New Media Man

Q&A

A Towson University undergraduate has won a national audience, and respect in the industry, by blogging about the television news business.

Q&A// Brian Stelter

December 17, 2006|By John Lindner | John Lindner,Sun Staff

Who's the hottest blogger in Baltimore?

The answer might surprise you. He is Brian Stelter, a 21-year-old student at Towson University, whose nonstop reporting of the ups and downs, ins and outs of the television news industry has earned him the faithful attention of a national audience of television news people and broadcast executives.

Earlier this year, when CBS publicists handed out a photo of Katie Couric, altered to slim her by 20 pounds or more, it was Stelter who broke the news.

Stelter feeds the bottomless appetite of his TVNewser blog around the clock seven days a week - passing along news tidbits fed to him by TV executives, publicists, journalists, agents and other bloggers. He offers links to newspaper and magazine articles on broadcasting, network news releases and anything else he thinks might tickle a news professional's fancy.

He started the blog in 2004, when, he says, he got tired of talking back to his television and decided to share his take on where the cable news industry was going. Since then, he's got a ground-up education on everything from the ethics of gossip to the economics of cable.

When it comes to blogging, Stelter says, we haven't seen anything yet. He predicts a coming sea of focused news and gossip blogs established to meet the needs and interests of groups ranging from the Towson University community to commuters on a particular highway.

Here are some of his observations on blogs and blogging from a recent interview posted as a podcast at www.baltimoresun. com/blography.

What is your blog about?

It's about television news, pretty broadly defined. The cable news networks like Fox, CNN and MSNBC. And then also the broadcast networks like NBC, ABC and CBS. I write about the anchors, the ratings, the drama behind the scenes and what they are putting on the air. What they are covering on TV.

How do you learn what readers of your blog want?

The best thing I ever did was to create a little box at the corner of the screen on my blog called the anonymous tip box. It was just in e-mail form, very simple, where you could e-mail comments to me. But it was totally anonymous and people could say whatever they wanted, and they did. ... I get about 100 anonymous tips a day in my e-mail and about half are worthless, but the other half are a really good check and balance for me.

Is that where you get a lot of your news?

That's where most of it comes from. One of the best things about the blog is that it writes itself, at least in my case. Because a lot of what I am doing is posting what's going on. If someone, screws up on CNN, or MSNBC announces a new anchor, or if Fox News has a great ratings day, someone will e-mail me and tell me that. And I'm able to really feed off these readers.

But are you are a traffic cop?

I am a filter and a moderator, and it is desperately needed sometimes. Does having a tip box featureture on your site help you learn what subjects your readers have the most interest in?

That's definitely true. I take Katie Couric as an example. My traffic doubled the day that she premiered on the CBS Evening News. ... I was looking at that traffic, and looking at my e-mail during the day, and for that reason posted more and more about her because I knew the appetite was there. ... By the end of the day, there were 25 posts because people really couldn't get enough.

How are news organizations - newspapers, TV, radio - how are they likely to change because of the very things you are talking about right now, let's say over the next five years?

My belief is that it's going to be about niches more and more. The other hat I wear as editor of the student newspaper at Towson University, it's a twice-weekly newspaper, it's called The Towerlight. It has a clear market: the college campus. That makes us in some ways a lot safer than other newspapers that have a much broader market. And the same issue for television and radio. I think hyper-local is where it's at in many respects. People can get some information about national, international news anywhere. So they are turning to sources that they trust, know and recognize for local news. I think blogs are the same way. Millions of blogs are out there, but millions of blogs aren't read. There is a group at the top that are the important and the prominent ones, and in that respect, like I said, they are going to be more like the mainstream media. So I think we will see this kind of shake-out, where traditional media like newspapers, television and radio, will have to become more local and more convenient to the consumer. And on the other hand, the blogs are going to be becoming more like the traditional media.

Can you, just for the sake of definition, and future reference, ... define new media?

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