Meet the Media: Abrar Al-Heeti of CNET
As part of PRSA’s mission to advance the PR profession and the professional, we bring you our next Meet the Media Q+A profile. In this Q+A, we speak with Abrar Al-Heeti, Staff Reporter at CNET Culture to learn more about the work she does on a daily basis, how to best work with her and her hobbies and interests.
How did you get into journalism?
I've always loved writing. I used to write short stories and poems as a kid, and as I got older I looked for ways to turn that passion into a career. My sister, who's 11 years older than me, started majoring in journalism when she got to college, and that planted a seed for me.
I took an introduction to journalism course my sophomore year at the University of Illinois. One day I was sitting in class when it hit me: This is what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to go out into the world and tell people's stories. I loved that as a journalist, each day could bring a new challenge and adventure.
What’s it like to work for CNET compared to other publications back in Illinois?
Working for the top tech news site has innumerable perks, not least of which is its global reach. Writing for a digitally-driven publication also affords major flexibility when it comes to coverage. I love that my job involves everything from writing up a quick story about a meme that's blowing up on Twitter to working on an in-depth piece on modest fashion influencers on Instagram. Those kinds of topics weren't necessarily in the wheelhouse of the local publications I worked for in Illinois.
As a journalist focused on culture, what do you anticipate to be the next big trend? How does this beat differ than your previous medical tech focus?
There's a good amount of crossover between covering health tech and culture. Both center on the ways tech impacts everyday aspects of our lives. I love that writing about technology isn't just about reporting on the latest phone or gadget. It's about how technology plays a role in everything from how we monitor our health to where we find entertainment. I think that connection between the digital and real world will become more seamless going forward.
How would you improve the news industry?
I'd love to see more diversity, both in news coverage and in newsrooms. One of the key issues that led me to become a journalist was the lack of positive Muslim representation in the media. I realized the only way that was going to change was if more Muslims stepped in and got involved. I hope we'll continue to see more diversity in storytelling going forward.
What makes for a good story?
Human experiences really drive a story home. Being able to connect with a subject through powerful anecdotes and colorful, descriptive language make a story so much more impactful.
What are some of your favorite hobbies and interests? Are you enjoying the move to SF from Illinois?
I love San Francisco so much! It didn't take long for it to feel like home. Don't tell my parents, but when I'm visiting them I actually feel homesick for the Bay Area (and vice versa!).
I love playing tennis, reading, eating good food and spending copious amounts of time on YouTube. As someone who grew up in a landlocked state (not including Lake Michigan to the north), I also love being by the water because I was deprived of it for so long. The cornfields in Illinois just didn't do it for me. I'm grateful I have access to so many beautiful sites and hiking locations here in San Francisco.
Anything else PR pros should know?
I love stories about interesting people doing unprecedented things. That sounds simple enough, but it's true -- pitches with a human angle stand out in my already-crowded inbox. Also, I love getting to know PR pros over a cup of coffee! I really enjoy making those in-person connections and taking the time to chat. It's great to get to know each other as real people with similar interests, rather than just seeing a name on a screen.