Media, Darling: Jeni Besworth

Jeni B. entered the television industry over 12 years ago and never looked back. She has met, produced & interviewed some of the biggest celebrities. Highlights include: helping Pink make a new outfit with scissors & tape seconds before her live performance. Accidentally making a pass at Jon Cryer. Interviewing Tommy Chong from the living room floor after he threw his back out. Becoming the voice of Cribs.
Jeni is currently the supervising producer of Oh So Cosmo on Cosmo TV. Other credits include Open Mike with Mike Bullard, Canadian Idol, the Juno Awards, Walk of Fame, Project Runway Canada, MTV, So You Think You Can Dance Canada and Much Music. And, she is not above unpacking Lady Gaga’s shoes for her.

Twitter: @jenibesworth, @Oh_So_Cosmo 

Did you always want to be in the media? If not, what other careers were on the horizon?  
When I was in high school, my dream was to be on radio. So when I went to Ryerson, I finished the first year, thought I wouldn’t need any more schooling, and promptly left. I’ve been working in TV almost ever since!
Where would you like to be five years from now?
I am not aging very willingly so I don’t love looking ahead five years (ha), but if I must, I’d really like to still be working in a job I love. I have had the good fortune of being employed in this industry very consistently and I’d like to continue working on shows that are smart, informative and relevant. And personally, I hope I’m still kicking ass at being a good mama.

Any advice for people getting started in your industry?
 
Weirdly, it’s not always what you know, it’s how hard you’re willing to work to learn it. I am where I am because someone took a chance on me. Again and again. If you love what you do, and you put your whole heart into it, you’ll see results.

What are your favourite media outlets, not including your own?
I am newly in love with CBC Radio 2 – Drive with Rich Terfry, Q with Jian Ghomeshi, 99.9 Virgin Radio and my girl Taylor Kaye on Kiss 92.5. I watch a multitude of bad television shows – no judgement, it’s “research”. I’m 10 months off Facebook but have fallen in love with Twitter. I also frequent Lainey Gossip, People.com, George Stromboloupoulos’ site. I read Toronto Life, Today’s Parent and I really love Metro when I hop on the subway. 

Best interview you’ve ever had?
Working on the Bullard show was for sure a career highlight. Not only did I get to work with my best friends (and I literally sat across from my BFF every day!), the sheer amount of celebrities that passed through those doors on a regular basis was astounding. When I was the music producer, I not only booked the guests, but of course, pre-interviewed them. One time while trying to get any kind of interview out of Jack Black & Kyle Gass (Tenacious D), they jumped up mid-sentence, started playing air guitar and changed the words of TNT by AC/DC to ‘jeni b’. 

All of the interviews on Cribs have been amazing, as well. These people invite you into their homes and allow you to see them at their most intimate and they’ve almost all been gracious and lovely and kind. Jillian Barberie was a wonderful host. Bif Naked… what can I even say about her? She’s the bees knees. They’ve all exceeded my expectations.
But lastly, my true favourites came from interviewing some of the thousands of competitors that auditioned for Idol & SYTYCDC. My all time favourite thing is talking to “regular” peeps & finding out where they came from and why they are who they are today. Everybody has a story.

Worst?
 
I guess the worst interviews are the ones when you are left hanging. I’m so lucky that there are very few of these in my history.

Best advice you’ve ever been given?
 
My dad told me to “give a firm handshake and look ‘em in the eye.” And John Brunton (CEO of Insight Productions), who gave me my first big job and whom I highly respect, once turned to me while standing on George St. in St. John’s, Newfoundland, after a particularly long and stressful day of casting for Canadian Idol, and said “It’s only TV, baby!”. That has stuck with me for years.

It’s important and it’s wonderful to work in, but we’re not saving anyone’s life here. When everything is going to shit, I always remember that.

What rule(s) do you live your life by?
I’m a type-A, super organized, scheduled kind of gal. So lately I’m trying to be a little more open to living in the moment and realizing that it’s okay to be what I am, with a side of free spirit. One thing I definitely do is live every day with ‘pay it forward’ in mind. I’m the girl that returns my grocery cart to it’s proper place and will change route to help an elderly person up the stairs at the subway. Compassion doesn’t always win in this industry but I will never be able to not play by those rules. Oh, and manners are non-negotiable.

What’s the most important tip you can give PR pros? 

I know how busy everyone is, but a simple response to an inquiry goes a long way. I think taking the time to acknowledge people will make them keep coming back to you over and over.

Best experience you’ve had with a PR pro? We love to hear about #wins.
Honestly? Deb and rock-it. Every time I change jobs, there are lots of names I take with me. But I have a special top 10 that’s comprised of publicists and music reps that I know and love and have complete and total trust and confidence in. Deb and her team are polite and responsive and hard workers and, they’re in the know! Deb is always the first person I contact when I start something new and she always has content and suggestions for me.  [Ed. note: The love is mutual. jeni b is a kick ass producer, and an all around cool chick.]

