Interview: Brian Stelter

Of the many ripples in the TV news world last year, one of the most interesting was the public "outing" of Brian Stelter, a full-time sophomore at Towson College who was scooping the major outlets on network TV news at his anonymous blog, CableNewser.

Of the many ripples in the TV news world last year, one of the most interesting was the public "outing" of Brian Stelter, a full-time sophomore at Towson College who was scooping the major outlets on network TV news at his anonymous blog, CableNewser.

Stelter's site was one of the first prominent blogs to be acquired (in his case, by MediaBistro.com), but he continues to balance attending journalism classes with interviewing the new president of CNN. PRWeek: What led you, as a college student, to get involved in the world of TV criticism/blogging? And what was the reaction from industry professionals - some of whom thought you were an insider - when they found out your educational status? Brian Stelter: I was bored over winter break. It sounds silly in retrospect, but that's what led me to launch the blog one year ago. I found myself thinking, "If only I could run a cable news network for a day?" So I started writing the ideas down. And to my surprise, the cable news networks started reading it. When I started the site, I wrote anonymously because I figured I would never be able to get a job after criticizing the news networks. But by late spring, I realized that wasn't true. When I "came out," most readers said they thought I was 40 or 50. I think it helped that I had already developed relationships with the cable networks before they knew my age. PRWeek: How do you structure your day around postings and classes? Stelter: For me, blogging feels like a typical daily task, like brushing my teeth. It's the first thing I do when I wake up and the last thing I do before I go to sleep. I'm also the news editor for my campus paper, so I blog in between writing articles, as well. PRWeek: It seems that now you can wonder aloud about something and have an executive producer e-mail you the answer. Did it take time to work to that trust relationship and, outside of trust, why do you think they give you all this information? Stelter: It took months before news employees were comfortable communicating with me, even off the record. Once I established myself as a credible source, though, I began getting a lot of tips. I believe my blog, and others like it, are creating a new element for PR pros to consider. PRWeek: In what capacity have you been in contact with PR people from the news outlets? Is it a reactive environment or do you proactively contact them when you get a scoop? Stelter: I communicate regularly with PR people from each news network. Some more than others, but I try to touch base every day or two. If I hear about a programming change, I may e-mail my network contact to confirm. If a network crushes the competition in overnight ratings, they may e-mail me the numbers. Fox News was the first network PR operation to take me seriously when I first launched 12 months ago. All the networks have been very responsive and helpful. On two recent CNN conference calls, I was asking questions alongside AP and the trade magazines. Of course, I have an inherent advantage that I was blogging live during the call. And that's an advantage for the networks, too. Their message reaches thousands of readers much faster, and often times much more in-depth. Name: Brian Stelter Outlet: TVNewser Title: Editor Preferred contact method: tvnewser@mediabistro.com Website: mediabistro.com/TVNewser

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