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Richard Rushfield Takes the Helm at HitFix

Richard Rushfield

Richard Rushfield

When Richard Rushfield started his career as a journalist decades ago, the pool of writers with access to a sizeable audience on a day-to-day basis could fit in the palm of his hand.  Quality of content was a paradigm, and instances of knee-jerk reaction reporting would be cast aside by readers as unacceptable in the scope of the overall conversation.

Today, it is difficult for even the best writing to rise to the top of page views before being buried under a mountain of articles that are published online minute-to-minute.

As the newly appointed editor in chief of entertainment site HitFix, Rushfield is excited to deliver high-end, interesting and provocative content to the forefront of entertainment coverage, and has his confidence beaming as he enters the new role.

He joined HitFix in November, and right after co-founder and board director of the site, Gregory Ellwood, transitioned to the editor emeritus position.  Rushfield has been familiar with the entertainment news hub since serving as a member of HitFix’s Board of Directors, when the site was originally founded in 2009.

The veteran journalist brings a wealth of knowledge, online experience and a hefty resume to HitFix. Prior to joining, he worked as the Los Angeles bureau chief for BuzzFeed, as well as the West Coast editor for Gawker. Additionally, he has published several books on a variety of topics.

Rushfield’s high expectations for his new roster of both established writers and those cutting their teeth in front of a live audience, is what will help his team find a dedicated audience. At the heart of his philosophy is creating the best content and developing an authoritative voice in the entertainment online space.

“I am very excited to be working with both experienced writers with thoughtful voices and their own following, as well as up-and-coming writers carving out their place on the Internet,” Rushfield said.“It is great on both ends of the spectrum to work with the writers to hone their voices, do great reporting and move the cultural conversation.”

In order to do that, Rushfield plans to help develop his new crew into authority in their subject areas. But that’s not to say, there won’t be any challenges along the way.

HitFix Screengrab
“Entertainment coverage on the Web is a constant, and the field gets ever more crowded. For a mid-sized site like HitFix to find its place and continue to grow it must be consistently unique and distinguished by its reporting and commentary,” he said.

And he certainly has a good digital canvas for that. HitFix is the fastest-growing multi-platform entertainment brand in the United States. It has a combined social following of more than 200K, and Rushfield wants to provide a haven for “unique and knowledgeable voices and reporting” by focusing on the craft of his staff, instead of every single story that breaks. For Rushfield, reporting is a skill that takes time to learn and is impossible to master.

“Real reporting is the tiresome thing that no one wants to do, but that makes stories great. …These days, anyone can share their thoughts about anything, anytime,” he said. “But young people who are given the [digital] space early in their careers should be aware they are on stage and everything counts. Their mistakes will stay with them, as will their triumphs.”

But how does one create unique and knowledgeable commentary on culture, in such saturated entertainment space? By focusing on your niche, becoming an expert and finding an angle that hasn’t been overly discussed, Rushfield said.

“Having a niche allows you to develop a deep expertise that is always important,” he said. “It means you miss out on stories outside your niche — which in the past as someone with a very erratic attention span, has been frustrating. But in the end, it’s far better to know a lot about something, than very little about lots of things.”

The constant search for new story angles is also important for developing that niche. Finding that “new piece of information, a different perspective that hasn’t been part of the conversation,” is something Rushfield also wants to focus on.

“[I look for] a deeper historical look at the roots of a current topic. Something more than just one more recitation of what is already being said.”

The best resource for that, according to Rushfield, is relying on your resources, and casting aside the easy way out of Internet searching.

“If you want to get ahead of it, nothing beats an in-person conversation with someone who works in a field. You’ll learn more than you would in three months of Googling,” he said. “These sources are to good reporting, as primary sources are to good dissertations, and those who do not incorporate any into their research run the risk of blending into non-existence in the conversation.”

Pitching Tips

“Send me something I haven’t see before that’s relevant to my field. I get hundreds of PR pitches a day in my email box but I look at every one of them. You never know where news is going to come from,” he said.

Rushfield strongly advises PR professionals to do their homework before pitching.

“Read the sites you are pitching to. Understand what it is they print, what sorts of stories they are looking for, and instead of just blasting them with an automated group email, think creatively about out how your client might (or might not) work best  on the site.”

About Neal Gregus

Neal T. Gregus is a Features Writer for Cision Blog. He is also a research aficionado focusing on print media in Cision’s Research division. He is hopelessly addicted to live music and can be found front row anywhere in Chicago. Or find him on Twitter at @NealGregus.

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