Brendan McLaughlin – TV News Anchor/Reporter on Quitting Job, State of the Media, Traveling

Brendan McLaughlin – TV News Anchor/Reporter on Quitting Job, State of the Media, Traveling

hey everyone I’m ex TV producer Jennifer
Moore and I’m very excited because in this episode we actually have a real
guest with me right now is longtime Tampa TV newsman Brendan McLaughlin
thank you so much for being here today it’s my pleasure Jennifer it was great
working with you as briefly as we did but it’s good to reconnect and happy to
join you today definitely so Brendan is now in the X TV news or Club so Brendan
what jobs have you held at various TV stations over the years um I started as
a as an intern in San Francisco and I worked on the assignment desk so that
was pretty much the whole stint there which was a great place to start because
that’s kind of as you know the nerve center of a newsroom and you kind of see
how the different parts interact then I went on to become a reporter and then a
news anchor reporter toward the end of my career I
actually went back to handling a camera actually handled the camera for the
first time as an MMJ what we call a multimedia journalist and so I would
shoot edit narrate and and present my own stories so that’s that’s the long
and short of it wonderful and why did you get into the TV news business
originally you know I was a little slow to the slow to the game there I was I
was 29 when I was an intern like one of the oldest interns I think at KPIX at
the time maybe before or after and then I was 30 when I got my first on-air job
but it always seemed to me to be the kind of job where every day is a clean
slate it I have a little bit of a DD I have a relatively short attention span
and so it was perfect it’s like you walk out the door at the end of the day and
it’s all clean slate so I was able to focus on one project one story intensely
you know throughout the course of the day of course there’s always the kind of
the joy of creativity of asking that perfect question or telling a story that
invokes a little emotion you know based on the words and the pictures that
you’ve chosen so there’s that creative satisfaction for sure yeah and you
probably put out what like thousands and thousands of stories
years could be a big number all right now what in your in your opinion what’s
the best part about working in the news business well it’s uh everything I just
mentioned for sure in terms of everyday being different you sort of you get
opened up part the aircraft traffic here you can open up to a different subject
every day something you may have not have known anything about the
mistreatment of elephants at a you know farm out in rural Florida or Texas and
you know they’re legal questions that you learn a lot about there’s law
enforcement regulations government school boards that sort of things so if
you’re at all curious it’s a real really satisfying career and and I found that
to be one of the parts I enjoyed most you know yeah same here I would
definitely agree with you and uh alright what was the worst part about working in
news yeah yeah it’s kind of uh it’s it’s the one of the most inflexible jobs you
can take you you have zero control over your time and really I mean you can
budget within the time that you’re given you’re under constant deadline pressure
and and time pressure in other words you only have so much time to tell your
story in my case it was usually a minute thirty that was my that was my movie and
if you had more to say we you just had to figure out what stayed and what went
you know what did what are you gonna cut and right it’s also kind of a career at
least if you’re on the air like I was or if you’re a producer certainly better
never than late you it’s not an option to be late yeah like you’re either gonna
make air or you’re gonna make art it has to it has to get on so uh and and in the
broader sense you work holidays you you you’re not able to take off in during
the sweeps month since February and November in July and May and so you
can’t be off when your co-anchor is off in my case so it it really made doing
things on your personal life a little difficult definitely and what would you
like the world to know about TV news that you feel might not be
it into the average person that’s a good question because uh you know people are
interested in television and television news but not many people will actually
been behind the scenes or you know know much about how it actually comes
together but I guess one misconception I think that I see out there is there’s a
sense maybe that there’s a concerted or coordinated effort to to put forth a
certain editorial stance and I currently speak to the local news part of this but
that’s simply not the case I mean it’s there’s no meat there’s no
secret meeting in the morning to advance any particular agenda there are so
there’s no explicit bias I really just don’t buy it
there’s implicit bias of course we all are thinking sentient human beings I
wouldn’t want to watch a reporter or a news anchor who didn’t have an opinion
at all on a news story of course we have opinions but the challenge is to sort of
put your bias aside or be aware of your bias and do your best to just be fair to
everybody and as impartial as you can on these issues and and my experience has
been that most of the people I work with do a pretty good job of that yeah that’s
it’s definitely the exception more than the rule there were you know we’re right
we weren’t sitting around being like well how can we spin this story this way
it just for that and if there is a bias that sort of runs through local
