The Drum's 'Unsung Heroes' series is a celebration of the people in the industry who slog hard behind the limelight for their companies, brands and clients.
As they are seldom in the spotlight for their contribution to the success of campaigns, and this is their time to shine.
Lou Foglia is a news writer at Beme, which is now run on YouTube by CNN after the media company shut down the app. In the era of fake news, Foglia is keen to rebuild the trust and credibility that people have in news.
Why is your job important?
A big chunk of the population – particularly young people – have a hard time relating to traditional news organizations. I think that disconnect has transformed into resentment and mistrust for a lot of people. That’s not good. News outlets need to be trusted.
Frankly, I struggled with that same disconnect when I worked at some of these traditional news organizations. I felt like I was making content for the tastes of older executives and not for a new generation of news consumers.
We built Beme News with that younger generation in mind. A generation that craves connection, authenticity, transparency, and a more informal storytelling presentation. So it’s been a very freeing experience for me. And the icing on top of the cake – I don’t have to wear a suit and tie or wear make-up.
What is the hardest and stressful part of your job?
The same with all jobs in news. Being accurate. Being facts-forward. Maintaining professional editorial standards.
The show I host is about my point of view. I do not find it problematic to share my perspective, as long as I show the audience how and why I arrived at that perspective – “this is the evidence I found, here’s what this expert said, this is what that study shows, etc.”
I am even careful about revealing the personal biases I have – how riding the terrible New York City subway every morning impacts my view on electric vehicles subsidies, for instance.
So yeah, making sure everything I say is well sourced and well researched is definitely the most stressful part of my job. But I think that is healthy stress for any journalist.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
When I was working as a journalist for companies like Bloomberg, Vice or CNN, sources and experts would generally get back to me. They respected the established reputation of those institutions and they were willing to cooperate with me because of that.
With Beme, it is tougher to get someone to respond, and when they do, I can usually sense a bit of skepticism – like, “You’re a what? A YouTube news channel? What does that mean?”
I love overcoming that skepticism. So I always find it rewarding when I receive emails from experts and sources who praise a piece for being insightful or concise or whatever.
The best emails are from people who are complimentary even when I challenge their point of view. So yeah, I find it rewarding to have a hand in building up Beme News’s reputation.
First thing that comes to people’s minds when you tell them your job?
“You’re kidding.” Or at least that’s what friends and acquaintances say when I tell them I have a new YouTube show. Keep in mind, I had absolutely zero ambition to be on camera.
For people I do not know, especially older folks, I think the prevailing stereotype is that YouTube is for teenagers who like to skateboard and wear backwards hats.
Hopefully, the type of stuff we do at Beme broadens the idea of what news for YouTube is and can be.
How would you correct/explain to them what you do then?
I tell them to watch an episode of my show on Beme. During the show, I make sure to be as transparent as possible and discuss my sources and how I obtained information. I think that’s an important way to build trust and establish credibility with the audience, especially for a young brand like ours on a platform that is not exactly associated with journalism.
Is there anything you want to change in your job?
As a producer – whether here at Beme or at other places I have worked – there’s always a tension between quality and deadline. I don’t think there’s a solution to that though, particularly as a young brand on YouTube. We’ve got to keep pumping out content to grow an audience and build a relationship with them.
Which was the campaign video/news piece that you worked on, that you are most proud of?
The 10 hour 20 minute livestream we did in which I read the entire U.S tax bill without a break (bathroom or otherwise) was fun. I am proud that I work at a place where such a weird, sort of dumb idea was immediately accepted and supported. That’s why I joined Beme in the first place – to experiment, to do offbeat stuff.
I also did a piece on Estonia that the former president of Estonia tweeted out. A government official from Estonia also invited me for a visit. That was cool.
Who is someone you want to emulate in your industry?
I do not have any posters of journalists or YouTubers on my desk, but I do have a picture of my wife. She’s a television producer, and I wish I had her organizational skills and her discipline. She works so much more efficiently than I do.
If you weren’t a producer for Beme, what would you be?
I've taken any job that allows me to write: trivia shows, award shows, advertisements, parades, reality shows, corporate events, documentaries, new, whatever. If someone wants to pay me to write, I will take it.