There seems to be a lot of misunderstanding as to the roles of media and, in this article, I will endeavor to explain how media, journalists, reporters, and entertainment writers all have different roles and serve different functions in the entertainment and press worlds. Professionals in the entertainment and business worlds are all too aware that there are different types of journalists and entertainment reporters, but there is a lot of “media” functions that fans do not differentiate or understand — and that creates confusion and anger among fans. Thus, to help shed light on what those different functions and roles are for media, I will illustrate some key differences.
Different Goals and Functions
First, it should be noted that media, press, journalist, reporter and entertainment writers all have different roles and functions: some merely recite or report facts, some report gossip and speculation, some report a mix of facts and gossip/speculation for entertainment value, and some have roles that offer a combination of facts, speculation, and information for promotional and entertainment value.
Broadcast media or broadcast journalists — as seen on television news shows, gossip shows, or feature programs — are typically watched or viewed on cable television or via streaming platforms. Reporters on those types of show offer facts, opinions, speculation, and commentary as a way to capture a viewers’ attention for their program and hopefully encourage those watchers to tune in regularly.
Newspaper/magazine reporters and journalists are hired to write news-oriented articles with mixture of facts and opinion information. Some reporters and journalists are hired as regular columnists or reporters for newspapers/magazines — and some are hired for only one article or feature. All reporters/writers/journalists are hired to engage a reader and persuade them to keep reading the magazine or newspaper on a regular basis because subscribers and regular click-through traffic are necessary to sustain both print and digital newspapers and magazines.
Then there is the purely online/digital media, which covers a much broader scope and use a wider range of press/media writers, reporters, and journalists. Sites like Buzzfeed, TVline, Hollywood Reporter, Variety typically use a variety of reporters/journalists/writers to recite facts (who, what, where, when) as well as those who do interviews, reviews, and artist spotlights or features.
The nature of a “spotlight” reporter, journalist, or writer is to take the factual information and use it to interest readers, using facts/opinion/analysis with the intent of a “spotlight” article or feature to engage, interest and highlight information about a show or artist — which can range from features on anyone in the entertainment world, including but not limited to: show writers, producers, directors, costumers, stylists, composers, lyricists, singers, or even sport figures.
Spotlight articles are generally the most misunderstood. The goal of a “spotlight” article is not to be a biography or recitation of facts. A spotlight article is to share information in an engaging way to persuade or interest a reader. So a spotlight feature article will provide some facts, some speculation, some opinion written together as a way of engaging an audience or getting a reader interested in a topic.
These are useful types of articles in that most people want to read articles that are more than just a list of facts. Most readers are want to learn something about a show, performer, or person working in the entertainment world that provides facts in an interesting and engaging manner. So there is a need to find an “angle” or “perspective” that can engage, interest, persuade and encourage those who are curious to read an article.
When one watches a show or sees a promotional advertisement for a show, that person will go to Google to do an interest search or go to an informational site, like Wikipedia or Fandom, to find more information about the show, such as: who stars in it, who wrote it, who created the show, what the show is about, where will the show be available to watch and when it debuts or will be released. After finding the basic factual information about a show, readers then go in search of a preview article, a review article, an interview article or in search of a spotlight article because they are seeking more information about why the show is worth watching. They will look for preview articles, early review articles, as well as interviews with talent who work on the show, such as: creators, producers, directors, actors, show composers and costumers.
A “spotlight” article can be a preview article, a review article, an interview article, or simply the type article that provides information in a way that encourages the reader to watch the show or what to look for and appreciate about the show — “why you should watch” type of article.
For example, there is a new show coming out on Hulu called “Nine Perfect Strangers”, created/produced by David E. Kelley, starring Nicole Kidman and Melissa McCarthy, that is about nine people brought together on an island for a mysterious purpose. Just based on these key names and premise, I bet nearly all of you reading this article will now do an internet search to learn more about this show because something caught your attention and interest.
People will look for articles about who created it, who writes on the show, who stars in it and what roles those actors will portray, who is the director, and what the storyline is along with how long the show may be (one season vs multiple seasons), what streaming site will it be available on and when it will air or debut. After learning the basic facts, then some readers will want to read a preview article that talks about where the storylines and characters will go or why a particular actor/writer/talent chose this show to be a part of. Highlighting or spotlighting an actor or director’s motivation to work on a show can be helpful and serves to engage a people and persuade them to watch the show, and more than just one episode.
When writing “spotlight” articles for music performers or about music bands or music composers and producers, the intent or role of a “spotlight” article shifts a bit as the purpose it is not to solely educate a person to listen to a band or watch their performances, it is to persuade or encourage the person reading the article to get to know each the performer or band on a deeper level so that they connect with the singer/composer/lyricist/producer and become interested and invested in their work or performance.
“Promotion To Purchase” Goal
In entertainment — whether it is film, television series/streaming series, music, live theater, or sports — media serves multiple functions to get people to watch what is being promoted/offered and then to keep watching it.