television news it’s in favor of the sponsors everybody’s aware that know
before you do a story that that trashes you know the local Ford dealership the
car dealership you might want to have a conversation with man so so it’s just
you know that’s perhaps a inevitable result of the wait local television news
is financed no good very good thoughts and is there one story in particular
that sticks out to you is having a really big impact on you you know I
think in the news business we do a pretty good job of distancing ourselves
from the awful things that we talk about and cover much the way like emergency
room doctors do you know we see and talk about some pretty pretty tough stuff and
I think if we let it get in and we didn’t have the gallows humor to sort of
it off it would be tough to do so we’re good at that but you know stories
involving children being abused or neglected are really tough and hard to
are to understand there’s a lot of human behavior that I can understand but like
serial killers we just had a serial killer here in Tampa in the Seminole
Heights area this is somebody that’s just randomly and with no apparent
pattern with gender or race or age just was executing people on the street he’s
been caught but everybody is wrestling with the question of why in the world
would this college graduate with otherwise perhaps a bright future
who doesn’t didn’t seem to be visibly unhinged or off his meds would do
something so awful so you know that’s very unsettling we deal with those
issues a lot and I have no answer you can’t there are no answers for some some
of these behaviors we see or when you think you’re like oh I’ve seen it all
then something else comes along you’re like wow did not see that coming well
alright so let’s we’re here on YouTube let’s talk about viral stories you’ve
probably covered a lot of stories that went viral what attributes have you
noticed they tend to have well it was a you know was in the last sort of five
six years of my career that the internet social media it became a real big driver
and my observation is that positive stories uplifting stories funny stories
tend to go viral more readily than negative nasty stuff and and that’s
logical enough I suppose I mean I think the news by its very nature can be
negative because we don’t run a story on the accident that didn’t happen on I 275
because it did happen because that’s the news so I think people are sort of
delighted and charmed and sort of gravitate toward a story that shows the
the positive side of human nature somebody doing something above and
beyond like unconditional generosity that that type of thing seems to really
get a great reaction if I could take a moment to show it to tell you wanting
without that I did that what’s super viral and I didn’t anticipate that it
was my carpet cleaner guy who you know chem-dry guy he was in my rolodex and I
would I would call him up every six months or so to come and do some spots
on the floor and he was a chatty guy and he happened to mention that on his days
off on the weekend he would go to cemeteries on his own with his cleaning
equipment and very carefully with a lot of research clean these very old
neglected tombstones of veterans that were on wrecking unreadable
unrecognizable because they’d just been covered with tree sap and dirt mud
nobody was tending them and he would turn these you know stones into
beautiful almost pieces of art because you know the original marble or the
granite you know was just like new and he did this without any recognition or
any compensation on his time off so I thought wow that would be a cool story
so we did it I’ve Irma I definitely and you know what the networks all picked it
up so it’s one of those things where it’s it’s so good you want to share it
with people yeah and it’s still going viral in a sense in that he has got his
own Facebook page that is that gets an enormous amount of traffic every day and
he’s kind of turned it into you know a bit of a nonprofit career and I’ll take
credit for coining the phrase goods limit Arian so catchy handle that’s a
wonderful story and that’s a good example about a story you know starting
just from you have any conversation with the guy you can be known around the
world all right so all right we’re gonna talk to the media relations and PR folks
now for the folks watching who want to develop a relationship with media
outlets if you are coming up with some sort of guide on best practices what
kind of stuff would be in it okay well I’m a little out of my league with this
story just because there’s a news guy I was you know I had the luxury of not
caring about marketing and sales and public relations that kind of thing but
I guess what I would have to say about that is that if you wanted to if you
wanted to develop a relationship with a television station or increase the
chances that you can get coverage on a particular story or a product or a
business that you’re starting you go to the assignment editor exactly
you don’t they don’t go to you in the field and be like Brendan can get my
story on the air right and in fact I wouldn’t even go you know with all due
respect ex producer I wouldn’t go to the producer either because the producer is
dealing with the menu that they have in front of them that is usually usually
directed by the news director and and the assignment editor so the assignment
editor is somebody that you need to know their name you need to go in and
schedule a visit and I just need them to show you around
and if they can have lunch bring some food with you you know free food right
but most importantly you will have a fruitful relationship if you bring them
stories that they can actually hurt you know I think a lot of people on the
