It's been over a year now since gossip columnist Lloyd Grove departed The Washington Post for the New York Daily News.
Recently, we had a bit of good-natured fun at his expense in our PR Play of the Week for banishing Paris Hilton from his column (PRWeek, January 3). Here, we give Grove a chance to respond.
PRWeek: What's the primary difference between DC and New York gossip?
Lloyd Grove: People in DC were more afraid of me, so I didn't deal with snarky trade-title editors making wise-ass comments about my column. Beyond that, DC is, in gossip-column terms, a one-company town. New York is a 20-company town. It's not just politics and government, but showbiz, finance, real estate, nightlife, society, and more. Both can be very inward-looking small towns - well, New York is a bunch of small towns - all exciting and worthy, but the citizens of one small town seldom meet the citizens of another, except at the highest levels of power where everything converges in a bright white starburst that is momentarily blinding. On the other hand, maybe I should change my medication.
PRWeek: How much do you rely on PR types for tips? Any more or less in New York than in DC? Grove:
I don't rely on PR types for tips as much as I listen to pitches and choose stuff to pursue that will interest my readers. There is, obviously, a far greater proliferation of PR types in New York than DC who deal regularly with gossip columns.
PRWeek: Was gaining press coverage a main motivation for banishing Hilton from the column?
Grove: It was my sole motivation. Of course, "redacted" is a fat, juicy target - talentless, spoiled, ill-educated, barely clothed...or, as my 16-year-old son says, "rich, stupid, and hot." By the way, the e-mails and letters applauding my fatwa are still coming in - up to an estimated 800 now.
PRWeek: Is it possible for reporters to go from the gossip pages to covering "hard" news?
Grove: Good question, but I don't know. I have no plans to return to covering hard news - which I ceased doing 25 years ago at the Dallas Morning News. I spent my 23 years at The Washington Post mainly as a feature writer and political profilist.
PRWeek: What advice do you give aspiring gossip columnists?
Grove: Mothers, don't send your sons to be gossip columnists! Do some standard journalism and pick up some skills and experiences. And if by some accident you end up where I am, at least you'll have some solid tools to find out interesting and possibly scandalous stuff about famous people and not get sued.
PRWeek: How much "swag" [free stuff] do PR people send you?
Grove: I get a steady stream of knick-knacks and perishables, generally tied to some product promotion. The worst thing I got - which I wrote about - was a bloody severed hand (fake, I hope) in a Ziploc bag to promote the horror movie Saw. The best thing? I'm not saying, but I think it was stolen from my desk.
PRWeek: Is New York swag better than DC swag?
Grove: The Post was a swag-free zone. In the '90s, then-managing-editor Robert Kaiser once made me return to White House deputy chief of staff Harold Ickes a funny commemorative T-shirt worth about $2.
Name: Lloyd Grove
Outlet: New York Daily News
Title: Gossip columnist
Preferred contact method: email@example.com