Journalist Q&A: Alicia Quarles, Associated Press Television News

Alicia Quarles, the North American entertainment editor for Associated Press Television News, joined the organization in 2003.

Name: Alicia Quarles

Title: North American entertainment editor

Outlet: Associated Press Television News

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Alicia Quarles, the North American entertainment editor for Associated Press Television News, joined the organization in 2003. During the course of her career, she has covered red-carpet Hollywood events such as the Grammy and the Academy Awards and interviewed celebrities including Madonna and George Clooney. She spoke to Tonya Garcia about how the entertainment beat has changed.

PRWeek: What are the differences in the news coverage in your division and the print-oriented AP?

Alicia Quarles:
As we move forward, there's less and less of a division. In fact, we have an entertainment vertical, so that means photos, print, and television all work hand-in-hand. So a lot of our print reporters also produce for TV. The way that print goes out to thousands of newspapers worldwide, television goes out to thousands of TV stations worldwide and Web sites. Oftentimes on TV, you might be watching an interview shot by the AP and you don't even realize it. Online, it's completely packaged and it's branded with AP, so you know exactly when you're seeing AP material. But nowadays, there's very little difference. Our TV producers all write for the text wires and most of our text reporters also work for TV as well.

PRWeek: What are some of the other big entertainment topics of the day?

The big topic is always the A-list stars that you're going to cover because people hear about them. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie – are they having another child? Will they get married? The huge red carpet events. And then there's breaking news that you can't predict, like Michael Jackson; Natasha Richardson passing away; Heath Ledger passing away. That's what really tests you as a journalist.

PRWeek: The entertainment coverage across media has changed dramatically. How has it impacted the way you do your job?

Now it seems like anyone can call himself or herself a journalist; it's just paparazzi. You can pick up a small camera, you can go outside of some celebrity's home, you can get them coming out of a club, and that's what sells. Initially, when the TMZs of the world popped up, we thought, “Whoa, what's going on here.” But at the end of the day, the AP did not change our approach. There are two fields: there's one for credible journalists and there's one for paparazzi. I'm not knocking what anyone does, but AP is not going to go down that paparazzi route. We're not going to change our values because the marketplace has changed, and a lot of it is geared towards that.

PRWeek: Entertainment news moves very quickly. How does the AP stay on top of it all? What's a day on the job?

It's not a 9-to-5. I will wake up at 6 am and work out. I'm on my Treo first thing. We have crews in London, in Paris, in Australia, in Los Angeles. So news never stops, nor do we. I'm constantly checking e-mail, and I get to the office about 9 am, and I'm there until about 7 pm or 7:30pm. And then I go to events to meet with publicists and let them know about the AP and work those relationships. It can be exhausting, but I work with crews from all over the world. So if I'm not there, someone from the AP is going to be there.

PRWeek: The big news story has been the unexpected death of Michael Jackson. What was your division's approach to this big story?

Actually, this is a prime example of us working together. For all formats, all of us flew out from all around the country to Los Angeles. We interviewed this nutritionist who said Michael Jackson begged for her to give him sleeping aids and that was for text, for TV, and we had photos. We interviewed Lou Ferrigno, who was training Michael Jackson. We got footage of his rehearsals. It was really all hands on deck leading up to this Jackson memorial at the Staples Center, from where we did a show that was six hours of live television. We had several reporters from all formats inside of the Staples Center. And we continue to follow that story and break news on it.

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