Picture this: It’s a Monday night. Most of the newsroom has gone home for the day. You’re on the night shift keeping tabs on news as it trickles in. You’re surrounded by TVs set to all the major networks.
It’s that time of year on ABC: The Bachelor is on.
Now I’ll be honest: I wasn’t a huge fan of the show. I got introduced to it through some friends in college who were obsessed with the characters, the TV romance and of course, the drama. They knew everyone’s names, who was still together, who had broken up, etc. Staying informed is a commitment, to say the least.
Okay, back to the newsroom. As I’m sitting at my desk, I see commercials airing for the next season of The Bachelor featuring a guy that happened to be from the metro-Phoenix area.
This guy is from HERE?
I’m looking around the newsroom wondering: Why aren’t we covering this?
Newsroom chatter said: “Becca, no one really cares about The Bachelor.”
And that’s when I set out to prove them wrong.
Earning newsroom buy-in
People did care. I knew it. Other young millennials in the newsroom who watched the show knew it.
I pitched it to an editor that I knew well (who grew to become one of my best advocates and greatest mentors): If I write some Bachelor content in my downtime, will you edit it for me? He said, sure! What could it hurt?
I rallied some of the other Bachelor fans in the newsroom to kick off the season with a fun story about where Arie could go if he did a hometown date in the Valley of the Sun. I scored a spot for myself and my newsroom Bachelor bestie Lorraine on a pre-show conference call with Arie himself (and many other media folks) where we asked him what sort of Arizona ties we can expect throughout the season. (Spoiler: His answer was lackluster, at best.)
I put my all into this. I watched every episode of the season. I tweeted my articles when they seemed relevant to the storyline. I looked for ways to bring the show back to Phoenix.
More importantly: I got the newsroom invested. If you were working in the newsroom on Monday night, you were bound to be dragged into a conversation about The Bachelor.
We got the Sports Desk into it. I roped in one of our amazing data reporters to help me pull numbers as part of a full recap of the season critiquing Arie’s hometown pride. One of the top managers in the newsroom took time out of his jam-packed schedule to edit the story and turned it into a masterpiece.
More than anything, I was proud. Proud to have made my mark with a beat that no one gave a second thought.
The story that follows me
As Arie’s season came to an end, I prepared to go back to my normal day-to-day work routine. I’ll be honest: I was a little disappointed. I thought, well at least I had a fun run.
Then a presser was sent to me by our digital planner on the Entertainment Desk: ABC’s The Bachelor to hold auditions in Scottsdale.
She says, “Can you write this up?”
I say, “I’ll do you one better. I’ll go.”
“Yeah. I’ll go. I’ll audition for The Bachelor and write about it.”
And go I did, with way more support than I could have imagined.
When the day rolled around, my roommates were there with advice on what to wear and how to do my hair. (One even went to the grocery store around the corner and bought me a rose for good measure.) We took photos in our driveway and submitted them to be published in the paper and on the web.
We scheduled one of our incredible newsroom photographers to go to the site to shoot the audition process.
And let me be clear: This wasn’t meant to be a big story. This was, in my mind, a fun digital piece to beef up the Entertainment section. But just before it was time to go, I got a call from an editor, “Becca, they want this for print on the front page of the Sunday paper.”
I felt so grateful to be surrounded by editors and newsroom leaders who let me take this leap as a writer and storyteller. And let me tell you: It delivered. People read the story in droves. Local radio stations called and had me on the air to talk about it. Folks all over the country sent me messages on social media asking for advice about their audition.
I went on to write a few more stories about The Bachelor franchise while I was there. (My career took me in a different direction shortly after.) To most everyone’s surprise, the stories performed well. Really well. Tuesday’s run-down of the previous day’s top stories almost always had a Bachelor piece listed.
Let me say here that this wasn’t because I was a star writer. (I was writing about a TV dating show, after all.) This is hugely due to the outstanding editors and digital producers who worked their magic to get Google to notice our stories. See, nearly all of the online traffic to these stories wasn’t actually from our “traditional” newsroom audience. The majority of traffic came from Google Search. People were Googling The Bachelor when the show was airing and were clicking on our stories. Getting our stories to show up high in Google’s search results was key.
In the end, I’m glad I trusted my gut. People did care. It just took some work to find them.
And that’s how I turned ABC’s The Bachelor into a successful newsroom beat.
Oh, and before you ask:
- No, I never got a call back about being on the show.
- Yes, I did see someone at the audition who ended up on the show.
- And yes, I do still know the girl who I befriended in the parking lot heading into the audition. (Hi Tatum!) She actually ended up on a different show called Paradise Hotel the following summer on FOX.
Header photo by Elizabeth Montgomery.