Friday, March 16, 2007

Business And Financial Writers of Entertainment Speak Out

Entertainment Publicists Professional Society Hollywood Workshop Reveals The Secrets
Pitching The Business Side of Entertainment

By George S. Mc Quade III,
West Coast Bureau Chief

“Business and finance beats are not much different from celebrity journalism, because you have films, film deals, the finance guy and where the films are heading,” Hollywood Reporter Business Writer Carl Diorio told about 75 publicists at an Entertainment Publicists Professional Society (EPPS) Business Wire-sponsored event, held at the International Cinematographers Guild (ICG Local 600) auditorium in Hollywood recently (3-15-07). “Know your writers preferences. I hate phone pitches from some I don’t know about a client I don’t care about. I appreciate email pitches first,” he said.

(left to right) Dan Cox, LABJ, Dave McNary, Variety,
Sue Cox,Reuters, Carl Diorio, Hollywood Reporter
and Ron Grover, BusinessWeek.

Business Week went through a transition recently, and is thinking more different,” explained Ron Grover, LA bureau Chief since 1986, who started out covering six major studios and three TV networks. Today, he handles much of BusinessWeek’s media coverage west of the Mississippi. “I used to only write about celebrities New York knows, but now we have kids and MySpace, and people of all color on the cover of our magazine” Grover covers Hollywood, a burgeoning number of cable networks, cable TV, satellite operators, online media sites like YouTube and new media distribution methods such as movie downloads, high definition DVDs and wireless networks like Qualcomm’s Media-Flo. Before moving to LA, Grover was Business Week’s White House correspondent and while in Washington he also covered the energy beat. He worked for the Washington Post before joining BusinessWeek.

Variety's Dave McNary says the Internet is a challenge

Variety has also gone through an evolution of changes thanks to the Internet. “Variety is still trying to the basic mission, putting out fast news and sometimes we act like a wire service,” said Dave McNary who covers film, labor and International box office. “I write on people who work in the business of indepensible news, and often we posting breaking stories at night. for the next day. And we’re still interested in exclusives, which is why we hold off until 8:00 or 9:00 p.m. We’re still addressing the Internet challenge,” he said. McNary also said he was astounded over how many people are concerned on where their story ends up whether it is on page one or five.

Sue Zeidler, Reuters says it has to be a big deal to get notice

“You have general news one side and films and publicly traded companies pitching artists and entertainment, and it is a hard sell,” said Sue Zeidler, who has been on the financial desk for Reuters since 1985, including 10 years covering everything from energy to commodities to treasuries on the New York financial desk. Since 1995, Zeidler has been working in the LA bureau as part of the media industry team, focusing on the music and radio industries, and she also helps with Hollywood events such as movie junkets to the Oscars. “Unless you have a big deal like a big crossover story or big trend that might impact the whole net and global financial investors good luck.”

“Leave the color to the writer and cut to the who, what, when and where with respect to the control of the business writer,” offered Dave McNary, who has worked at Variety Since 1999, covering film, labor and international box office. When asked for good publicists tactics he said," I really respect the job of PR and entertainment publicists have become more sophisticated, they’re good to deal with and have a long set of patience. We are decidedly wound tight, and I really appreciate it when a publicist calls and asks me if I’m on deadline. 90 percent of the time I’m not on deadline, but there are times when I have to put people off for 15 minutes or an hour to finish a story.” McNary previously worked at UPI, the LA Daily News, the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, City News Services and the Pasadena Star news.

“You really need to know the numbers,” Dan Cox, LA business Journal warned. The award-winning journalist worked for Reuters news Agency, Variety/Daily Variety, New York Post, CBS news, City news of Los Angeles and The Los Angeles Business Journal.

“Why won’t you tell us the revenue stream when you say your have a successful company?” The LABJ only covers LA based business stories, and Cox recounted the time when Google opened its Santa Monica office, he had to really convince the newspaper to cover the story.

“We love exclusives and even though we have weekly deadlines, we also use the LABJ website for breaking news,” explained Cox.

So do others financial writers and editors. “You hope more for exclusives, and we compete with the Wall Street Journal,” said BusinessWeek’s Grover. “However, know your publications. BusinessWeek doesn’t care about the new car dealer opening in Orange County. Know your audience, too.”

“We like exclusives, but they have become more complicated with the Internet. We compete with Variety for the labor stories, and sometimes I will ask a publicist to hold off until 10 p.m. to release. A lot of what we do is horse-trading. If I have an ongoing relationship with a publicist, the exclusive control lends to a better feel of where the story will be in the layout,” explain Diorio.

A lot of eyebrows were raised about the blogosphere, too. “TMZ has become a celebrity source for us,” said Reuters Sue Zeidler. For awhile it was BusinessWeek Online and Forbes Online, now everything is leaked out.”

LABJ’s Dan Cox also warned publicists about blogs and loyalty on exclusives. “We had a good deal with the New York Times to do a film story, but then the story landed on the Nick Fink Blog and it ran in the New York Post. The New York Times opted out of doing the story, and we missed the exclusive.”

The panelists advise an email pitch first, before sending pictures, trailers or media kits. “Why overnight press kits? We are a weekly,” said BusinessWeek’s Grover. “I take the new release out and throw the rest away,” said Reuters Sue Zeidler. “We like everything in those media kits,” said LABJ’s Dan Cox. And Variety‘s Dave McNary said, “they can be useful to questions, and I don’t have a problem with being overwhelmed with information. Email Contacts: Dan Cox:; Dave MNary,; Sue Zeidler,; Carl Diorio; and Ron Grover,

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