‘Kardashians,’ ‘Real World’ producers speak to J school students

Four accomplished reality television producers sat on a panel Friday.

Amid an influx of news about job cuts in the journalism industry, "Entertainment Tonight" Executive Producer Linda Bell Blue, High Noon Entertainment’s Jim Berger, LHeflin Filmworks’ Lance Heflin and Bunim/Murray Productions’ Jon Murray had good news for School of Journalism students Friday.

The four legendary producers, at a symposium held at the Reynolds Journalism Institute, revealed another application for the skills acquired in the journalism field: reality television.

“Reality television is kind of like journalistic storytelling,” said Esther Thorson, associate dean of graduate studies at the journalism school. She served as one of the symposium’s moderators.

Although news and reality television are often viewed as two opposite ends on the media spectrum, they might not be as different as they appear, the event’s featured speakers said.

“'Entertainment Tonight’ is news that covers reality and entertainment, but it is set up like a news station,” Bell Blue said.

The producers said the participants’ reactions on their shows are not fabricated, a belief oftentimes held about reality television.

“On ‘The Real World’ we bring together a group of people that would not normally live together," said Murray, who produces “The Real World” and “Keeping Up with the Kardashians.” “In that way, the situations may be contrived but the stuff that happens on it is very real.”

The panelists said reality television producers are concerned with the facts, much like any responsible journalist.

“On ‘America’s Most Wanted,’ we spent a lot of time just getting the facts right,” said Heflin, who produces the show.

Reality television doesn’t only offer an alternative direction for journalism students, but it also might be a more desirable direction for journalism students, the panelists said.

“Reality television is a growth market,” Murray said. “Reality shows repeat less so the networks need more reality shows to fill the airtime. Reality shows are tougher to sell but it is a growth market so there are more positions for producers and editors in reality.”

He said the public craves knowledge about people’s personal lives, which is one of the driving forces behind reality television. Because of this, he said, jobs are plentiful.

“From the beginning of time we’ve always been interested in other people’s lives,” he said.

The world is constantly seeking and consuming information about the glamorous and sometimes troublesome life of stars, Bell Blue said.

“Currently the public has an insatiable appetite for people to know about stars and their lives and projects,” she said.

Despite the possibilities this new direction of journalism might offer, becoming an accomplished person in this field is still no easy feat, the panelists said.

“I think it’s a very mean business,” Bell Blue said. “You have to make sacrifices. You kind of have to leave your personal life behind. News is 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

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