Los Angeles, CA – Not much has change in traditional media coverage in TV and radio, except both have caught up Online with the Digital Age. Tactics have changed, but one thing that never changes are relationships. Once you build a good relationship with a writer, editor or reporter it’s gold. At a breakfast workshop featuring Julia Seifer, special projects producer, KABC-TV, Anthony Smiljkovich, now former news researcher, KCOP-TV, Richard Ayoub (pronounced A’-you-b), also former producer, Extra!, Nickie Bonner, also former field producer, CNN Moneyline, and Peggy Jo Abraham, former news director, E! News Daily. By the time they read this, most of them will have moved on to another job, get laid off or started their own PR biz. But their messages are like the 10 Commandments, set in stone. Media Workshop on pitching TV News Technology is not only making our lives easier, it is cutting out a lot of media jobs. Many journalists (writers) now have to learn how to upload their stories Online, shoot pixs and upload them and even video interviews.
For example at the Green Lantern premiere in Hollywood, an LA Times writer was video taping her interview with Movie Director Martin Campbell. She was right next to The TV stations, too. Here’s that interview that was shot on the little digital camera she’s holding in her hand in the above photo. I collected these observations and comments from an early publication I wrote for. called “Eye on PR™”. The names have changed at the stations, however the concepts, best practices and how to pitch a TV producer, writer or reporter have not changed. Nickie Bonner, CNN Moneyline “I was here (at a media workshop) in 2001 talking to this same group and the world was a different place a year ago and the perspective has changed dramatically,” said Nickie Bonner, field producer, CNN. “The world has changed and so has the ‘Moneyline’ program, especially since Lou Dobbs returned and then left. The focus has changed and the ratings have shot up dramatically, which is good news. But because of the events of September 11th and everything that has transpired since then, there has been a whole shake up of the political and economic world that we live in. “We always looking for the local story that has national implications, so we’re the opposite to what the local news folks are looking for,” explained Bonner. “If it only affectsLos AngelesorSouthern California, chances are CNN won’t be interested in the story.” Bonner says everyone in the newsroom prefers email pitches. “I don’t mind being bugged on the phone either, but please don’t read the press release over the phone. And I don’t mind people calling back and reminding me about a story. Sometimes if the story sounds interesting I will call you back, but I can’t guarantee that. It all depends upon the kind of day I’m having. So if you really want to talk to me call me, but I generally try to respond to email pitches even if it is one line saying ‘Sorry we can’t do that story, or it won’t fit into our program.’ And I do try to send you some feedback just to acknowledge that I’ve seen the release, I’ve read it and if I’m interested, obviously I’m going to call you.” EXTRA Senior Producer Steve Sunshine tells it like it is at a recent media workshop. “Keep your teases brief, and don’t get caught up in your own composition,” said Sunshine. “I used to be in hard news, and I don’t miss the child molestations, the car chases and kids found in garbage cans,” said News Director Peggy Jo Abraham of E! News Daily. “Now I go home and I’m concerned about Pamela Anderson get her boob job taken out, but it doesn’t keep me from sleeping. I try to feel better about the world, and I’m sorry Wynona Ryder got caught shoplifting, but I’m losing a lot of sleep over it.” On a more serious note, Abraham said her show is much like a half hour news show; however everything is entertainment with celebrities. “We do sidebar stories, too. We need experts say on the celebrity stories, maybe a psychologist to talk about why people with a lot of money shoplift, or what would be the motivation.” Peggy Jo Abraham prefers email pitches. “A lot of the stories come packaged such as movie junkets, but E! News Daily likes to get exclusives that no one else has, because so many people have tapped into entertainment news.” “I too have worked in local news (KCBS, KABC, KTLA and KCAL) most of my career and moved into entertainment over the last few years,” said Supervising Producer Richard Ayoub, Extra. “I’m in charge of the good life, which is all about celebrity home tours or just big, beautiful interesting homes that are for sale, travel to interesting places, hotels, spas, and what we call the ‘deal of the day,’ where we give away things like ‘Scream Machines,’ which are modern versions of the ‘big wheel.’ Anything interesting, different and kind of fun I get to work on. I also get to work on hour specials, where we take on locations. We done some inPark City,Utah, we’ve done one in Buster Keaton mansion inBeverly Hills. I came up with this whole takeoff of the Ozzie Osborne, which was extremely annoying and arrogant. But he’s fascinating, because he’s a really smart businessman and he’s very successful doing that (show).
“Everyone knows Entertainment Tonight is king of the hill, and Mary Hart is wonderful, but I want you to know inNew YorkandLos Angeleswe are up against ET every night and we beat them. We are beating them in the big markets on a daily basis and that signals change. You beat them inNew Yorkand LA gradually the rest of the country catches on,” boasts Ayoub. “And we always are Access Hollywood.” Ayoub prefers fax pitches at 818.972.0683 or email pitches. “We had staff cutbacks and lost a lot of money in 9-1-1,” said EXTRA’s Producer Ayoub. “Immediately after September 11th, we through out a lot of our celebrity reporting, because all of that seemed frivolous,” explained Ayoub. “We did a lot of hero stories, which the audience really responded to.” Because EXTRA is a syndicated show, it was preempted for quite awhile, because NBC was doing a lot of Twin Towers coverage, and so we lost a lot of money and had cut backs. A lot of companies felt the impact. Now, finally we’re finding our way back to the kind of stories we used to do, which is a combination of news and entertainment, but we will be preempted by NBC on September 11th for their special.”
Here are some useful tips on tapping into LA broadcast media Tip #1–Watch 2 hours of local news, and at least one hour of national news programming every day. Be like a TV station and have someone at the office log what topics are being covered, and who is being interviewed. Your client may be the perfect expert for a follow up story already on TV. Tip #2–Know that print media is important to TV people too. Decision makers read the newspaper every day looking for a great broadcast story. LA outlets love USA Today, LA Times, NY Times, LA Daily News, and the OC Register.
Tip #3–To be a good TV expert, your client should look and talk more like a magazine cover. For example, “Get sexier abs in six weeks” turns into a good TV sound bite like this: “You can get sexier abs in six weeks if you follow just a few rules…” An interviewer will be listening for these kinds of sound bites that will fit easily into a story. Also, take time to make sure your client looks good so get them used to wearing a little make up to hide shine, and regularly wearing TV friendly colors. This could get your client on a producers “favorite expert” list and may be used for other stories in the future.
Tip #4–Have your client is happily reachable 24 hours a day. A good expert needs to know that a TV producer may be scrambling to get a last minute expert at odd hours of the day or night. If you want to be liked by producers, don’t be rude to them if they spent the time to research unpublished phone numbers just to get a hold of you or your client. (Some of the above media panelists have moved on to other jobs, while some have been promoted.)