facebook.

There are sports writers who write about backroom deals only they know about. I'm more about, "Holy shit. That Barry Bonds can hit!"

PRWeek: I read your Slate piece on the iPhone. I was wondering whether you thought that release deserved the attention it got?

Boutin: I definitely believe the iPhone is one of the most amazing gadgets ever built, but Apple fans insist, and I've had people corner me and evangelize to me, that it's the best thing at everything. And my Blackberry is still better for me in many ways.

I have two formulas for a Slate article. The conventional wisdom on topic A is wrong, but not for the reasons you think. And the other formula is the conventional wisdom is right, but not for the reasons you think. Because if the conventional wisdom is right for the reasons you think, then you don't need me to write about it.

PRWeek: What kind of interaction do you have with PR people? Do you have any tips for them?

Boutin: I have never called anyone a flack. I have a lot of respect for what PR people do. It's hard and that's why they make more than me. But I get a very large amount of unsolicited e-mails that suggests to me that a lot of people whose job it is to get me to write about things are not thinking about the consequences of over-pitching.

PRWeek: What did you think about Chris Anderson's recent decision to blacklist certain PR people?

Boutin: I did a little dance. I have had that exact same gripe for five years. I'm a freelancer and, therefore, at the other end of the magazine food chain from Chris Anderson, but [I] have the exact same problem.

People seem to believe that somehow sending me every pitch or every press release for anything can't be bad for them. But it's terrible. Somebody who sends me stuff I didn't ask for about stuff I don't understand, or is clearly aimed at somebody like an assigning editor, then it's the same thing they are sending to everyone else, and I have no use for it.

I don't get paid to write the same thing everybody has already read. It's got to be different.

Name: Paul Boutin

Outlet: Freelance

Web site: http://www.paulboutin.com/

Preferred contact method: paul@paulboutin.com

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