Reading up on favorite stars is everybody’s guilty pleasure, but actually covering them? Edsters attended our Entertainment Editor Panel on Wednesday, Oct. 7, to see if reporting on celebrities is as glamorous as it seems.
Our fierce panel of experts had plenty of tips to share; read on for their best advice (panelists, from left to right): Tanner Stransky, correspondent at Entertainment Weekly and EW.com; Rachel Chang, Executive Editor at J-14; Lauren Brown, a freelancer for Radar Online and Lemondrop; and Bronwyn Barnes, an entertainment reporter and editor for In Style and InStyle.com.
1) Twitter is the new Perez when it comes to celebrity news.
Though once derided as an outlet for narcissism, the social networking tool is now required reading for entertainment reporters. “Twitter is another field to mine for stories or ideas,” said Bronwyn Barnes.
2) Carve out a specific interest within the entertainment world.
It’s more important to be an expert on a few favorite celebrities or TV shows than to have a mediocre knowledge of everything in the tabloids. “Don’t be embarrassed to say that you’re the biggest fan of a show,” added Lauren Brown. “There is someone else who will and they will get the job.” Barnes agreed: “As long as you have a reporter’s mind, you don’t necessarily have to read all of the Twilight novels to do a story on Bella’s sheets selling for $500 on Ebay because they’re sold out in Target.”
3) Research, research, research before your interview.
“Show that you really did your homework,” said Tanner Stransky. “Make a reference to their passion project.” Added Brown: “Pull a random fact.” Rachel Chang said she notices a rookie mistake: when a reporter spends too much time talking about themselves. “You need to get to it quickly,” she said. “Otherwise, you just wasted five minutes of valuable interview time.” And a tip for getting that perfect sound byte? “Be quiet a little bit after asking your question,” Stransky said. “Silence scares them and they will keep talking. Give it a few beats.” As for the red carpet: “Ask about the movie first,” Barnes advised. Stransky also recommends building off of the questions other reporters in the press line have already asked. “Piggyback off of their groundwork,” he said. And don’t be too afraid of asking the controversial question—especially if your editor needs an answer.
4) Give publicists as much respect as the stars they represent.
Publicists are the gatekeepers of their A-list clients. Do your research and figure out who represents whom. “It’s important to know them,” Barnes said. She recalls one red carpet moment when she was standing in a line of reporters and everyone was shouting, “Lindsay! Lindsay! Lindsay!” to speak with Lindsay Lohan. Barnes knew her publicist at the time, Leslie Sloan, and started shouting, “Leslie! Leslie! Leslie!” instead. Barnes was one of the few people who got to interview Lohan. Brown suggested being friendly with new publicists too. “A lot of publicists are starting out,” she said. “It’s good to take their call.”
5) Be willing to begin on the bottom.
“I started out as an intern at In Style for $6 an hour,” Barnes said. “I’m still there today. Especially in today’s marketplace, make photocopies for as long as it takes.” And Chang advised taking advantage of every opportunity you can. For example, if you’re interning, don’t say no to interviewing a C-list celeb. “Everything counts,” Chang said. And don’t be shy. “Tell everyone you know you’re looking for jobs in this business,” Brown said.