other end trying to get coverage don’t understand that television stations need
video they need people to talk to they need things to shoot so you need to
provide them with happening that event is happening on this date that you can
actually go and videotape and you can talk to not the officials you know not
the president of the executive vice president or the director of whatever
but real people that are involved with whatever mission or product that you’re
talking about so you know we whether you I don’t like to use the term victim but
if you’re talking about a disease or a malady whatever it might be or a social
ill yes talk to somebody who’s adversely affected that could speak firsthand what
the story’s about that’s the hardest part you know a lot of organizations
like a shelter for battered women for example there’s confidentiality issues
it’s very difficult to sometimes gets it’s not so easy like no I want to talk
to a woman who’s victim of domestic violence but to make an impactful story
at the end of the day you need to have that person in for it so you have to
develop a relationship develop some trust you know they need to trust that
you are going to protect that person’s anonymity if that’s the case or or treat
their story with fairness and compassion above all so it’s a process but I think
that’s the bottom line they’re all good thoughts and actually I I have a lot of
the same opinions I think most of us do generally so that’s definitely something
we have in common all right so what are some right way
for say a youtuber to get noticed by traditional media like TV stations you
know I I must say I flagrantly cribbed YouTube video all sources you know when
you had nothing else you can go to YouTube sometimes in fine video and try
to contact the person’s permission like hey that kids from Tampa he can do
skateboard tricks or something but I think a lot of the same things apply I
mean if you if you have a youtube channel you might be reaching an
audience you might be in touch with a trend or a hobby or a pastime or an
activity that demand that the you know the traditional media knows nothing
about and they love nothing better than to report on you know the latest trend
latest craze and sometimes they’re they’re laughably woefully behind I mean
how many times have you read the script you know like now we’re going to have a
report on the new craze of Rolfing and you know it’s just a type of massage
well I’m old enough to remember Rolfing was from the 70s you know and you know
things come around again oh it’s not exactly a new thing or do you ever that
thing where kids were doing their own DIY braces I was like this is insane
we’re kids that are taking like hair bands and I’m like you should not like
that’s a terrible idea right stuff like that like kids are just getting it and
all make videos on one thing and I know so kind of dangerous right so that’s why
YouTube youtubers are closer to the ground in a sense and maybe they they
catch wind of some of these trends the good ones and the not so good ones
before anybody else does and if you can if you can communicate that to your
local TV station or newspaper they’ll be interested oh definitely
alright so there are lots of people out there who are considering a career in TV
news like like you’ve had and what advice would you give them right now I
guess the same advice I would have given him 22 years ago or 28 years ago when I
first got into business and that is at the end of the day it’s all about
content it’s all about storytelling and if you’re sincere or about that if
you’re interested in the world around you then you’ll take the time to to
learn about it at least learn enough about it too
eunuch ate whatever the news is and others if you’re doing a story about a
plane crash take the time out to learn a little bit about the plane involved and
the process by which planes go up in the air because if you don’t your ignorance
will manifest itself somewhere along the line you don’t have to become an expert
in anything but you have to take the effort and show the natural curiosity to
learn enough about whatever subject you want to talk about to convey a sincerity
that you’re interested because if you’re interested while you’re telling or
communicating or writing about a subject or confirm your news story that’s what
people like to watch that’s what people care about and that’s gonna that’s gonna
make make you have some impact that’s a good advice Brendon alright see you left
ABC Action News a few years ago why did you decide to to leave the business well
if they finally they caught me I was stealing office supplies
you’re stealing staplers and post-its and I just they found my big storehouse
but no it was uh I guess it was cumulative I was trying to get the dog
over here this is Finnegan oh and I’ve seen
Finnegan in photos oh hey Finnegan buddy good anyway I get to spend more time
with him for one thing but more to the point I guess it was I will blame social
media innocent who knows I think what happened to a lot of us in the business
at the time was management came to us and said hey in addition to everything
you’re doing for the you know in preparation for the five six and eleven
o’clock news we need you to post or tweet or make Facebook posts or provide
content for our webpage many times a day throughout the day and that
fundamentally changes the job it’s a whole it’s a whole layer and so I did it
and I think I did it pretty well for you know that’s the last five or six years
but then I just got to the point where I just decided this has really just gotten
