Meet the Media – Dan Rosenheim

Bay City News

By David Landis, LCI

Dan Rosenheim is the Director of Business Development at Bay City News. His impressive resume includes working for the Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Tribune, SF Chronicle, KRON and KPIX (CBS).

1. How is reporting different at newspapers, TV and wire services?

The differences are less significant than what, at least in a good newsroom, they all share: a commitment to enduring journalism values that include accuracy, timeliness, balance, relevance, importance, emotional impact, counter-intuition, enterprise.

That said . . .

The great strength of broadcast is its ability to take news consumers directly to the scene and witness events — a wildfire, a debate, a demonstration, a major speech — as they unfold. Live reporting is unscripted — it doesn’t go through a copy editor. “Performance,” whether in the field or on an anchor desk, is an important ingredient — you have to be able to talk to the camera. In most newscasts, time is the enemy of depth. A 30-minute newscast may have a mere 18 minutes for news, once commercials, weather and sports are subtracted. So stories tend to be tight, with an emphasis on video. Spoken words and video must match, so reporters either have to write/talk to the video or find a video that matches what they’re saying.

Performance isn’t typically an issue in print — using prose to tell a compelling story is. There’s more time to report and (despite the shrinking news hole) more room in print/digital to provide detail and nuance. Even now, print newsrooms usually have far more reporters than comparable broadcast organizations so it’s easier to commit resources to in-depth, enterprise and investigative projects. Photos count, sometimes a lot, but overall, their weight is just not comparable to video on TV news.

Wire service news is typically cut-and-dried, just the facts, please, and fast! Wires are essential for news organizations wanting to get a jump on a story, and they complement the news organizations’ staff by covering stories the local papers can’t or won’t get to themselves. Wire services will do enterprise reporting, but they are primarily reactive. They respond to news events and often — even in these Twitter times — provide their clients with the first, essential report of breaking news events — the famous who, what, where, when and, less often, why. They can also help their clients anticipate news events that are worth monitoring or covering by providing advance notice of everything from parades to political events. They are often the go-to pool resource for other media, because they provide quick and accurate fundamentals, especially when time is of the essence.

2. What is the wackiest story you have covered?

Oh, where to start? SF Mayor Frank Jordan inviting two radio reporters on his doorstep in to interview him while he took a shower. SF Examiner Editor Phil Bronstein donning scuba gear to hunt down an alligator in the pond at Mountain Lake Park. A weather anchor showing video of an otter and blurting the otter was “pounding his clams,” then, having realized what he had said, trying in vain to stop laughing for the rest of the three-minute weather report.

Shortly after I left print for TV, my assistant news director came running into my office, saying: “Dan, Dan, I have a great lead for the 6 o’clock news. We’ve got video of some sharks attacking a whale outside the Golden Gate!”

“Lisa,” I replied, “sharks probably attack whales a thousand times a day in the oceans of the world. Why is that a lead for our newscast?”

“Because,” she answered, “we’ve got the VIDEO!”

3. What is your pet peeve when it comes to PR pros?

I really don’t have one. I do think the most effective people in PR invest time in establishing a relationship with reporters. It’s Human Nature 101: I’m much more inclined to weigh a pitch — or take a complaint seriously — if it comes from a PR person I’ve gotten to know and trust.

4. What are big stories for Bay City News? 

For 40 years, Bay City News has covered the region’s major stories 24/7 — disasters, courts, civic affairs, crime. We also cover the significant issues of the day: COVID, the environment, demographics, social justice, politics, education. In the last few years, the news service has expanded its geographic footprint, adding coverage further north, east and south.

In addition, BCN now has a nonprofit affiliate, LocalNewsMatters.org, many of whose stories move on the news wire.  Local News Matters reporting includes issue-driven enterprise, uplifting stories in a section we call “Inspire Me,” arts and entertainment, and stories reported in tandem with nonprofit partners that include Propublica, Big Local News, EdSource and CalMatters.

5. What’s it like working in business development vs. news?

I actually haven’t abandoned news! I spend a fair amount of time editing stories, particularly with younger reporters, and I even write a piece on occasion.

