Interview: Jeff Bercovici

Jeff Bercovici has trod a steady path upwards in the media reporting world.

Jeff Bercovici has trod a steady path upwards in the media reporting world.

He began his career at Media Life, a trade magazine, and subsequently moved to spots on the media beat at Folio and Women's Wear Daily. A year ago, he joined Radar as a senior writer.

PRWeek: What was the appeal of joining Radar for you?

Jeff Bercovici: The appeal for me is that it's something that I would read, and that I did read and enjoy. Whereas I can't say I was a regular Women's Wear Daily reader before I went there. I think that every journalist's goal is to write for a publication that they would want to read...I was able to come into a place where [media] is part of my job, but not my whole job. So I was able to broaden my horizon to include politics and entertainment.

PRWeek: How important is the Web site to Radar?

Bercovici: Well, the idea is that they're equally important. I don't think that anyone here is under the illusion that the web component of a business like ours is not going to be increasingly important as we go along...I spend the majority of my time on it. We have a pretty large staff that's primarily committed to the site.

PRWeek: One perpetual story these days is the trouble of the newspaper industry and the future of print. Do you think magazines are facing the same issue as much?

Bercovici: Obviously the magazine industry is facing similar pressures. Just last week Jane folded, and Bauer folded a magazine. I think we're going to see more of that. I think that the industry's been propped up with some very untenable economics-very unsound circulation practices, and a certain amount of bait-and-switch selling when it comes to advertising. So I think we're going to see a lot more magazines going out of business. I do think there's going to be a hard core of titles that are still going to have a really solid readership. I don't think the number is going to go down to zero, but it's going to be a lot closer than where it is now.

PRWeek: How do you find media people to be as subjects of stories?

Bercovici: They're interesting, because they're certainly much more self-aware. They have an idea of what you're looking for, and how the story's probably going to come out, and they're very canny about what's on the record, what's for background. So that stuff is fun. But that can also be helpful, in that they recognize what's a good story and often do some of your work for you on that front... [But] there's definitely a level of paranoia that you don't have to deal with when you're covering manufacturing.

PRWeek: Why do you think the public opinion of journalists is so low these days?

Bercovici: I don't know if there's one reason for it, necessarily. Certainly Jayson Blair didn't help. Certainly there's really a weird anti-elitist strain in American thinking, in American politics now. I do think that journalism...has become more of an elite profession. There was something in the Times magazine this week about how Americans are becoming less and less enamored of expertise. We're just catching some of that backlash. People don't like to be told what to think...I don't think it is print journalists who are to blame. I think print journalists are the best of the bunch when it comes to actually imparting sound information.

PRWeek: It's more the TV journalists.

Bercovici: You said it, not me.

PRWeek: What are your interactions like with PR people?

Bercovici: It's funny, at Radar I don't [get pitched as much] because I don't have a clearly defined beat. I get a lot of pitches, but they don't tend to be very targeted. So I certainly was acting on a much higher proportion of pitches I got at my last job. Now, I tend to filter out well over 90% of them.

PRWeek: Do you have any tips for PR people, or things that annoy you?

Bercovici: One tip I have is that if you invite a reporter to a party, make sure that reporter can get into the party, and that they don't have to wait an hour on line. I have been invited to parties and not been able to get into them, and I remember which ones. And the other thing I would say is, inevitably with the kind of coverage that we do, people are going to get pissed at us. I accept that, but I also pride myself on being able to maintain good relationships with people, even when I might have an adversarial exchange with them. And I would just say if you're pissed, or if your client's pissed, let me know. Because I will go back and forth with you all day. I will talk it out and try to come to a resolution and an understanding for next time. But I can't do it if you don't let me know you're pissed. That's when relationships go bad, when someone just stops talking.

PRWeek: Do you have a prediction for a big media story in the second half this year?

Bercovici: That's a hard question. I will boldly predict that at least one magazine that none of us thought was going to fold, will fold. Let's put it that way.

Name: Jeff Bercovici

Outlet: Radar

Title: Senior writer

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