For example, some think that films are a “one and done” form of entertainment. Yet, more frequently, films are used to draw in viewers for a series of films (like the series Marvel films, “Star Wars” or “Star Trek” films, or even the stand-alone mystery film “Knives Out” which will take a character and follow that character to a subsequent film).
All entertainment is about securing eyeballs (aka watchers/readers/consumers) to watch a film, watch a show or series, read a book or book series, buy or listen to a song/album and then follow and a singer or band’s subsequent songs, albums, concert tickets/merchandise, or follow and support a sports team.
Entertainment is offered to get people to watch and buy a product. You are being asked to watch a film, buy a movie ticket or subscribe to an online streaming service. You are being asked to watch and keep watching a television series or show, by buying a cable service or subscribe to an online streaming service. You are being asked to read and buy a book (either physical book or digital version). You are being asked to listen to or watch a singer or band perform, and then buy their song/album and sometimes concert tickets or related merchandise. You are being asked to watch a sports team, and buy tickets to their events and buy related merchandise.
So, for media, there are lots of different roles to serve to interest and capture a viewer/consumer’s attention. Media covers a wide range of roles. It can be a news reporter, who is reporting from an event or from a station recapping an event or topic of interest. It can be a red carpet reporter, who is getting both information from talent about a film, show or event — which is a combination of factual information and promotional information, as well as personality content that captures interest and attention. Frequently, on a red carpet, the goal is not to get the same factual information that a person can read about from a press release. Instead, the goal is to get a “sound bite” or “candid reaction” or “cute moment” with the talent so that people will watch the video segment or read the article about what happened on the red carpet among costars. It is a sharing the moment or sharing of information not found on a press release that is used to promote and engage the audience.
Similarly, media/press participate roundtable interviews or press room interviews or set visit interviews all with the goal of obtaining something new that can be use to promote a film, show or event. No reporter or journalist is asked to just get facts that can be found on a press release. The goal is to get something new — something that will get people to read or watch a news article or report. So finding a fresh perspective, angle, or a way to spotlight information or content is vital.
Interactions With Fans
Fans are an essential part of entertainment. They serve as quasi-promoters for a show or artist. They are also a regular source of income and revenue. So fans are used as both unpaid promoters and as source of money for the artist/product.
Fans occasionally criticize media/journalists/press/reporters for not reporting just the facts. But that is a misunderstanding as to the different types of media roles as media (as journalists, reporters, writers) are given the task of finding a way to engage and capture a reader or watcher’s attention beyond just a recitation of facts.
Purely informational articles (such as press releases) are useful, but do not really engage. Thus, it becomes necessary for a journalist/reporter/entertainment writer to find a way to promote and engage the audience (readers and watchers). It is literally a reporter’s job to do more than simply recite or share just the facts. It is their job to report/share facts and supplement with opinions, speculations, and commentary and/or use ancillary content, like sneak previews, promo reel clips, exclusive photos, candid insights or insider information, obtain cute reactions or interactions all to engage the audience.
So media is used as a source of factual information mingled with promotional information and content. Social media platforms (like Twitter, TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, SnapChat) are ideal for this dual purpose — each is useful from sharing factual information mingled with promotional content as a way of engaging, informing, and persuading an audience to tune in, watch and buy products.
Entertainment is always a product. Every film, show or series, book, music artist or music event, sports event is all a product and you are being entertained so that you will buy a product.
Fans tend to lose sight of the fact that the actor/singer/band/sports figure is a product. Fans — as a consumer/supporter/fan — are being asked to buy something: a streaming service, a cable service, products advertised on a show, a singer or band’s song or albums, buy concert or event tickets, and/or buy associated merchandise. So, in supporting or promoting the career as a fan, fans should never lose sight of the fact that they are supporting a product as well.
Thus, there is an inherent tension between fans and press/media because fans want press and media to cover and promote their favorite singer/actor/performer/sports figure, but react negatively when media does not do this in the manner that the fan approves of.
There is a symbiotic relationship between artist, fan and press — and each has a vital role. The artist wants fans to buy their songs/albums/tickets or subscribe to platforms to watch their shows. Press/media/reporters are needed to promote shows and artists and get new watchers/consumers to check-out or tune-in and discover why a show or performer is worth investing their time and money in. And fans are needed for a revenue source for both the artist and media.
Fans are key to providing money and support for the artist. But fans also tend to take on roles as “gate keepers” of information about the artist. Fans will fact-check articles and make demands of journalists and media and can be outraged with information is selectively provided or used to portray their favorite artist in ways they do no approve of. Then a supportive fanbase becomes a liability because media/journalists/press do not want to have to deal with an angry mob of fans who make unreasonable demands as to how an artist or show is featured.
