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Interviews

Stephen Hill on BET Experience Vs. Essence Festival

Stephen Hill

The BET Awards are a pretty big deal. Not only is the annual ceremony honoring the best in music, sports and entertainment a ratings juggernaut, but the live broadcast also has a tendency to take over social media on the night it airs. And the network is stepping things up once again for this year’s event, which airs Sunday, June 30 at 8pm ET — the whole thing will be open to the public with special concerts, events and seminars dubbed the BET Experience.

Wait — isn’t that a lot like the Essence Festival?

For its latest So What Do You Do? interview, Mediabistro spoke with Stephen Hill, BET president of of programming and specials about the eerie similarities:

How much did Essence‘s success inspire yours, and are there any concerns that the two events might cannibalize each other?
The BET Experience is really built around the BET Awards, because the BET Awards has been airing on the last week of June for the last 10, 11, 12 years or so. People would come out to L.A. for the BET Awards without a ticket. They just wanted to be around the atmosphere, and it just became a magnet event, just the awards show. So, what we did was organize what was already organic. Take the energy that’s already coming here, add some stuff to it and invite more people and make it the BET Experience. I don’t think we would do this outside of the energy that’s already been generated around the BET Awards.

Read the full interview in So What Do You Do, Stephen Hill, BET President of Programming and Specials?

Under the Dome Showrunner on Working with Stephen King and Stopping the Soda Epidemic

Mayor Bloomberg will soon have an additional compendium to draw from in his ongoing campaign against Big Gulp-size soda servings. Neal Baer (pictured), a showrunner for 11 years on Law & Order: SVU as well as this summer’s new CBS series Under the Dome, is in the process of writing a book titled SODA: Corporate Profits versus Public Health. Due in stores next February, it pairs the Harvard-educated MD with renowned nutritionist Marion Nestle.

“We’re working on the book right now,” Baer confirms via telephone to FishbowlNY. “I’m really interested in soda’s place in our lives – culturally, nutritionally and politically in terms of subsidies for corn syrup and things like that. It’s a fascinating product that costs next to nothing to make. It’s water, sugar and flavor; and yet, it has this ubiquitous, profound impact on people’s lives.”

SODA is one of two books Baer has on tap for 2014. Next July, there will also be a follow-up to Kill Switch, a mystery series launched in 2012 with LA-based collaborator Jonathan Greene.

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Jess Cagle on Changes at Time Inc. and EW

“No one here is concerned that the print magazine is going away,” said Entertainment Weekly managing editor Jess Cagle when asked about Time Inc.’s impending spin-off from its parent company. “The print magazine is still the spine of our brand.”

In the latest installment of Mediabistro’s So What Do You Do?, Cagle also discussed what he’s doing to keep the established brand fresh (forays into TV and radio), digital vs. print and why you won’t see “sponsored” content in the mag’s pages.

“Obviously, print advertising is a challenge, but there’s not a lot of overlap between our print audience and our digital audience,” he said. “The print audience has held really steady the last few years. It’s about 1.7 million. They haven’t left for the digital space; our audience has just grown because of digital. The magazine’s audience is something like 11 million, and the overall audience is around 18 million.”

Read the full interview in So What Do You Do, Jess Cagle, Managing Editor of Entertainment Weekly?

Vibe’s Jermaine Hall on What It Really Takes to Be EIC

In the same year that music mags Blender and Giant folded, Vibe shuttered, as well. But, luckily for the iconic mag, it was snapped up by a private equity firm, and editor-in-chief Jermaine Hall was brought on to resurrect the pub. And resurrect it, he did.

In the latest installment of Mediabistro’s So What Do You Do?, Hall explains how the mag is winning again and gives advice to aspiring EICs.

“A lot of things that come with being editor-in-chief aren’t necessarily drilled down into the day-to-day tasks,” he said. “It’s a lot of schmoozing; it’s a lot of fixing relationships; it’s a lot of bartering; it’s a lot of people skills, I would say. It’s really going out there to be the ambassador of the brand on all levels.”

For more, read So What Do You Do, Jermaine Hall, Editor-in-Chief of Vibe?

Denene Millner: From Daily News Reporter to Bestselling Author

It may be tough for journos to break into book-writing, but for Denene Millner, landing her first book deal in 1997 was “a total fluke.”

The journo wrote a feature story for the New York Daily News about how the relationship book The Rules wouldn’t work for black women and, by 3:00 p.m. that day, Millner had landed a book deal for that very subject. Since then, she’s penned 21 titles, including Steve Harvey‘s bestseller, Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man.

“It opened doors for me for other projects, because when other celebrities are considering who should write their book, they’re going to see my representation and my reputation as a writer,” Millner told Mediabistro about the runaway hit. “You know, New York Times-bestselling writer and top-selling book of 2009 is a hell of a calling card. In some other ghostwriting projects, my name hasn’t even been on the spine or the title page, but I try my best to negotiate that so that somebody knows I wrote it besides my family. It opens a lot of doors for more work, which is kind of awesome. It’s all any writer can ask.”

For more, read So What Do You Do, Denene Millner, Co-Author of Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man?