hard to the point where I think it’s a good time to to bail and and that’s what
I did so I have no Reid Rhett’s in fact I’m a little it’s a
little unnerving how little I’ve missed the work environment because I’ve stayed
busy and I’ve been you know I’m not at loose ends
it seems like some days I’m too busy and eventually not not to ramble on here but
eventually I would like to get back to some sort of form of expression and
communication whether it’s writing who knows maybe it’s YouTube maybe you could
do a YouTube channel with Finnegan host yes Finn and me so okay we’re on to
something that’s let’s think you totally are and I I definitely I think I would
watch I’ll be a subscriber okay right but I have nothing but you know
gratitude for the career I had and the time I had in the business I met amazing
people I learned so much about the world around me and I learned about myself and
other people so yeah somebody just getting into the business I would say
absolutely do it because you know what this business is gonna look like in five
years is anybody’s guess but again if you have a passion for storytelling and
communication then this is where you need to be yep
all right now since you’ve been Lee since you left a channel 28 what what
kind of stuff have you been up to well I’ve been um I’ve been doing a couple TV
gigs I will confess some of yours I saw you on channel 8 I know yeah I did I did
a little gig on election night there and but I’ve done some sort of something
that no self-respecting news person would do while they’re working that’s
some commercials like Medicare yes and I’m not old enough for Medicare but you
can you can represent them so that’s good so you may have seen me on on your
cable channel pitching a Medicare Advantage comm or some other such
supplementary health care plan but it’s you know it’s a little walking-around
money and and fun to get back in the studio from time to time I do it
completely on my own volition on my own schedule I have some side projects I’ve
been delving in real estate as you know and and just trying to get to the gym
you know on a pre regular schedule and spending more time with friends and and
really enjoying not having that inflexibility
we talking about exactly the thing we’ve been lacking for so long yeah I mean I’m
doing a lot of the same stuff I did while I was working but I got all day to
do it feels so much better and you did you’ve done a lot of traveling as well
right yeah I did I mean after I quit I I bought a a 1994 Dodge pleasure-way van
it said like a completely built out camper essentially with everything and
by myself my wife continues to work I drove to California the long way stayed
at national parks and state parks all along the way took a month to get to
California and then I turned around and drove back on the southern route and so
yeah two months on the road seeing nature seeing America seeing small towns
Marfa Texas Billings Montana Jackson Hole all kinds of cool spots it was just
a great experience and I’ve taken some international trips as well again that
flexibility and haven’t you been blogging a little bit too a little bit
yeah I mean I did I did blog so to speak on my travels across country and on my
Argentina trip and but yeah alas I am a little undisciplined about that and I
saw it for a while you’d grown out of beard so you called the book wasn’t it
severe tikal which i thought was awesome a brilliant wordplay by no shoe you’ve
since gone clean-shaven so no more severe to go oh yeah yeah it looks if
you want to of course it’s not an option for you but if you want to make yourself
look 15 years older girl a beer maybe I’ll try that you know maybe that could
work for me all right well what is your favorite social media platform well I’m
kind of a Facebook or I guess which uh baby bloomer like me that’s that’s where
you’re at but my my kids who are 30 and 31 respectively are on snapchat so we
have fun with that do you have a snapchat account thank you
you do let’s just snap chat handle we’ll get people to follow you if anything if
anyone’s watching this yet oh I don’t know look I just serve you know it’s one
of those things what’s my handle I don’t really use it but I
I really see the appeal fun of snapchat it says Brendan mcLaughlin Oh Brendan
one try that and see our unique Nick Brendan one MCB our ENT a and one yeah
all right yeah I’ll pop that up on the screen if you guys want to follow
Brendan on snapchat all right and Brendan what do you think TV stations
can do this is a very interesting time for the business what can t be stations
do to adapt to be able to survive this whole landscape and new media you know
that’s really the main yeah because they are sweating bullets
it’s and that’s another reason I left because it’s it’s an industry it’s a
business in existential crisis they don’t know if they’re gonna be around in
another five or ten years so I mean that’s not a very fun optimistic
environment my daughter works in solar energy I mean that’s a new industry it’s
like the futures you know is ahead of them so it’s exciting to go to work but
television news I think it’s got such a powerful platform I think people are
always going to love to sit on their couch and let somebody else decide what
what’s important what happened that day that’s relevant to them I really think
that’s always going to exist but the fact that the that the television
stations have still been unable after all these years to break away from that
basic male anchor female co-anchor you know likeable sports guy weather guy 10
12 minutes for the first segment break you know the same format it’s you
everybody’s doing exactly the same thing and it’s the same thing they’ve been
