Morning Brew’s Jordan McDonald on ‘Accessible’ Reporting, Finding Story Inspiration

Jordan McDonald

Jordan McDonald is a dynamic, young reporter – with a degree in political science and experience within mega newsrooms like USA Today and CNBC. Luckily, his current reporting position blends his interests in politics and his (newfound) appreciation for tech innovation.

He’s an emerging tech writer for Tech Brew, a property of the popular outlet Morning Brew – initially known for its catchy email newsletters (which have garnered a whopping 4 million-plus subscribers). Its concise reporting style actually represents a growing trend across journalism: making news more engaging and accessible to younger, broader audiences.

Based in the nation’s capital, McDonald covers everything from rocket launches and tech mergers to satellite science and consumer goods like the Apple Watch. He’s also the publication’s main food/agricultural tech reporter – with a growing interest in areas like vertical farming. More importantly, like Morning Brew itself, he’s set out to demystify everyday news coverage. We recently caught up with McDonald to discuss related trends he’s seeing across his vast coverage area. What follows is an edited version of our discussion:

What separates Tech/Morning Brew from other top consumer and business outlets?

It starts with the style, and our focus is on a more conversational, casual tone for pressing news. We try to present it in a more digestible way. In my role specifically, I’m less focused on emerging companies, but instead more invested in business decisions that companies make when they want to acquire technology.

<split-lines>"It starts with the style, and our focus is on a more conversational, casual tone for pressing news."<split-lines>

How has your publication adapted to media changes in recent years?

A lot has changed since I first started. We were very much focused on newsletters and aggregating news to make it accessible. Now, while we still aggregate critical news, we’re heavily focused on reporting our own stories and building out our own coverage (even second- or third-day stories). Meanwhile, we’re keeping an eye on all ‘breaking news’ as well.

You focus a good bit of your energy on AgTech, which is a rather niche space. But you also cover a wide range of topics. How do you go about choosing what to cover week by week?

A lot of factors influence what I choose to write about. It begins with reading what others are writing and getting an understanding of what they find interesting – in publications like the New York Times, The Verge, the Wall Street Journal, etc. We certainly keep an eye on the ‘competition.’ Newsletters are also a great place to start – whether it’s those covering AgTech, climate tech, space, and more. I look for great rundowns of industry-specific news.

Additionally, sometimes I consult my own reporting. Let’s say I’ve written a story that’s relevant for a period of time. At some point down the line – maybe months or even years later – I might be interested in reconnecting with sources or writing new, related stories. So, revisiting previous coverage is definitely helpful. PR pitches also help – particularly those about companies I haven’t connected with, or those tapping into trends I haven’t seen.

<split-lines>"At some point down the line – maybe months or even years later – I might be interested in reconnecting with sources or writing new, related stories."<split-lines>

Does living in the Washington, D.C., area influence your coverage at all – perhaps from a policy perspective?

Being here, there’s more consideration of policy – and more resources to utilize. That’s particularly true if, say, we’re talking about the space industry. Still, what we typically write about isn’t very focused on that. So, operating out of D.C. has its benefits, but as an organization, we want to expand to companies that are located anywhere.

What tech stories are over-discussed right now? Is it all things AI? Similarly, what’s under-discussed?

I’d say AI is obviously getting a lot of attention. I don’t think that’s a bad thing, because despite the increase in coverage, there are so many untold stories. There’s so much left to grasp, and that’s critical.

On under-discussed topics, there are many. In the space industry, it’s hard to contextualize something literally happening so far above you, but there is a critical industry developing and a lot that we don’t know – it’s stuff I’m excited to learn about, be it about SpaceX or others.

I’d also say there’s not enough attention being paid to the gaming industry. The pandemic really revealed the importance of the industry, as people were isolated or alone. Gaming is an interesting way for people to connect. We’re now seeing neat developments in this tech, including within the Metaverse.

<split-lines>"In the space industry, it’s hard to contextualize something literally happening so far above you, but there is a critical industry developing and a lot that we don’t know."<split-lines>

Lastly, what’s one story you’re particularly proud of?

It’s actually a very ‘simple’ one. You might expect someone to say a big, important exposé, but sometimes the most important thing is explaining how something works. For example: There was a story I worked on early on, regarding AgTech and particularly vertical farming. The topic was simply: ‘What is vertical farming?’ I was new to the space and didn’t fully understand the industry yet – so much of it was for me to better grasp it. I talked to several companies to understand the tech, the products and the distribution. It ended up being one of the most successful stories for us. It also provided a ground-level understanding for me, which I used to pursue future pieces.

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