Media, Darling: Bill Harris

Bill Harris is the national TV critic for the Toronto Sun/Sun Media/QMI Agency. Prior to that he was the NBA columnist and Toronto Raptors beat reporter for the Toronto Sun. Before joining the Sun, he worked at three other daily newspapers. He grew up in Cowansville, Que., attended Concordia University in Montreal, and currently lives in Newmarket, Ont., with his wife LeeAnne, their three cats Winston, Darla and Serena, and their horse Dawn.

Twitter: @billharris_tv

Did you always want to be in the media? If not, what other careers were on the

Oui et non. I completed the Communications Studies program at Concordia
University in Montreal, and I figured I’d end up working in TV or radio – not
on air, but doing something behind the scenes, writing, whatever. Turns out the
first place to offer me a job was a newspaper. Funny how that works. But a very
good friend of mine has a theory about “employment natural selection,” meaning,
for the most part, we all end up in jobs that are kind of right for us.

Where would you like to be five years from now?

Any advice for people getting started in your industry?
Okay, other than that, I’d say, get into it because you like it, not because
you think it’s your ticket to fame or fortune or even positive reinforcement.
The fringe benefits of being in the media are less and less every year, so make
sure you actually like your job. Otherwise, you know, plumbing school.

What are your favourite media outlets, not including your own?, i.e.: what do
you read/listen/watch?

Every day starts with the Toronto Sun, the Toronto Star and about 37 cups of coffee (over 40, I get cranky). Due to my job, I obviously watch a lot of TV. But as for things I’d be watching this season even if I weren’t a TV critic, I’d list things like Mad Men, Veep, New Girl, Cougar Town, Modern Family, Suburgatory, Parks and Recreation, 30 Rock, Community, Revenge, The Vampire Diaries and Nurse Jackie.

Best interview you’ve ever had? Worst?

Best interview I ever had probably was with John Mayer. I’d heard he could be a little difficult, but we had a great chat.
At the end he said, “Could you please make sure to send me a link to the story
you write, because I’d really like to see how this turns out.” Worst interview?
Oh, I definitely have one, but there’s no way I’m saying who it is, just in
case I have to interview them again. (Hint: It’s a “she”.)

Best advice you’ve ever been given?
Something my mom used to say: “Never attribute to malice what can be explained
by incompetence.” Of course, she never took that advice herself. But good words.

What rule(s) do you live your life by?
What am I, the answer man?

What’s the most important tip you can give PR pros?
Media-PR successes are based on relationships. So don’t lie or exaggerate.
Having the ability to talk openly and honestly with a media person will benefit
you a hundred times over, rather than going for the “quick win.”

Best experience you’ve had with a PR pro? We love to hear about #wins
This is a hard question, not because there are so few good experiences, but
because there actually are so many. Let’s just say there was the time that
somebody did that thing.

I hate?
New housing developments mowing down every last tree in Southern Ontario. Bye
bye birds, bye bye nature.
I love?
Sitting in the sun, reading, cup of coffee.

Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition, by Daniel Okrent.

Best place on earth?
My backyard.

Dinner guest?
Paul McCartney, Noel Gallagher.

The Beatles, Oasis.

Favourite app, or whatever you are downloading these days.
I have a BlackBerry … sigh … no fun for me.

Pool or ocean?
Resort bar.

Voicemail or email?
Here’s your answer: My office phone number rings somewhere in the building at
the Toronto Sun. I have no idea where. The last time it rang, I think some mice
tried to answer it.