ABJ editor has his finger on the pulse of the Austin business community / By Chad Swiatecki / Photo by Sadie Barton
How many people are vying for Colin Pope’s attention on a daily basis? Enough that the editor of the Austin Business Journal considers himself “pretty well caught up” if he’s got less than 500 unread email messages on his desktop at any one time. By virtue of the job he’s held for four years, the longtime Austin resident can grab the ear of pretty much any top-level business, political or social powerbroker with a quick flip of the contact list on his iPhone.
“This job has put me in a position to know CEOs, city leaders, business leaders, political leaders,” Pope, 37, said during a recent afternoon while editing the ABJ’s weekly print publication. “It does astonish me that I’ve got this CEO’s mobile number in my cell phone, or I’ve got the mayor’s mobile in my cell phone. Being at the nexus of just about everything, I like to say I’m not important, but the people I know are important. Given the nature of my job, it puts me in a position to know the most important people and things.”
Pope gets that kind of access because leaders trust the balance and experience he’s built up from spending most of his adult life as a business reporter, save for brief stints in public relations and lobbying. While he clearly treasures the professional relationships, if his position means putting the feet of his high-profile contacts in to the public fire, he makes no apologies.
“I can’t pick and choose what goes on page one,” he says. “The standards of journalism dictate that. I’ve had to put some people that I know very well on page one for maybe getting sued or some other unflattering news, but that’s the job of a newspaper man.”
The son of a newspaperman himself and a graduate of the University of Texas’ journalism program, Pope says he was always called back to the profession because of the ability to know things first, and to give that information to C-level (CEOs, CFOs, etc.) readers that make up the bulk of the ABJ’s 40,000 weekly subscribers.
“It’s kind of like I’ve got this crystal ball,” he says. “We write about what’s going to happen. Buildings springing up [downtown]right now, we knew six months before anyone else. When lots of things are up in the air, it gives my readers a chance to get in there and influence stuff and get involved.”
Big issues on the radar at the downtown office that holds 10 journalists include a coming wave of hotel and office building construction downtown, the fate of Brackenridge Hospital and UT’s coming medical school, and the effect of the Waller Creek tunnel project on downtown development. But it’s not all office work for Pope, a newly married father of one who says he spends roughly half of his work time being the face of the paper and staying in the know about where the money flows in Austin.
“The fact that the week before last, I could be at the Formula 1 racetrack at a VIP ceremony and be able to approach and have conversations with people like [Paul Mitchell founder] John Paul DeJoria and [auto mogul]Red McCombs,” Pope says, “having back-to-back conversations with billionaires is kind of a neat thing to do.”