I hate? Bullshit. And entitlement. And people who are mean to old folks, animals and children.  Being late makes me crazy.

I love?
Lola & Izzie. Tattoos. Cupcakes. My family. My friends. Music and dancing (in the comfort of my own living room). Writing in small letters (because I think they’re cuter). Movies, TV, magazines. Chocolate.

Reading?
I just finished Bossy Pants by Tina Fey and was completely irritating other subway passengers with my loud bursts of laughter. It’s really so funny. Now I’m about to delve back into Of Human Bondage which was a gift from a dear friend.

Best place on earth?
Just outside the door peeking into the place where my girls are singing at the top of their lungs, dancing around the room and playing their little hearts out (followed by huge squeezes). That, or on a tropical beach somewhere being served copious amounts of chocolate by a cute cabana boy.

Dinner guest?
Dad and Elvis and Ryan Gosling.

Hero?  

I admire and respect every single woman in my life for all different reasons, and I’d have to say they’re all my heroes. From my mom & sister to my best friends & co-workers, they’ve all worked hard to become who they are. They’ve all persevered and struggled and they juggle all the things in their lives like no one else (working mamas get extra props for their unbelievable multi-tasking). Advice is never far away and I’m forever grateful to be constantly inspired by them all.

Favourite app? 

What’s an app? Just kidding. Sort of.

Pool or ocean?
 
Ocean, every single time.

Voicemail or email?  

Email. I’m lightning fast at responding and my Blackberry is never far away.

Media, Darling: Erica Ehm

Erica Ehm is founder and publisher of YummyMummyClub.ca, the online social network that speaks to the woman in every mom.
Erica’s message is one of empowerment. It was her difficult transition from career woman to exhausted mother that inspired Erica to create an online destination for women with children. A multi-tasking mom of two, Erica and her yummy YMC team have become well-read resources for Canadian women looking for insight and advice on how to survive mummydom. Coming up with new and playful ways to connect brands with moms is Erica’s definition of fun (she doesn’t get out much).

Her son Joshua, daughter Jessie, and husband Terry are the reason Erica is a Yummy Mummy.
Did you always want to be in the media? If not, what other careers were on the horizon?
I’ve always been the outsider, the bystander. I like to watch and report. I want to reflect and share the stories of my peers. I did it while working on MuchMusic about pop culture and now I’m doing it for motherhood at YummyMummyClub.ca

Where would you like to be five years from now?
I would like to not be in front of my computer as much as I am now. I hope I’m out in the community empowering women, and more importantly, spending lots of fun time with my kids and husband.

Any advice for people getting started in your industry?
Get ready to put in a shitload of hours into building your business. Especially if you’re involved in the world of blogging and social media, the amount of time you put will directly relate to your level of success in building relationships and audience/readers.

What are your favourite media outlets, not including your own?

I like perusing other Canadian mom-run sites likes WeeWelcome, Canadian Family, SweetMama, ParentCentral.ca. I like Toronto Star, Globe and Mail, HuffingtonPost, and Good.is for general reading.

Best interview you’ve ever had?
My favourite interview is usually the last one I’ve done because I get smarter and more accomplished as time passes.


Worst?
Do you mean someone interviewing me or me interviewing someone, because I play both sides of the coin.

Best advice you’ve ever been given? 

Be nice to everyone ‘cuz you never know who you’ll be passing on their way up while you’re on your way down.

What rule(s) do you live your life by? 

Life is all about choices. Make good ones. I love how John Steinbeck brings that to life in East of Eden.

What’s the most important tip you can give PR pros?
Remember that moms who blog are often professional writers trying to make a living. If you want them to promote your product, treat them with respect. Pay them for their time. Don’t patronize them/us.

Best experience you’ve had with a PR pro? We love to hear about #wins.
Duri AlJarami isn’t a PR person per se. He was, until recently, the head of Digital Social Media at Ogilvy and he understands how to create great relationships with influencers and respect the work they do. When I work on a campaign with Duri, he doesn’t micromanage the content.

Instead, he has carefully researched his influencers and then lets them free to write, blog, tweet anything they feel inspired to say in relation to the brand and product. He (and his clients) benefit by having loyal social media bloggers who always give him more than he asks. He understands the importance of authenticity in social media. I am an ardent fan of his. All media types and brands could learn from him. Tell him I sent you.

I hate?
Negativity, especially online. Mean-spirited comments and tweets break my heart.

Bureaucracy. It’s dumb.

Wasteful government spending. Too prevalent.

