Meet Marco Santana, the Register’s new tech and startup reporter

Marco Santana, the Des Moines Register's new technology and startup reporter, is comfortable to admit he was "the journalism nerd" in college. Or as he put it: "The guy who wore his 'journalist' T-shirt to the bar and did not think twice about it." "Now, after a few years in the field," Santana said in

Marco Santana, the Des Moines Register‘s new technology and startup reporter, is comfortable to admit he was “the journalism nerd” in college.

Or as he put it: “The guy who wore his ‘journalist’ T-shirt to the bar and did not think twice about it.”

“Now, after a few years in the field,” Santana said in an email interview on Monday, “that dedication has paid off and I intend on covering this community as closely as I can, highlighting its successes for Register readers.”

Whether or not Santana used that line in his interview wasn’t confirmed, but it matches up with the answer we received when we asked Lynn Hicks, the Register’s executive business editor and columnist on “Iowa Innovation,” about the company’s decision to hire a technology and startup reporter.

“Simply put, the topic deserves more attention and scrutiny,” Hicks said in an email interview on Saturday.

In his view, Iowa and Des Moines have reached critical mass with tech firms, which he kindly gave credit to Silicon Prairie News for documenting. On top of that, state officials are focusing economic development efforts on innovation. There’s also social media, smartphones and other technologies that he said are changing how Iowans live, work, shop and play.

“Every reporter on our business staff has been reporting on these topics, and they still will,” Hicks said, later noting that entertainment reporter Sarah Day Owen recently launched a blog with a tech influence. “But creating the beat allows us to more consistently report on technology and startups. You’ll see a lot of Marco in the community as well as in the paper and online.”

Hicks said that he’s wanted to create the technology and startup beat for a while, but as the newspaper industry has changed the Register has had to be strategic about how it used its resources. “The leadership at the Register recognizes that this is an important topic for readers,” he said.

“You’ll see a lot of Marco in the community as well as in the paper and online.” – Lynn Hicks, Des Moines Register

So, who is the new reporter on the scene? We conducted an email interview with Santana to learn more about his background, his outlook on Des Moines and, as he hails from the Chicago area, where to go for pizza in the Windy City.

To kick it off, here’s a rundown on Santana’s tech specs:

  • Apple or PC: Apple
  • iPhone or Droid: Droid
  • Favorite mobile app: As a kid, we played Scrabble for fun. Words with Friends just continues that nerdy upbringing.
  • Favorite website: Outside of blogs I visit, I tend to stick to news sites.
  • Favorite tech blog: Gizmodo and Boing Boing
  • Favorite gadget: My Droid phone. I am usually the one in the picture caught with his nose buried in it.

Silicon Prairie News (SPN): How did your career path find its way to Des Moines and specifically as a tech/entrepreneurship reporter?

Marco Santana: It started as a career move, plain and simple. I had covered local government a couple of years with the Daily Herald in the Chicago suburbs and thought I was ready to move on from that job. It was only after interviewing for a business reporter position with the Des Moines Register that I discovered it would focus on technology and entrepreneurship. Having spent several months in 2009 as an intern with the Des Moines bureau of The Associated Press, I knew the city was a good fit for me.

SPN: As a former resident of Chicago, what were some of the best parts of its tech scene that Des Moines could adopt?

Santana: I don’t think it would be fair to assess the Des Moines scene after just one week in town. However, one thing Chicago’s scene does well is share knowledge. There are often seminars and workshops focused on different aspects of technology and business. That may be as much a product of the population as other factors. That being said, in just one week, I’ve learned that there really is a helpful community in Des Moines and this weekend’s Barcamp Des Moines was a great example of that. Also, to be clear, I was never a resident of Chicago. I was born and raised in the Chicago suburbs, something I try my best to specify when I can because I think it’s important to be proud of and acknowledge your roots, wherever they may be.

SPN: Where did your initial interest in technology come from?

Santana: That’s a good question and I am not certain where it came from. However, when I was young, my family was not exactly on the cutting edge of technology. In fact, if there were anything considered the exact opposite of the cutting edge, that was probably where we stood. So perhaps that lack of exposure has turned into a never-ending obsession with how things worked and how the tech world has evolved. That said, watching how quickly everything moves nowadays is fascinating.

What most excites you about your new position?

Santana: It is just a great opportunity to really craft and mold this beat into what I think it should be in order to keep Register readers up to speed on this fast-paced community. Most places you go, the beat has been established and the challenge is to move in and not disrupt the flow of news. Here, the challenge is to identify where we want to take this beat and get there quickly.

SPN: What are a few things that you have already learned in your new position?

Santana: Coming in as a blank slate, it seems every day I learn something new. But one of the most notable things is that there is a ton of potential in this city’s tech/startup community. As I noted in my first blog post, I have already met a number of key figures in the tech community and have learned a lot about what makes Iowa special and why that community is growing so quickly.

SPN: If we’re in Chicago, where do you suggest we go for pizza?

Santana: Giordano’s Pizza has the best pizza I have ever eaten, bar none. However, staying true to my suburban roots, I have to say there are a handful of great pizza joints scattered throughout the area. If anyone ever gets out to my old stomping grounds, Carpentersville, Ill., Village Pizza & Pub on Route 25 is absolutely delicious.

To learn more about Santana, check out his first blog post on the Register: “The start of something … new?

Image Credit: Photo from Santana’s Twitter account, which he said was taken on an assignment covering a speech by Blackhawks president and CEO John McDonough. The ring on his left hand is, as you may have guessed, the Stanley Cup Championship ring .

Disclosure: Silicon Prairie News has a content partnership with the Des Moines Register as it syndicates one article a month in its Juice magazine publication.

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