doing for 30 years because everybody’s afraid to step out of that and every
time they do you’ve seen this you know we’re gonna go out of the box and we’re
gonna different we’re gonna stand up in the newsroom desk to desk and it’s gonna
just blow up the paradigm well of course it doesn’t because it’s not a it’s not a
substantial or a material change so I don’t know because they’re the audience
is definitely shrinking pretty steadily and who knows how low it can go but as
your generation and my kids generation they’re not watching
local TV news on that schedule appointment television that’s just
that’s just not a thing anymore so after we’re gone I don’t know what they’re
gonna do but I think they’re going to have to become a little bit more like
YouTube which is not to say cat videos yeah
you know I think there’s to quote Edward r murrow who’s I love this quote and I
hate could be a name-dropper Johnny Carson said you know nobody likes
a name-dropper he told me that but Moreau said people watch people watch
the news at the end of the day to find out if their world is safe and it’s that
elemental it’s that fundamental there’s a need to check in with your environment
your local environment not the world not the country but your town and to find
out what blew up or what didn’t blow up or what’s the crime situation what’s the
weather situation and so that’s a powerful drive and local news is in a
unique position to sort of meet that need but they’re gonna have to do it in
a much more relevant and and engaging way yeah and I was even thinking you
know I would like to see more stations allowing their anchors and reporters to
have YouTube channels or to do more on their own to allow people to get to know
them as people instead of you know just on the newscast because I think there’s
a disconnect between with with some level of distrust so I think letting
them get to know the people on your air might help them and might encourage them
to actually watch the show I agree Jennifer here’s here’s one of
them complications with that though and where we were we were all doing it and
anybody on the air today knows that they have a Facebook presence and they do
engage viewers you know in a somewhat quasi personal way but everybody is
acutely aware that you’re on a Razors Edge if you say something yeah that’s
not correct not politically palatable to certain people if you’re controversial
if you say something perhaps crude or offensive even in jest you’re in trouble
and you know your your job is on the line so people are it tends to be very
bland – because they’re so they don’t want to
do anything that would jeopardize their job you’re not really getting to know
James Wilkinson or whoever the maker is you’re getting to know just a very
curated very carefully guarded version of him so you’re right if they’re what I
see happening is I think local television stations are going to they’re
gonna try to form their own identity and some of them are going to be a little
bit like morning radio like they’re gonna be edgier for real and they’re
gonna make the decision that we’re gonna lose certain sponsors okay and we’re
gonna lose certain segments of the audience but we’re gonna make up for it
by getting a fiercely loyal different segment of the audience and we might
have you know sponsors that also have no problem being you know part of something
a little edgier and even controversial well it’ll be very cure I’m very curious
to see what’s gonna shake it over the next 5-10 years we don’t know it’s true
and it’d be fun to watch and I’m I’ll be watching from retirement for the most
you’ll be well you’ll be watching with Finnegan right from yeah well in one lap
one last thing I’m gonna give you the opportunity to ask this audience
anything you want so do you have a question of the day for our viewers I
guess so yeah and it’s coming back to local television news and that my
question would be if you do watch local television news at all why are you going
there what specific thing are you watching local television news
for the weather is that the sports scores is it back to my earlier point to
find out what blew up is it because you liked watching somebody you like the way
they look you’re in love with your anchor so I’m kind of curious as to what
that driver is and what people find most important in local news today all right
guys you heard Brendan’s question if you’re watching right now leave a
comment and an answers question of the day if you do watch local news what
brings you there well Brendan thank you so much for joining me as our very first
guest on Ex-TV producer well it’s an honor Jennifer it’s great working with
you and I’m so excited to see you doing this great project you’re going
be successful as you always have been is there zero startup costs so there the
load the risk is low I know but you bring a lot to the table and I think
you’re gonna do great thanks for making me a part of it so thank you so much and
and for all of you out there if you’re also an ex TV news ER and you’d like to
be featured here on Ex-TV producer channel feel free to hit me up on
Twitter I’m @exTVproducer Brendan again thank you so much I’m Jennifer
Moore you

5 thoughts on “Brendan McLaughlin – TV News Anchor/Reporter on Quitting Job, State of the Media, Traveling

  1. 28:00 When I do watch the local news it is for a few reason. 1. Just to see what the headlines are locally. 2 Weather. 3. Because I personally know some people at the station so I try to tune in at least every once in a while. This was another great episode of Ex-TV Producer. Keep up the great work.

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