Mark Grimm


TV News Insights Not Found in a Book: Hoppel Profile

Albany TV news journalist with media insights

WNYT-TV13 News Director Eric Hoppel

Longtime Albany TV news man WNYT-TV13 News Director Eric Hoppel says, “I never know what my day will be like.” It’s an appealing feature of a job that comes with ongoing challenges — increased competition, lower profit margins, tough budget scrutiny and playing the role of psychologist for employees.

Hoppel rose to his position as a leading voice in upstate NY journalism the old fashioned way, he earned it. He started in glamorous Altoona, PA as a weekend TV news producer, working 14-hour days while getting paid minimum wage for eight.

News is “what interests or affects people,” he told a College of St. Rose media class. While we “all cover the same big stories,” Hoppel says his department tries to distinguish itself by trying to tell why a story is important, adding special segments like Athlete of the Week and 13 Kids Who Care and maintaining an experienced staff that has deep community roots.

Is there room for all the local news stations to survive in the Albany TV market? “I don’t know” is his candid answer. The new realities are that you will see more one-man bands (a single person performing as reporter, videographer and editor). Hoppel says he’s learned to be creative about how to cover the things you really want to cover but don’t have the budget to do it the way you might have had in the past.

His advice for young job seekers, “If you want a job in TV news, be a producer.” They are the most in demand, according to Hoppel, a former producer himself. Whatever your chosen field, “there will always be a need for good communicators and good writers.” Some of my students smiled at that, they’ve heard that a few dozen times from their professor.

What jazzes the boss the most? When we do a story about a person and he or she calls to say, “Thanks, that helped me.” Hoppel added, “I also love it when we do a good story no one else has.”

The passion still lives. You can’t survive the business without it.

The writer is a former TV news anchor/reporter and adjunct media professor. He helps clients with media strategy and training.

Unraveling Media Mystery: Advice from a TV Anchor

For many, the media is a mysterious world. Where do stories come from? How do I get covered? How have changing times affected the news biz?

In truth, media folks are similar to everybody else. Their jobs are threatened by intense competition that didn’t exist two decades ago. They are stretched thin by harsh economic realities. People seeking news coverage should offer the media the one thing they want most….HELP!

Gone are the days when a reporter could spend a whole day doing a single story and file a single report on the 6 pm news. Reporters and videographers are expected to produce far more reports with often smaller staffs. One-person bands (the reporter is the videographer, too) are increasingly more common. There isn’t the time or staff “to do it like they used to.”

That’s where you come in.

Every media outlet has to “feed the beast” every day — required to produce content to fill all the newscasts, newspapers, and web pages that compose what we now call traditional media. The beast’s appetite is unrelenting. Journalists don’t have time to research stories the way they’d like. When you contact them, be sure to have an answer for this persistent question: “What’s in it for them?”

You have expertise in something. Share it. If you provide it in a clear, compelling way and you’re available at the drop of a hat, you can be a help. If you can generate story ideas about things people care about, the media will take notice. If you are the source of an opposing viewpoint that is thoughtful and passionate, you’ll get more exposure. Think visually. What would make your story more visually compelling? Find out more about their deadlines, their process, their challenges, and follow the people closely who cover the subjects you know best. Don’t expect to get noticed by media, if you don’t notice them.

Grab the low-lying fruit. New hires, new clients, speaking events, business anniversaries, these all are fodder for business pages. Submit them. Write letters to the editor, call talk shows. A tiny fraction of the public takes part in those forums. Why aren’t you?

While it’s true, in the 21st century, we will get most of our news from each other, traditional media will still play an important role. Will you be a part of it?

The writer is a former TV news anchor/reporter and a current adjunct media professor who runs a speaking coaching and media relations firm. Don’t hesitate to contact Mark for help: