E! News Chief Correspondent Melanie Bromley didn’t always know she’d spend her professional life in front of the camera.
Growing up just outside of London and studying physical geography in university, Melanie had plans to become a pedologist and help African farmers with desertification when she was offered a job on a news desk. Figuring that learning how to meet tight deadlines would be a useful skill on any continent, she accepted the position.
In the time it took to save enough money for a ticket to Africa, Melanie was hooked on the adrenaline rush of breaking news — and hasn’t turned back since.
Melanie went on to complete a master’s in journalism, landing a job with a small news agency in Los Angeles. Her decision to move to a new country, with a new career and limited resources, was a risky one — but she hustled and continued to meet with success.
After a few years with the LA agency, she cold-called an editor whom she admired at Us Weekly and pitched the idea of setting up a European Bureau for the celebrity news magazine. The year was 2003, and People and Us Weekly were locked in a massive rivalry at the time. Us had limited international coverage, which placed Melanie’s pitch in an extremely advantageous position. Us tapped her to become the European Bureau chief, overseeing all international news coverage from the publication’s London office.
Four years later, Us asked Melanie to move back to LA to run the West Coast bureau. “It was the beginning of probably the craziest five years of my life,” Melanie shared in a recent interview with IVY Magazine. “It was a bonkers time, thanks to an exploding celebrity news culture and magazine wars — and Us was at the center of it all. It was like being on a roller coaster, totally exhilarating and fun, but my head was still spinning by the time I got off. Then, in 2011, E! News poached me.”
Melanie quickly worked her way up the E! News ladder, demonstrating her journalistic chops in stories ranging from the 2012 Olympic Games in London to the 2013 birth of Prince George. In 2014, she was named Chief News Correspondent at the network.
“I can honestly say the skills I have learned in journalism have opened so many other doors,” Melanie reflected. “It’s taught me how to ask questions, how to predict the next step, and how to see the connections between situations, behavior, and people. Having a genuine interest in someone’s journey, understanding what motivates them, and learning the importance of networking, has served me in all areas of my life.”
Melanie sat down with IVY Magazine for an extended interview on her journey to E! News, her thoughts on the nature of celebrity in today’s social media-driven world, and her five tips for making a story that captivates an audience.
What does a day in the life of an E! News Chief Correspondent look like?
My day is split between time on air and working behind the scenes. I complete anywhere from two to four live shows a day (for both digital and linear); when I’m not broadcasting, I am writing op-eds and investigative features, or reporting (working with sources or doing interviews). I also help produce a show on Facebook Live.
What attracted you specifically to entertainment/celebrity news?
Growing up, I was fascinated with Hollywood — to the extent that my parents would let me call in sick to school the day after the Oscars so I could watch the awards ceremony live! (It was broadcast in the middle of the night.)
I think reading Jackie Collins novels as a teenager fueled my intrigue. I specifically remember a scene set in the Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel, and thinking it sounded like the most glamorous place in the world.
I never imagined, years later, I would spend half my adult life having meetings there.
On-camera journalism/broadcasting is a very competitive space. How did you stand apart from your competitors on your way up?
I never set out to be on camera, it was just something that happened. E! approached me because of the cover stories I had worked on. So, I guess I stood out because of my perseverance in reporting and ability to work both sides of the camera.
Most broadcast journalism students now know there are very few on-air positions where you just walk in the door, have your hair and makeup done, and read prompter. You have to be able to roll up your sleeves and report. Live television, digital channels, a demand for authenticity — they all mean viewers expect the person relaying the story to them to fully understand its significance, know the means by which they have the information, and understand why it matters.
Within celebrity, do you have a specific vertical you love covering most (TV actors, film actors, recording artists, models)?
I have never had a specific beat because, with breaking news situations, you need to be able to react and get accurate information quickly. The wider the network, the easier it is to start putting the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle together.
For obvious reasons, when news of Prince’s death broke, we were all taken by surprise. He wasn’t someone we were covering regularly at the time. As soon as it happened, I had to go live on Facebook for 90 minutes, and then immerse myself in the story so I could find out the who, what, when, where, and why for our readers and viewers.
I tend to be assigned in-depth investigative interviews because I refuse to give up easily. A year ago, I was interviewing a reality star who had falsified information. It took four hours but we eventually got the story through an elaborate dance of questions and answers. It was a case of asking and listening, and then repeating and matching it up. I wish I could tell you that is my only four-hour interview — but it isn’t, I’ve done a few of those.
How has the nature of celebrity changed in the wake of social media’s fixture in our society?
It’s given celebrities a direct link to their fans, and that’s been incredibly empowering on both sides. Stars no longer have to worry about whether their POV has been diluted or lost in translation. For some, however, it’s highlighted the importance of having a third person around: a conversation without a filter can also be very damaging.
Social media has also changed the way we report on celebrities. At E!, we have a Facebook Live show every morning where we’ll debate topics. I love reading the real-time conversations that take place in the comment section as we broadcast. It’s allowed our viewers to feel more involved in the pop culture discussion. I try to go through each and every one so I can answer any follow-up questions because it’s become an incredible tool for taking the pulse around an issue.
It would appear that social media has democratized fame, but what has its impact been on talent?
It’s made every celebrity with a Snapchat account the star of their own reality show. It fascinates me because, for years, celebrities were perceived as being these mostly mysterious, elusive beings. Now, we are privy to every aspect of their daily lives, from the mundane to the fascinating. While it’s made some of them more relatable, it’s definitely highlighted the differences with others (very few people can relate to a celebrity drinking champagne in their private jet).
The knock-on effect of all of this is that we now have fewer A-listers, and more B- and C-listers. Avoiding social media has made some of the bigger stars less relevant but it’s also piqued interest in others because we naturally want what we can’t have, right? That’s why I enjoy covering the royals so much. Kate Middleton certainly doesn’t use Snapchat to record what’s really going on behind the palace walls, and that makes her more interesting.
Do these platforms (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube) make celebrity a more powerful asset, or have they diluted the strength that has historically come with fame?
It’s made it easier for people to become insta-famous, since the channel of communication is there; yet it’s harder to sustain, since the competition has increased.
The importance of celebrity has also increased. Not just in society as a whole, but within smaller groups — friendships, families, communities. Hyper-connectivity has skewed our perspective and, as a result, some people now believe social media popularity is going to fulfil them. In reality, as we know, it’s not what’s going to sustain them in the long term.
What makes for the most engaging story?
Tales that are anchored in life lessons. I am a sucker for a happy ending, especially if someone has overcome struggle to get there.
I interviewed Elton John for the first U.S. magazine cover to feature a gay couple and their baby. I will always be so proud of that story because of how groundbreaking it was, what it represented (it was nominated for a GLAAD award), and also because of Elton’s willingness to open up about how it felt to crawl back from rock bottom and achieve the impossible to become a father. I loved being the conduit for him, and I hope it inspired others.
What are five specific tips anyone can follow to craft a super engaging and captivating story?
1. Know your audience and understand why they care. I know not everyone will agree with me on this, but I think as the reporter you should care just as much as your audience. For instance, I understand why our viewers love certain stories because I am equally interested, hence why I want to find out more and dig deeper.
2. Look for the story arc. Basic stuff, but you need to tell the journey about how the person/situation got from point A to point B. You want your reader/viewer to feel satisfied that they’ve taken the time to read/watch.
3. Understand motivation. Most stories have multiple layers. You should try to peel back every one so you can see why someone made certain choices. I try to relate to everything I cover, even celebrities behaving badly, because it’s often just a result of low self-esteem.
4. Details. Don’t skimp on them. They’re imperative for drawing someone into a story.
5. More of a tip for what to do next — but even when you think you know all the answers and have your story, continue to ask why. It will lead you to the next beat.
Amazing, thank you for the insights. One final question: why do you love what you do?
Hollywood is the ultimate petri dish: a land filled with extraordinary people living extraordinary lives. Adding a droplet of fame, a dash of money, some talent, and a ton of adoration to a person’s live can lead to circumstances that bring out the best and the worst in certain people. The motives, differing personalities, and whole environment fascinate me.