Working Together For Common Goal
A recent example can be illustrated with a fandom who reacted negatively to a series of spotlight articles/interviews in Rolling Stone magazine. The fans were unsatisfied with the types of questions asked of the band members, not understanding that many times a reporter must pre-submit their questions to a management company to be approved, or is asked after an interview to remove specific questions and responses. This is a tricky function for an entertainment writer/reporter as the reporter/writer has to come up with a pitch or angle for their editor or magazine/website and that pitch or angle can be diluted or thrown off by the fact that a management company or artist will not approve certain types of questions or responses. It can make it seem like the reporter is biased towards one person in a band or not willing to fully cover one of the members. Also, some artists just do not interview well and can come across as boring or closed-off during interviews with short responses. In the case of foreign media interviews, there is also a language barrier. If the reporter does not speak the same language, some words or phrases posed by U.S. press do not translate and the meaning can be lost or misinterpreted. These are all hurdles to overcome when doing interviews or feature articles: language barriers, word/phrases misinterpretations, talent that do not want to give out information or feel uncomfortable sharing information about themselves and their work, and fans who are quick to react in a negative manner.
What fans need to realize is that media/press/journalists/reporters are usually working with a singer/band/artist/talent to promote their work. Media wants to participate in promoting and yet has to balance that desire to promote with serving its own audience, who pays for their services. A newspaper or magazine has a regular audience that they serve. An on-air broadcast show has a subscriber or membership audience. Digital media also serves a regular audience that attracts advertisers who pay for ads or click-through traffic. So media has 2 masters: their audience and their source of income (advertisers/subscribers). A reporter/entertainment journalist only gets paid by the website/magazine/newspaper if they can deliver an article or news segment that serves both the audience and the advertisers.
So in covering a popular band, deferring to fans and their demands serves no monetary purpose. Fans can threaten to boycott, but those fans really do not provide the money that pays for the magazine or website to exist. Advertisers do that. So in the case of Rolling Stone’s series of spotlights and interviews with a specific band, it only served to provide content for one month of the magazine and it was not exclusive (meaning that specific band was not the only artist in that month’s issue) because advertisers want a broader range of people to buy that magazine or go to that website and clickthrough than just one fanbase. So that issue featured and showcased many different artists in order to satisfy the needs and demands of the advertisers and to persuade a larger audience to buy that issue of the magazine. Promoting only one band in an issue is not optimizing the potential buying audience and does not satisfy advertisers who want more value for their advertising dollars than just promoting/marketing/advertising to just one band’s fans.
Scope, range, and mass appeal are usually required by an advertiser unless that company is happy to just have its ads seen by one band/artist’s fans.
What needs to be considered is why Rolling Stone chose to feature or spotlight a band’s members. Rolling Stone is not just seeking advertiser dollars, it is looking to feature/spotlight artists that appeal to its regular subscribers and consumers who buy its magazine or read its content on its website. Another unspoken role that Rolling Stone offers (similar to Billboard or Variety or Hollywood Reporter) is they are considered ways to reach a potential award voting-pool. Rolling Stone and Billboard are known to be the way to educate and promote to the Grammy voting-pool. Variety and The Hollywood Reporter are known to be the way to educate and promote films/shows to the Emmy and Oscar voting-pools. In the months leading up to award nominations, FYC ads (“for your consideration”) are placed in these pivotal magazines and featured on their digital websites.
Fans tend to think of magazines, newspapers, and press/media websites as places that should offer only content that is factual and biographical. That is a misunderstanding of the function and goal of media and press. Media and press are providing information while using methods of engagement to promote and advertise all to keep their own subscribers and audience engaged and continuing to come back.
Helping Rather Than Hurting
The inherent tension between media, talent and fans needs to be examined and understood. Fans want to promote and support their artists. Thus, fans should find creative ways to engage and to support their artist, rather than attacking and creating negative publicity.
As press, I have been attacked by fans for expressing an opinion and not just reciting the facts. I have been attacked for using a word or phrase that has a different meaning in another language or culture (for example, using the word “feminism” which in the U.S. means “equal rights” but in some cultures means “anti-men” or “man hater”). I have been accused of being biased because I like one artist more and then accused of being unfaithful or not a true fan after writing favorable about another competing member in the band or a competing artist.
Media/journalists and reporters are allowed to have opinions. Media/journalists are hired to have opinions and to express those in articles. Media/journalists are hired to spotlight one artist. Media/journalists are hired to spotlight competing artists. Media/journalists are hired to persuade readers and audiences to watch shows or performances by a band or singer. The role of media and journalists as press and reporters varies from article to article, segment by segment, to different audiences at different times, with different goals and methods used each time.
My intent in writing this article is to help educate and explain the different roles, different goals, and different methods and tools used to feature, highlight, spotlight and promote entertainment shows, films, books, events, artists and performers because there is a lot of misconceptions and misunderstandings and it would help if fans would read this and think before attacking media, reporters, journalists and article writers. There is a popular saying that you will attract more with “honey than vinegar.” Fans need to remember that attacking journalists (for doing their job) never helps in supporting or promoting their favorite artist — and negative attacks can scare away future media/journalists/reporters from covering a specific artist, band or show. Not always, but media reporters and journalists see how fans treat other journalists and media and it is remembered. The ripple-effect can be a lot more far reaching.
Concluding this article, just a reminder: think before you post. Ask if it is helping or hurting your artist. Try to be a force of good for your and not a negative factor that keeps your artist from getting the exposure, publicity, promotion and awards that he/she/they deserve. Let us all try to be more understanding as to the interconnected relationships of artist, fan and media.