'I'm often baffled by what flies and what bombs' - Grilled with ITN Productions' Tami Hoffman

ITN Productions' head of news and archive discusses her typical day, the future of journalism and how having access to data still doesn't make news a science.

How did you get where you are now?

My route into news was unorthodox. I started off cutting promos – first at Star TV in Hong Kong and then for Sky. After an (uninspiring) evening course in journalism I wheedled my way into the Sky newsroom as a producer.

The next decade was spent working across the output teams – writing, editing and being that voice in a presenter’s earpiece. After a stint at Westminster I became Sky News’ interviews editor – the ultimate PR target / gatekeeper role.

The 2015 election campaign was a personal burnout and a career pivot was in order. Through some luck and good contacts, I moved into a more commercial role first at Globelynx (part of PA Media) and then with ITN Productions, overseeing news syndication, digital sales and archive.

Describe your typical day...

I check the headlines before cycling in – all my best ideas are formed on two wheels.

The nuts and bolts of my day are pretty similar to many people – meetings, emails, constant news surfing. ITN makes the news for ITV, C4 and C5 so there is loads of material to keep across. What I’m trying to do is join dots and match ITN’s footage and facilities to what clients or online viewers are looking for.

We prioritise UK events with international appeal – so lots of Brexit, royals and red carpets. I love digging into our platform analytics – but having data doesn’t make it a science and I’m often baffled by what flies and what bombs.

What makes a great PR?

Being upfront, straightforward and reactive to the news agenda. It is very rare that a news channel will change its plans based on a press release. But a timely email offering a news-making guest or some great B-roll on a subject already being covered is a much easier sell.

What are the biggest mistakes some PRs make?

Thinking about the story from a client’s perspective instead of the news organisation’s. TV news in the UK is subject to strict Ofcom regulations, so pitching anything that feels like a plug with no genuine public interest is a waste of everyone’s time.

Which individual or organisation is best at handling PR, in your view?

Greggs. And I don’t even like sausage rolls (vegan or otherwise).

Are you optimistic about the future of journalism?

Hmmmm. Social media and cheaper tech have democratised journalism, but they have also got people out of the habit of paying for news. UGC (user generated content) may come cheap but investigations, in-depth analysis and rigorous journalism do not.

Which social media channel or channels are the most important in your job?

Twitter to see what’s happening, YouTube to see how that translates into content. It is shocking how addictive it is to watch one of your videos or tweets going viral.

Would you like to work in PR?

I’ve only ever felt at home in a newsroom.

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