When the filmmakers arrived at the Beverly Hills studio, one was on the phone with an acquaintance in Cairo. By the time the visiting duo sat down for their interview, a producer had arranged for that acquaintance to be part of the on-air discussion as well, as an Egyptian subject matter expert (via Google hangout).
The term “expert” is one of many being redefined daily by Soboroff and colleagues Alyona Minkovski and Nancy Redd from 3 to 7 p.m. PT, when the dynamic trio cap HuffPost Live’s twelve-hour weekday block. An expert can be anyone and everyone, often recruited through social media; journalism meanwhile is very much here a mix of the subjective and objective. As HuffPost Live president Roy Sekoff told us during our visit last Friday, “We want our hosts to have opinions.”
Sokoroff and Minkovski begin each west coast block with a half-hour review of the day’s top stories. As we watched the pair run through their 2:30 p.m. February 15 rehearsal, various tweaks to the teleprompter scroll were made. At one point for example, Minkovski had fun teasing a British member of the control room crew for inserting the tongue-twisting expression “short shrift” into some Carnival cruise copy. The verbiage was removed.
Sekoff says he looked long and hard for his online network hosts. And yet, just like many a Hollywood casting, it came down in at least one case to the wire. Redd explained that just two weeks before the network was scheduled to go live August 13, she heard about the opportunity through a friend who had been hired in New York. The author of several non-fiction bestsellers decided to give it a go and here she now is, living out her dream in the company of a HuffPost Live online community that she says she sometimes feels she knows better than her friends.
Those same commenters are a big reason the network was created in the first place. Sekoff still vividly recalls the moment he first learned that out of 170 million comments left on The Hunffington Post up to that point, around 70% were in response to another reader comment. This organic community was a driving force for Sekoff and Arianna Huffington as they set out to make HuffPost Live a platform for engagement. Doubling down on this whole premise, Redd last Friday was set to discuss the topic of flying with kids with several experts recruited via the comments to a tease item on her personal Facebook page.
Sekoff says he isn’t too concerned at this stage with the raw numbers of how many people are watching HuffPost Live as it streams. Content is repackaged across the site as on-demand and the “Live” component is something he considers very much a future bet.
In the meantime, there’s no doubt at the six-month anniversary mark that he, the LA hosts and all others involved with HuffPost Live are sitting in the middle of a very different kind of news cycle. One that cheekily winks back at the days of old by means of background props such as clunky old hardcovers and a large Underwood typewriter.
[Pictured (top to bottom): Soboroff, Minkovski, Redd; our thanks also to executive producer Allison Girvin for being a gracious set visit host.]
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