Self-proclaimed 'news junkie' Lisa Dallos has learned the business of promoting a media outlet under war-like conditions. And the likes of Tina Brown and JFK Jr. took notice.
Lisa Dallos is reluctant to admit that she has a news addiction. She gropes in vain to couch her benign compulsion as mostly under control. "I'm a news junkie," Dallos explains. "But I'm not obsessed," she adds sheepishly.
For Dallos, whose late father was a New York-based reporter for the Los Angeles Times and The New York Times, her love for all things media started at a young age. If she was ever naughty as a child, her parents would punish her by forbidding her to watch the evening news. She even admits a childhood crush on America's anchor emeritus Walter Cronkite. Yet Dallos' insatiable appetite for news, current events, and gossip has helped craft her into one of the media industry's savviest and most plugged-in publicists, with a resume and Rolodex to prove it.
"She brings a serious intellectualism to the profession," says one-time boss Tina Brown, former editor of Talk magazine and The New Yorker. "She could have been an editor if she wanted."
After graduating from Boston University in 1984, Dallos took a job as a secretary at a newly established New York PR office for a fledgling cable company called Turner broadcasting, which had a five-year-old cable news channel called CNN. But she didn't stay a secretary for long. About six months after being hired, she was named publicist.
A year later, Turner sent Dallos to Washington, DC to open CNN and Turner's first PR bureau in the capital, where she was first named PR manager and then director. Throughout the rest of the 1980s, Dallos helped CNN gain recognition as a serious news organization, during which time it became the first national cable channel to offer continuous coverage of news events.
Yet it was during the Gulf War that CNN offered Dallos one of her first trial-by-fire PR experiences. Three CNN reporters - Bernard Shaw, Peter Arnett, and John Holliman - and their crews were the only Western TV reporters in Baghdad when the US coalition forces began their bombardment of the Iraqi capital on January 16, 1991.
Stationed in their hotel room and using only a small four-wire transmitter, the CNN crew became the outside world's only link to events in Baghdad. The episode helped catapult CNN to its status as one of the most important news outlets in the world. Dallos was the PR person for the three reporters.
"It was a huge learning experience, but at the same time, scary," she says. "You knew you had to do the work of your network, and at times it seemed like everybody around the world was calling me. They all wanted to know who these guys were in Baghdad and how they got in there. But on a personal level, you were worried about the safety of people you knew, worked with, and cared for."
After three more years at CNN in Washington, Dallos came back to New York, where she took a sabbatical from PR to become a producer for Fox's new cable channel FX, where she helped book guests on a late-night news show. A year and half later, she was hired by production company KingWorld to be the publicist for the TV tabloids Inside Edition and American Journal. Six months after that, she became a producer for cable channel MSNBC, where she booked many of the channel's guest political pundits.
While at MSNBC, one of the channel's regular guests, a writer for George magazine, told her that George was looking for a publicist and that the magazine's editor-in-chief, John F. Kennedy Jr., was interested in meeting her. After an interview, Kennedy offered Dallos the job, and immediately tasked her with an unusual challenge.
"John said to me early on, 'Look, I can get publicity just by sneezing,'" she recalls. "I need you to generate publicity for George that's separate from me. This isn't about publicity for me, but for a magazine that I hold very dear.'"
Dallos accepted the challenge. She says she saw George begin to garner its own distinct profile separate from Kennedy just before his tragic death.
"People started writing stories about George without referring to it 'as John Kennedy's magazine," says Dallos. "Instead, they began focusing on its writing. That was an important step."
After a brief stint during the 2000 election booking guests for Comedy Central's The Daily Show, she became the in-house publicist for Miramax's Talk magazine. As a lot of Talk's early media coverage resulted from the celebrity status of editor Tina Brown, Dallos says her experience at George came in handy.
"Talk had some of the same issues with press that George did," explains Dallos. "After the big launch, the media just wanted to cover the people in charge, and was not interested in the magazine itself. I had to work to get people looking at the innovative journalism the magazine was producing."
After Talk closed its doors, Dallos landed her latest gig as director of PR for men's lifestyle magazine GQ. She says she continues to love doing publicity for the media industry, as it allows her to feed her addiction on a full-time - and salaried - basis.
Outside of work, Dallos has developed a taste for travel. But even on vacation, her news addiction doesn't wane, as a recent trip to Italy testifies.
"I was walking around Florence, and I came across a copy of the New York Post," recalls Dallos gleefully. "There I was in my favorite European city reading one of my favorite newspapers. I was in seventh heaven."
1984 Graduates from Boston University
1985-1994 Publicist for CNN (began in NYC, transferred to DC in 1987)
1994-1996 Booking producer for FX
1996 Director of PR for Inside Edition
1996-1997 Booking producer for MSNBC
1997-1999 Director of PR, George magazine
2000-2002 Director of PR, Talk magazine
2002 Director of PR, GQ