Monday, February 17, 2014

Meet the media: Christian Toto of Big Hollywood and Daddylibrium


Christian Toto is the assistant editor at Big Hollywood and the writer of the daddy blog Daddylibrium.

1. Could you recap your career to this point?

I went to school to be an artist. I gathered three art degrees that I never have used. At the end of college, I did some freelance work for the Roanoke Times. After college, I got to do freelance work
movie critics reviews
Christian Toto
for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and became a feature writer. I also did entertainment work on the side.

I then worked at a newsletter company, which wasn’t a great fit for me. I then worked at a university, and then went to the Washington Times.

For personal reasons, I moved to Denver and did freelance work. I did some work for Big Hollywood, and have been there for two and a half years in a full-time position.

2. How do you decide which stories to write for Big Hollywood and Daddylibrium?

For Big Hollywood, it’s really about the intersection between entertainment and politics from a conservative perspective. Our readers are generally conservative, so “Noah” and “RoboCop” are two new movies that are of interest to our readers. “Noah” is a biblical story, while “RoboCop” covers current topics such as the use of drones.  

For Daddylibirum, I call the shots because it’s my site. I try to do posts that help dads become better parents and have better marriages. Any tips I can give people based on my experience that will help them is my goal. 

3. How would you describe your approach to writing?

When I’m doing an interview, often I’ll recognize the lead of the story based on experience. For my daddy blog, when my source says something interesting or unique, that sets off my Spidey-sense. For Big Hollywood, if people say something unique, I focus on that. I want to find an interesting way to start things off. After finding a good lead, the rest falls into place. The lead is the hardest. 

4. What has been the most interesting experience interviewing a Hollywood celebrity?

Shooting the breeze with Jack Nicholson. A few journalists and I were just hanging out with him. I interviewed James Brown in his trailer when he had curlers in his hair. He told me to tell my parents that they did a good job raising me. It’s really the odd personal connections with celebrities that are unique. I also understand that there are reasons why people are rich and famous. For instance, I interviewed The Rock (Dwayne Johnson). I was 21 of 22 interviews that The Rock had that day, yet he still was professional and enthusiastic with me. I understand the type of work ethic that takes as well as commitment to his craft and promoting his work. 

5. How has the media changed during your career?

Almost everything has changed. There are fewer and fewer jobs, and less stability in the arena. I believe that I have successfully straddled the line between traditional journalism and the web. I would talk to people five years ago who were fighting the Web. I don’t understand why they were fighting it; the Web was clearly coming.

I feel that I have seen a lot of media outlets get flat-footed as a result. A lot of media outlets are writing the same story. If it snows, they interview a boy who has school off.  

You have to get more creative and think outside the box (pardon the clich√©). You have to shake up the model.  

6. What do you see as the future of producing content across various platforms?

I really don’t know. It will be a combination of social media and different platforms. Reporters have to share what they know on social media, focus on keywords in their stories, take photos and more. The journalist of tomorrow has to be really flexible and dynamic. I think that we still don’t know.

7. What types of movies appeal to you?

It’s really a pretty broad spectrum. The kid in me still likes the summer blockbusters. There’s something about being in the theater and having a communal experience. I like films that sneak up on me.  

My tastes still are mainstream for the most part. My eyes roll if I can predict the arc of the story, though.

8. What are some of your favorite stories that you have covered in your career and blog posts that you have written?

Story wise, I used to cover the Kennedy Center Honors. It was great to meet celebrities in a fun atmosphere. I wrote a piece for People magazine about Mattie Stepanek, a boy who had a disease where he couldn’t live into his 20s. He did eventually die. He had me sign his guestbook. I was very impressed that I merited the opportunity to sign that. 

9. How can public relations professionals help you in your job? What are you looking for from them?

Always respect how journalists like to be contacted. E-mail is fine. I don’t like phone pitches – I have too much on my plate. I can analyze things better via e-mail. I don’t mind if people follow up by e-mail if they haven’t heard from me. It’s OK if they provide me some story ideas – that can be kind of fun.  

If I reach out to someone in PR, please keep me posted on the updates about connecting with sources. It helps to know the status of the PR person's efforts in trying to connect with the experts who ultimately will be interviewed. 

10. Is there anything else that you would like to add?

I have worked with good PR people. The people who represent film studios both locally and nationally have been great to me. In particular, I would like to give a shout-out to the people at Allied Integrated Marketing

I had bad experiences in D.C. with the D.C. public school system – no one connecting with me, the mailbox was full and more. I never did find out what the deal was with that.      

For a collection of more public relations tips, insights and reflections, buy the book "19 Tips for Successful Public Relations: Insights on Media Relations and Reputation Management" from!
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