A few months back I quit my day job as a producer/booker/bureau coordinator at NBC Network News and moved out to Los Angeles with the grand idea of making a life for myself out here. I’ve always had a passion for pop culture and the entertainment side of news, and after working the daily grind of hard news for the last eight years, I figured I could go back to my roots and report on the things I love. It’s a different world these days – while entertainment journalism has always been rife with gossip and rumours, when I flung myself into the fire in the late part of 1999, it wasn’t run by the blogosphere. It’s changed the game how reporting works as publicists have a greater understanding of how to better reach their market through online social media and pop culture websites.
And they are doing a damn fine job of staying on the pulse of what’s hot out of Hollywood. Still, a lot of people, friends, and contacts from my moonlighting as a super hero at comic book conventions, come to me with questions about what it takes to break into the industry. I’m no expert on the red carpet, as I’m just getting my feet wet in this big Hollywood world, but it challenged me to think about how I want to run my life as this pop culture mercenary.
Be a fan of their work, not of them.
One of the best bits of advice I ever read about entertainment reporting was, “Be friendly with celebrities, but not their friends.” Of course it’s exciting to interview people who you admire. It’s great when you get some one on one time with a person whose work has influenced you, or at least entertained you, in some way. I’ve seen good journalist, and many a blogger, get too wrapped up in celebrity life. Leave the fangirling to Tumblr.
Ask the unusual question.
TMZ, US Weekly, even HuffPo have the gossip lines covered. Scandal is easy to write about, but very few people want to talk about it. And yeah, sometimes we have a news director or editor breathing down our neck hoping we’ll be the one that finally breaks the ice and gets the person to open up about whatever divorce, dating, child custody issue they are having. Trust me, you won’t. And you may just piss off someone important in doing so. So dig deeper. Think a bit harder. Find a passion of theirs, enlighten the world to their charity work, or what they are a fan of. Ask about their current work in a way that will cause your subject to not give you a canned response, even if it’s the same question everyone else is asking – just phrased a bit differently.
Get to know their publicist.
The people you want to be on first name basis with, and have their numbers starred in your little black phone are the people who manage the celebrities. Getting in good with them will get you face time with the people you want to talk to. Always have business cards and a smile ready when you meet them. Establish a rapport, get on a first name basis with them, and get your name out to them.
Take the photos that matter.
In this modern world where social media is key, everyone wants instantaneous access to information and bragging rights. There’s nothing wrong with taking a few key shots of your location, to tease what you are doing. It gets your readers excited, and in turn, could reach a new viewership for your work. Keep in mind though, the lead is not, “I met So-and-So today!” It’s what that person is promoting.
Some bloggers want to go Pokemon on the celebs and try to collect them all. Use your better judgment when asking for photos with celebrities. If you are in a press line, at a red carpet event, or a large show where their time is limited, it’s probably best to just snap a shot of them, or have another person around you get a shot while you are interviewing them. A lot of your friends may think it’s cool you met a certain someone, but the people who follow your work want to know what you and that person had to say. Get the images that are relevant to your piece first, because at the end of the day, the readers want to see the person you are talking to.
Promote your work.
The world is at our finger tips. Get to the Twitters, the Facebooks, the Tumblrs, and every site you can think of to let people know where to read your work. Just don’t be spammy about it. Other events pages don’t like it when you post a link that doesn’t further promote their own agenda. If you want to do that, just email the person in charge and ask. Getting permission goes a long way, and it establishes a connection with a page / site runner, who could potentially help promote your work further.
And on that note, keep the click bait titles at bay. Nothing is ever so amazing, so unbelievable, and guess what – we all can figure out what will happen next. Take some AP lessons in crafting a title, make it compelling, tease what you are talking about, invite the reader to take part in your piece.