Mark Graham on Doing Original News Reporting in a Digital Media Career

In Chapter 15 of 17 in his 2012 Capture Your Flag interview, digital media executive Mark Graham answers "How Is News Reporting Becoming Increasingly Relevant in Your Career?"  Graham discusses his work covering the entertainment world and how working at VH1 gives him access to music and pop culture talent, which he is able to integrate into original news content.  This allows him and his team to enhance VH1 brand marketing and brand promotion.  He provides examples of interviewing Gym Class Heroes for VH1 Unplugged as well as doing interviews with Lana Del Rey, Maroon 5, and Rebecca Ferguson. 

Mark Graham is currently a managing editor at VH1, an MTV Networks company. Previously Graham worked in editing and writing roles at New York Magazine and Gawker Media.  He graduated from the University of Michigan with a B.A. in English.  


Erik Michielsen: How is news reporting becoming increasingly relevant in your career?

Mark Graham: As everyone sort of knows there are literally thousands of websites, blogs, Twitter feeds, people and their Facebook pages, everyone is sort of a news source right now and disseminating. And the way that you can separate your coverage from other people’s coverage is to bring original reporting into the light, into the world. And so one of the advantages that we have at VH1 that a lot of other of our other competitors don’t necessarily have is the fact that we have access to talent, be they bands, musicians, actors, things of that importance, so because we have access to talent and because talent does drive a lot of conversation, you know, not only in terms of what people are interested in reading, but they’re also a disseminator of news sources. 

If you work together with a band, and put together an interview that you feel has met your objectives in terms of what information people are looking to get out, and also something that they are interested in promote—using to promote a project that they’re working on at the current time, that’s a really powerful way to get your story out past your normal core readership. So original reporting is super important and something that we have been focusing tons of time and effort on and something that I’ve personally been working really hard on building up my skills in that sort of arena over the course of—largely since the last time I did this last year, my Year 2 interview. 

This year I’ve interviewed a number of musicians, both sort of small, breaking artists as well as bigger names. You know, earlier this year, I got a chance to interview Lana Del Rey who is a new musician, that went really well. I talked to Maroon 5 at the Crosby Hotel last week, which was really great. I had sat down with Gym Class Heroes for a recent VH1 Unplugged Special, as well as some, you know, younger artists who people really haven’t heard of, there’s an artist named Rebecca Ferguson who is going to be our July and August You Oughta Know artist for VH1, and really sort of, you know, I’m sort of honing my skills in talking to these people about their work and their craft and what motivates them, and what drives them to create the art that they put out into the world, and the universe. And those are things that frankly a lot of other sites that we compete with don’t have that sort of access. 

And so being original and coming up with ideas to present content to them in a fun way, that they’re willing to play ball with, that we’re able to put together into fun interesting packages for people to consume largely in video online is hugely important and a major differentiator, and frankly, one of the only ways that we can get, that we can bring new readers into the fold.