Writing Advice from Producer of The Tudors, History Channel’s Vikings

Just in time for the upcoming premier of Vikings on the History Channel, Michael Hirst, the show’s writer and producer, talks about his writing process in the latest installment of Mediabistro’s So What Do You Do? series.

“The key for me with historical characters is they’re interesting because they’re human beings,” he said. “A little bit of Hemingway goes a long way here, but journalists and writers should honestly look at their material and have a real interest, a real passion in what they want to write, and they should also have a lot of knowledge, as well. You don’t write police procedural stuff unless you really know that beat, but it’s ultimately not the procedure that makes the show work — it’s the people. The more real they are, the better.”

Read more in So What Do You Do, Michael Hirst, Creator of The Tudors and Vikings?

NYT Veteran Gives Tips for Journos Who Want to Write a Book

It’s a pretty big accomplishment for a first-time author to land on the New York Times bestsellers list, but Isabel Wilkerson definitely deserves it. The Pulitzer-prize winning journalist spent 15 years researching and conducted over 1,200 interviews for The Warmth of Other Suns, an account of the men and women who lived through the Great Migration, when 6 million African-Americans moved to the North.

In the latest Mediabistro feature, she talks about her writing process and gives tips to fellow journos who want to write a book. Below, an excerpt:

You interviewed more than 1,200 individuals. What skills do you possess that made people feel comfortable sharing their stories and information?

I always go into interviews with a great sense of gratitude for the courage it takes to share one’s story, particularly one so painful and heartbreaking, things that they had deep within themselves and had just gotten to the point of being able to share. So I think being an empathic listener, someone who was truly wanting to understand what they had endured — those are things I think they could pick up and sense in me. I also think they felt I had a sense of connection with them.

For more, read Hey, How’d You Write a New York Times Nonfiction Bestseller, Isabel Wilkerson? [Mediabistro AvantGuild subscription required]

O‘s Adam Glassman: ‘Even Oprah thought I was nuts in the beginning’

If only he had enough hours in a day. That’s the most challenging part of Adam Glassman‘s gig as creative director of O: The Oprah Magazine, a post where he’s constantly navigating the worlds of graphic design, fashion and media. In the latest installment of Mediabistro’s So What Do You Do? series, Glassman recalls his groundbreaking decision to use real women over fashion models.

“I don’t want to say that we don’t ever use models because there are times that we do, but as we speak to these three generations of women, how can you do that?” he said. “You need something that is going to appeal to everyone. So I started using women of all ages, and not just all ages, but really all shapes. And I thought that was really key. Even Oprah thought I was nuts in the beginning. She was like, ‘You really want to do fashion on real people?’ And I said, ‘Yes, why not? You do it on the show. You show your people in makeovers; you have it in the audience. Let’s try it.’”

Read the full interview in So What Do You Do, Adam Glassman, Creative Director at O Magazine?

Pitchfork Founder on the Loss of Music Magazines

Way back in 1995, Ryan Schreiber was a high school graduate working as a record store clerk. Finding little on the Internet about indie music, he decided to start his own Web page and launched Pitchfork. With no publishing experience, the site eventually became the online authority on indie music, and nowadays a review there can make or break a career.

In the latest installment of Mediabistro’s So What Do You Do? series, Schreiber discusses what the success of sites like his means for print music magazines.

“I think if you’re going to be able to do a print publication that works in 2013, it has to really take advantage of that format, and the things that that format offers that are much more difficult to execute on the Web are having really expansive, beautiful layouts for your articles and features and making it feel like a desirable object.”

He continued, “It used to be that when you picked up a music magazine in, like, the 90s there was all this cheap, chintzy content thrown in there and goofy sidebars and just sort of filler, almost. And it’s really just not an option anymore. I feel like if people are willing to make an investment in a music magazine — or in a magazine of any sort, currently — they want something that feels substantial and feels significant. It’s not a joke. It’s a real thing.”

Read the full interview in So What Do You Do, Ryan Schreiber, Founder and CEO of Pitchfork?

Dave Karger on How Journalists Can Land TV Appearances

Dave Karger made quite a splash when, after almost two decades at Entertainment Weekly, he went to work for Fandango as chief correspondent. Now that he’s settled into the role, he tells Mediabistro what he’s been working on lately and offers up some advice for print journos looking to transition to TV. Here’s an excerpt:

How can someone position themselves for TV appearances of the kind that you make regularly? For a writer looking to get into that, is it just about getting the right job (where producers come to you), or is it about actively pitching yourself?
I think the important thing is just to know what you’re talking about and really study it. Find something that you’re extremely interested in, so that becoming an expert in it doesn’t feel at all like a job or a chore. If I didn’t have the job that I have, I would still be obsessed with the Oscars and I would still know who Quvenzhané Wallis is. It just happens to be that this is what I get to talk about for work.

I feel like all the great stuff I’ve gotten to do over the years, whether it’s the Today show or being the Academy greeter, it was never a calculated plan. I just tried to be comfortable in front of the camera and really develop an expertise. I think the fact of the matter is that I’m really interested in this, and that just shows when I talk about it or in the past when I have written about it.

For more, read So What Do You Do, Dave Karger, Chief Correspondent for Fandango?

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