Interview: Kate Coe

Kate Coe has been an LA-based freelance writer and TV producer since the mid-1980s.

Kate Coe has been an LA-based freelance writer and TV producer since the mid-1980s.

Since August 2006, she has served as co-editor of Mediabistro's LA media news and gossip blog, FishbowlLA.

PRWeek: Since you and Mayrav Saar took over as co-editors of FishbowlLA, you've transformed it from a good and entertaining blog to an LA media-community essential. How did you get involved with the site?

Kate Coe: I'd been reading a vast number of blogs since the earliest days, but I'd been reluctant to blog myself, as I firmly believe with Dr. [Samuel] Johnson: "No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money." But, as a constant commentator at a number of sites, I'd made a small reputation for pithy and amusing posts. The late [journalist and blogger] Cathy Seipp, a friend and enabler, had been contacted by [former editorial director] Dorian Benkoil, and she recommended me. I like the discipline of the deadline, as well as the freedom to give my opinion on whatever newsy item hits my radar. But I still don't have a personal blog.

PRWeek: What are your daily must-reads, online and in print?

Coe: Print-wise, I can't live without the Financial Times, even though I skip the financial news. Online, I always look at Gawker/Defamer, LAObserved, Radar, The Hollywood Reporter, Variety, The New York Times, Slate, Poynter, and Drudge for items that work for our audience.

PRWeek: What are some current media-related stories in Southern California you find intriguing?

Coe: [Editorial Page editor] Andres Martinez leaving the Los Angeles Times is a great story, even if the reason for his exit was banal. His social life isn't much of a story, but that a gang of LA Times writers might have been sharpening the knives for him is very, very interesting.

We're all grown-ups: Publicists pitch stories, clients, ideas all the time - and sometimes those publicists have agendas other than the public good. And that he resigned by blog is awesome.

I'm also convinced that online video can be even bigger than it is now and that it shouldn't look like a TV segment.

PRWeek: How do you decide what does - or doesn't - make the daily FishbowlLA story cut?

Coe: Mainly, we rely on a combination of reporting and serendipity. We've divided up beats, but there's always some overlap: Mayrav does the "LAT in 90" and I have "In the Trades," which are summary posts of top stories in those papers. We do some things in advance, like our "20 Questions," post where we annoy SoCal media types by asking them what they'd name a unicorn, if they got one, as well as "Media Events."

Between the two of us, we know everyone or at least someone who worked with everyone, and when there's a story, we go wild with the emails, the IMs, and the phone calls to get some info you won't read anywhere else. And even if you read the news somewhere else, trust me, you'll want to read the FishbowlLA take on the event. We report on what's reported -- how the media are covering the story, what they're saying, what they're not saying. If Britney shaves her head, FishbowlLA likes to point out how that event is being treated by not just the gossip sites, but by the news or op-eds or pundits: Serious people pontificating on foolish pop culture makes us all warm inside. And since [Mayrav and I] don't share the same opinions on so many things, there's no conventional wisdom at FishbowlLA.

PRWeek: What kind of relationships do you have with PR pros?

Coe: At first, I didn't get pitched by anyone. But as the site grew and we got more hits and links - linkage is everything in the blog world - PR people seemed to discover us.

My biggest sore point is e-mails addressed to my predecessors. Reading carefully, are we? I usually respond in an unkind way, and, since I've got the upper hand, I make them give me something free. It's not true, but I wish it was.

PRWeek: As a journalist, what's the most ineffective experience you've ever had with a PR person?

Coe: I was recently working on a five-part TV series for Discovery about the evolution of video games. Nearly every publicist for a game company knew about my blog, and yet, almost none ever pitched me anything. Huh? I've got an audience; I'm already talking to you. Tell your office mates...

I don't understand why PR pros don't do a Google or Technorati search for their clients, see who's posting about them, and then pitch us more: little interviews, inside scoops, etc. We don't need a full-on lunch-date interview. We need a post.

PRWeek: Any advice for PR folks who'd like to see their clients mentioned in FishbowlLA?

Coe: Media blogs like ours love to get advance warning of magazine stories, book deals, movie deals. And a crisp little e-mail, with a JPEG we can use, is usually all we need, though sending me a photo of a celebrity with a book is really risky. I can't promise I won't seize the opportunity for ridicule.

Name: Kate Coe

Outlet: FishbowlLA

Title: Editor

Preferred contact method:

Web site:

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