Each Monday, we’re giving readers a chance to get to know the media a little better.
With a little flair.
Our goal is to give readers some insight into the work and work style of area journalists, and get to know a little bit about the person behind the byline. Start your week off with an online networking opportunity through our Media Monday blog post.
This Week: Leslie Helm, Seattle Business Magazine
Meet Seattle Business magazine editor Leslie Helm. After traveling the world, he found himself here in Seattle, never missing a beat on the Seattle business scene.
Q: Tell me us little bit about yourself. How did you find yourself at Seattle Business magazine?
A: I have been a journalist for more than 20 years. I was at Business Week – first in Tokyo and then Boston. When my wife and I came to Seattle – she works at The University of Washington (UW) – I was at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer for a year. I then moved on to the Los Angeles Times, covering Japan, Korea and India, in Tokyo. I later worked for the LA Times in Seattle.
Later on I received a grant through the Social Science Research Council to study the impact of the Internet on Japan. During that time, I worked on my book Yokohama Yankee: My Family’s Five Generations as Outsiders in Japan. Most recently, I worked for Washington CEO magazine which was acquired by Seattle Business magazine. And here I am today.
Q: What do you enjoy most about being editor of Seattle Business magazine?
A: I always like the idea of community; Seattle has a very small town feel about it. With national and international publications, you meet people and never meet them again.
Q: What is it like to have written a book?
A: It has been a blast. I didn’t have any expectations going into it. I have done a ton of traveling while writing the book and now that it has published. I was at Harvard not long ago, Whitman College and the Japanese American National Museum. I have also been getting a lot of personal letters. With business journalism, you don’t have a chance to reach people on an emotional level. With the book, it is personal.
Q: What is the most interesting interview you have ever conducted? Is there a dream interview still on your list?
A: Not sure if there has been one standout. During my first job working for the school paper, I had a chance to interview Joan Baez. I interviewed a few prime ministers in Japan; I traveled around with Noboru Takeshita. I also had the opportunity to interview the President of Korea, Kim Young Sam.
Here, I have talked to Bill Gates, Steve Ballmer, Jeff Bezos, among others. I am really trying to get back out there and interview the CEOs of all our major companies. I would be interested in meeting the new CEO for Microsoft Satya Nadella.
I’d say the one story that made the biggest impression for me was about a small town where a large Japanese company mined for arsenic. The entire town was devastated by cancer. The people of the town fought a law suit for decades. The story was about how the legal system in Japan can be very unfair to those trying to challenge the establishment.
Q: What do you appreciate about PR? Conversely, what could you do without?
A: I have learned to work with PR in a different way. When I worked for Business Week, I was barraged with pitches, most of which weren’t relevent. It made me want to keep a distance. Now that I work in a relatively small community, I have found there is a certain codependence. I appreciate those people who have their finger on the pulse of the region and help me identify a good story.
It’s not too often, but I still get random pitches from people who don’t understand what we do as a magazine. I expect people to read the magazine before coming to me with the story.
Q: If you had one piece of advice for a company that wanted to be covered in Seattle Business magazine, what would that be?
A: We will look at mid-sized companies – say $15 million and above – if they are doing interesting things. For smaller companies, the best thing is to show how the company is part of a larger trend, has great growth potential or tells something important about our business community.
Q: What is the future for Seattle Business magazine?
A: The more people follow news second by second, minute by minute, the more need there is to step back and see the big picture. We want to be sure that even if the magazine sits on a coffee table for several months, you can still pick it up and read articles relevent to the business community. At the same time, we need to compliment that monthly magazine with an online presence. We’re also putting more focus on the companies that strengthen the community.
Q: Fill in the blank; if you weren’t an editor, you would be….
A: I always ask that question and should have been prepared myself! I have always wanted to be a writer, and I used to want to be a psychologist. Having covered startups for so long, I think it would be fun to be a part of one.
Q: If you had more time in the day, what would you most like to be doing?
A: I would read a lot more. I am a big fan of fiction – John Irving, John Updike, John Steinbeck. I also love to play squash and go snow shoeing.
Follow Leslie on Twitter: @LeslieHelm
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