In journalism, they say you’re only as good as your last scoop (today’s news is tomorrow’s fish ‘n’ chip paper etc.). And if that’s the case, I’m holding my own.
The Monzo story was bread and butter stuff. Once I was sure it was factually correct, I didn’t hesitate to hit publish. However, the Sequoia and goPuff stories took some judgement because they were bordering on too close to call.
As a journalist I’d much rather only get part of the story (or hedge it!) than end up being wrong. In both instances, I managed to confirm from multiple sources that a deal was being done but then the question becomes, has it actually closed? If it hasn’t, as part of my own ethics, I next have to make a judgment as to whether or not publishing a story could derail the deal altogether.
As a rule, I always try to wait until contracts have been signed and for the money to have hit the bank. However, European tech and startup journalism is more competitive than I have ever known previously, making it risky to wait for any length of time. If I’ve heard a thing, it’s very likely other journalists have too. As I always tell sources: I’m good but I’m not that good.
What I’m less worried about, however, is upsetting people. Both my parents were school teachers and I used to also teach at a local college. There’s a concept in teaching that you shouldn’t strive to be liked but to be respected. I think that applies to the news business too. This boils down to how you handle the news gathering process, such as giving all parties the right to comment and not blindsiding anyone needlessly.
More fundamentally, my mission is to help make the tech industry more transparent. For example, it wasn’t clear that Sequoia intended to disclose the funding round in question, and yet word was beginning to spread amongst those in the know. Open secrets are rarely open to everybody and are almost always privileged secrets by a different name. Or, put another way, transparent markets function better.
Besides, well over a decade in this business, and I can’t say I’ve ever seen an acquisition or funding scoop cause any long-lasting anguish. If anything, once the story is officially announced, the company gets a second bounce in the news. ‘No one has ever died when a funding round leaks,’ a seasoned PR recently said, reassuringly. Let’s hope they didn’t jinx it.