Wasting time when there’s so much awesomeness to do.

I love?
My kids and husband who made me a yummy mummy, and give me the freedom to devote so much time doing what I love, which is building my “Ehm”pire and connecting with amazing women.

Reading?
Just finished Pride and Prejudice to coincide with my family tour to the U.K.

Best place on earth?
My home. It’s fun to venture out, but its heaven to come home.

Dinner guest?
I’d love to have all my Yummy Mummy staff and bloggers over for dinner. They are an inspiring, intelligent and passionate bunch. Although we all have different passions and interests, we’re all struggling to maintain our sense of self while giving so much to our families. There is so much to talk about when we get together! And if Oprah wanted to show up for dessert, that would be fun, too.

Hero?
That’s a tough one to answer because heroes come in all shapes and sizes. From local mom Heather Hamilton who lost her son and is on a mission to do good in his name, to Oprah for building her empire, to my mom for inspiring me with her personal and professional power. I am in awe of so many women who have a dream and make it happen.

Favourite app (or whatever you are downloading these days)?
Hootsuite and my flashlight app.

Pool or ocean?
A farm in the country with a babbling brook.

Voicemail or email?
Twitter.

Media, Darling: Paul Boynett

Veteran producer Paul Boynett has been working in the entertainment/television industry for over a decade. He got his start in the showbiz industry at Much Music, were he worked as an overnight tape operator, had a few editing and producing gigs at Much Music and StarTV, then finally settled at Bravo! as an Associate Producer. He is addicted to anything by The Beatles, Clash or Led Zeppelin, is a self-proclaimed Ontario craft beer expert and thinks that Jack White should produce every record made. 


Other fun facts about Boynett: opera makes him cry, he loves when Norah Jones goes country and he takes his single malt and blended Scotches seriously. 

With the bearded dragon (the lizard, not Boynett).
Did you always want to be in the media? If not, what other careers were on the horizon?
No. I was either going to be a screenwriter or an air traffic controller.

Where would you like to be five years from now?
On the Amalfi Coast in Italy.

Any advice for people getting started in your industry?
Don’t expect to start out doing what you want. I wanted to be a producer but when nothing was available I took an editing position. Although I wasn’t great at it, it gave me a better perspective on storytelling (I knew what worked and what didn’t) and when I did become a producer, I had a much better idea about how to do the job.

What are your favourite media outlets, not including your own?
Setanta, HBO and anyone showing soccer. I am addicted to The Onion A/V club.  A must-visit site for pop culture junkies. I listen to NPR’s “All Songs Considered” and “Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me” (a very funny look at the week’s news headlines styled like a ’50’s quiz show).

Best interview you’ve ever had? Worst?
Stephen Colbert in Montreal was the best. I got to talk to him alone for about ten minutes while camera was setting up (this was about three months before he left The Daily Show to start The Colbert Report) and he told me a great story about how when he was growing up, he was embarrassed by the stigma of being from the south. So much so he tried to hide his accent when he went to college at Northwestern. A very, very smart guy – as all great comics are.


Wilford Brimley (the diabetes commercial guy) was the worst. He thought I mistook him for another actor (which I didn’t) and it became very awkward.

Best advice you’ve ever been given?
When I was an editor and got tense as deadlines approached, a senior editor told me never to panic – it always gets to air.


What rule(s) do you live your life by?
Never discuss politics with friends.

Never say something behind someone’s back that you wouldn’t say to their face.

Don’t waste your energy reacting to someone who is nasty or negative.


What’s the most important tip you can give PR pros?
Tell me why whatever it is you are promoting works for my show(s). With an email inbox that sometimes is bursting at the seams, it is easier if I know immediately why something is a good fit for us. 

Also, although my hair looks like Einstein’s, I am no genius. Sometimes there is an angle to a story or event that is not obvious to me, so show me.

Best experience you’ve had with a PR pro? We love to hear about #wins.  
Anytime someone arrives at an interview with all the materials (clips, photos, etc.) I need to put my story together makes me happy. Having to follow up and wait for story elements is frustrating and sometimes means missed deadlines.


I hate?:
Waking up before 10 a.m.  Oh yeah, also, gardening.

I love?:  
Waking up after 10 a.m. Manchester City Football Club. My dogs. (Two Italian Greyhounds and a Chihuahua).

Reading? 
Among The Truthers by Jonathan Kay.

Best place on earth?
It’s a tie – Austin, Texas and Venice, Italy.

Dinner guest? 
Hero?
Hank Williams.


Favourite app (or whatever you are downloading these days)? 
NPR App (is this sounding pretentious?).

Pool or ocean? 
Neither, I am deathly afraid of sharks and I hate chlorine.

Voicemail or email?
Email.