But when I talked to Bay City News Publisher Kat Rowlands about how I might help the wire service, she thought the biggest contribution would be through attracting new subscribers. So in that regard, I guess I’m in Sales!

But I believe in the mission. Bay City News is in many ways the backbone of the region’s news infrastructure. As news organizations evolve and some traditional clients disappear, we’re working to broaden our subscriber base — adding new digital news organizations, national and international news organizations, some smaller local newsrooms, as well as major businesses, government agencies, law enforcement, law firms, PR firms and more. All of them, I think, see a value in getting news reports 24/7, and everyone wants our Datebook calendar of verified news events, which we publish twice a day and which helps set the agenda for news coverage. How am I doing as a salesman?

6. Would you tell us a little about yourself?

I grew up in Chicago, the son of two teachers. I did blue-collar work for six years after graduating college (Wesleyan University, ’70). Got my first newspaper job at age 28 in Lansing, Illinois, and from there went to The Times of Hammond (Indiana), The Chicago Sun-Times and The Chicago Tribune. But my wife, Cindy is a native San Franciscan, and when The San Francisco Chronicle called me about a job, “we” accepted. After a few years reporting at The Chronicle, I became city editor, then managing editor.

In 1997, after nine years in newspaper management, I went to KRON as news director because I wanted to see what it was like doing news in another medium. On my first day at KRON, I inadvertently walked in front of a live camera, causing someone to mutter, “Now I know he’s from print.” But John Sias, the CEO of Chronicle Publications, encouraged the switch because he wanted more “convergence” between the print and broadcast sides.

I spent four years at KRON and, when the station was sold, moved to KPIX where I spent 18 years as VP News.

Along with my duties for BCN, I do a little freelance writing. When I’m not working, I hike a good bit, play so-so tennis and golf, read (mostly modern American fiction), cook. Cindy is a talented illustrator (cindysalansrosenheim.com) and commercial actress, and we have three grown sons.

Leave a comment below or tweet Dan at @DanielKPIX.

Related Articles by Dan:

Hovercraft to SF? It’s one of 5 routes unanimously approved for study

Flying robo-taxis eyed for Bay Area commuters

Ladybug ‘loveliness’ thrills East Bay park visitors in vibrant display

Decision Time Nears for Mega Measure: FASTER Bay Area

8 thoughts on “Meet the Media – Dan Rosenheim

  1. Dan, thanks so much for blessing our humble blog with your entry. I love that you’ve covered the journalistic bases: newspapers, TV and now wire services – but the main connector is always: “What makes a good story?” And, thank you and Bay City News for covering what’s happening in the Bay Area better than anyone else. Cheers, David

  2. I worked with and for Dan while he was at KRON. He was a delight and was always open to new ideas and ways of doing things. I remember one story I was working on was running a little long, ten minutes long! And he looked at it and said “OK” because it worked and was worth the extra time. He was a great loss when he moved down the road to KPIX.

  3. No one understands the mindset and motivation of a reporter better than Dan. In June 1989, after some harrowing experiences during the crackdown at Tiananmen Square, I managed to reach Hong Kong, badly shaken by what I’d seen. A few days later, I learned that a major figure in the Chinese government might be in hiding near Canton after publicly supporting the Democracy Movement. It was a tough call: maybe nothing to the rumor and maybe fatal if there was. Dan phoned me in the middle of the night. “It has to be your call and nobody else’s,” he said. Dan had reported from the wars in Central America in the 1970s, as had I. He knew what was at stake. “No one will judge you if you decide not to go back in. I’ll see to that.” So of course I went back. — Frank Viviano, former Asia Correspondent SF Chronicle

    1. I am very grateful for Frank’s kind remarks, but I need to set the record straight on one thing. I did not report from Central America in the 70s — during which time I was either a factory worker in Pittsburgh and Chicago or a local reporter in northwest Indiana. I spent three weeks in NIcaragua during the Iran-Contra business in the mid-80s (with Chronicle Staff Photographer Steve Ringman).

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