Deputy Editor, BBC.com/Culture, BBC Worldwide North America
In Blauvelt’s three-year tenure, the Culture section of BBC.com has quadrupled site traffic by innovating personalized news experiences. Blauvelt knows how to drive traffic, conversations, and attention to BBC’s Culture section. He created the Culture section’s Facebook page, which grew to 400,000 followers before he turned control over to a social media assistant. His many accomplishments include the development of Tastemaker, a weekly, cultural cheat sheet, and a highly-trafficked poll of 177 film critics on the 100 Greatest Films of the 21st Century (Survey says: “Mulholland Drive.”) Blauvelt’s making noise outside of BBC.com, serving as a recurring pop culture commentator for CBS New York.
Who has been your biggest mentor and why?
Thom Geier, the managing editor at The Wrap. We worked together when I was at Entertainment Weekly, where he was tireless in his pursuit of excellence and set an example for quality I always try to match. There wasn’t a harder worker at EW, and the cover stories and packages he put together for the magazine were always creative. His approach to entertainment journalism isn’t at all to be an adjunct of film studios’ publicity campaigns – he values rigorous reporting and journalistic independence. It was under his guidance that I wrote my first major feature for EW, on the typecasting of Middle Eastern actors as terrorists in Hollywood film and TV productions, and I think often of the lessons he taught me — he’ll be a role model for me for as long as I’m in this business.
The first social platform or website you visit after waking up in the morning?
Boring answer, but, beyond BBC.com, it’s The New York Times. They remain not only the gold standard for reporting and analysis, but beyond the “what” and the “why” of their journalism it’s the “how” that always impresses me: how they choose to tell their stories – whether it’s a comic-strip about life on death row, a director’s video commentary for a scene from his or her new film, or a quasi-book-length account of everything that’s happened in the Middle East this century. You will always learn something.
What is the one habit that makes you most successful?
Not so much a habit as a mindset that requires continual rededication: the openness and willingness to learn, without bias or defensiveness, about everything at all times. I’m always amazed when I encounter people who say they don’t know anything about a topic and then do nothing to learn about it. Learn about it! You don’t have to be a fan of that topic or admire it, but you should open yourself to knowledge about it. That will prevent you from living in an information bubble. But to have that willingness to learn you also have to recognize that you yourself don’t have all the answers, and that your preconceived, un-researched notions may not be right. Smugness rarely leads to learning, and without learning you can’t have innovation.
What product or service can you not live without?
I will fully admit to being a Twitter junkie. Depending on how you curate your followers it may easily become an echo chamber. But it has a greater degree of openness than Facebook and it allows you to take the temperature of the media world faster than any other platform. It’s a way to see in real-time how, rightly or wrongly, breaking news is spun into a narrative – and it’s a critical record for showing how the desire to spin breaking news into a narrative can be kneejerk and wrongheaded. Not everything needs a “take”.
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