Thursday, May 19, 2016


It was 1987 and I was launching my career as a voiceover artist, building on my years at NBC News as a radio anchorman and manager.  The world of commercials never interested me, but I did do a lot of “industrials” and training tapes.  The producers said they liked my “newsy “reading style.

Then came cassette books (aka books on tape).  

I recorded several, including one for David 
Stockton, Reagan’s economic adviser.  That led to my next opportunity:  being the voice of Donald Trump’s first book, “The Art of the Deal”.

For this gig I had to audition.  For The Donald!

You see, “The Art of the Deal” (though co-authored by Trump and NY Magazine’s Tony Schwartz) was written in the first person, like a diary.  It was all “I did this and I did that”, as if Trump was speaking directly to you.  But Trump himself didn’t want to record the narration, though he did want to know who would be “playing him”.

So I went to the studio and laid down a few paragraphs of the book in my best announcer’s delivery.  There was no acting or trying to mimick his accent or style.  I just read the words in a conversational tone.  They must have played my audition for Trump or one of his team and apparently liked what they heard.  I got the gig.

Then, the project was put on hold for a few weeks.

It turns out that the hiatus was so that the Trump folks could re-write history.  Because the cassette book was coming out weeks after the print version, it was decided to eliminate from the audio book many chapters from the printed book.  And what did they excise?  All of Trump’s writings about deals that had gone-bad between the time he wrote about them and the time we’d be recording.

This is fairly common in audio books:  they rarely are a verbatim recording of the full book, but a “light” version of just part of the original.  Some producers choose to keep the best written parts of the print version.  Trump’s people chose to only keep the parts that made him look good.

For example, the book version of  “The Art of the Deal” went into great details about Trump’s US Football League.  On the audio tape, there’s no mention of that debacle.  

With a final script in hand we did the recording session and the cassette book was released.  List price was $9.95, though a recent copy was offered online for $75.  My copy is not for sale.

Oh yeah… in addition to getting paid for my “talents”, the audio tape carries a short credit:

“Jim Cameron has worked in radio for over 20 years as a correspondent for United Stations
Radio Network and as news director of stations in New England and NBC’s “Source” Young Adult Network in New York”.

PS:  The later audio book versions of Trump’s writings were, I believe, narrated by him.  That’s fine by me.

Monday, June 01, 2015


Scrolling through the usual cat videos and food selfies of my 500+ closest “friends” on Facebook, I came across something rather profound:

Its placement on Facebook proved its own point.  

We are awash in social and traditional media and everyone gets the same “voice”.  But what separates one man’s vacation photos from a thoughtful analysis in the NY Times is what my media training career has been about for 30+ years.

What Is Your Message… and Why Should I Care?

If our clients can’t capture your attention, be they on CNBC or Twitter, in the first 30 seconds, you’re gone.  So what our workshops often end up focusing on is not the stylistic differences between TV and print, but some real basics of messaging:  who are you, what are you selling and why should we give a damn?

Effective messaging is not a “mission statement”.  It is not your sales slogan or marketing materials or “positioning”.  It’s closer to your elevator speech, but targeted to a specific audience… geographically, demographically and psychographically.

So… what is YOUR Message?  And how can we help you hone it?

Contact us at Jim@Mediatrainer.TV

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Media's Rush To Judgement

For 20+ years I have been a "commuter advocate", speaking out for my fellow riders on Metro-North in Connecticut.  I served for 19 years on the state-appointed CT Rail Commuter Group and later founded The Commuter Action Group.

Using my media skills as a former reporter and media trainer, I am often the go-to-guy when the media needs a quote about the latest woes of our aging, complaint-prone railroad.  I have never been shy to criticize the railroad when I thought they did something wrong.  Nor have I hesitated to rise to their defense when they deserved it.  This week I did the latter.

On Tuesday February 3, 2015 there was a horrific train crash at a grade crossing in, ironically, Valhalla NY that claimed six lives.  A packed train rammed into a Mercedez SUV parked on the track, killing the driver and impaling the front car with the third rail in a huge fireball.

Within minutes I started getting calls from reporters asking for a comment.  I told them I would NOT comment because I knew nothing about the accident... but I would explain to them how crossing gates work, what a third rail is and the distance it takes a train running 58 mph to stop in.

Over the years I've found that the more interviews you do, the more requests you get.  One reporter quotes you and others want their piece of the soundbite pie.

The next morning I got calls from local radio stations, NPR, Fox News and yes, "Inside Edition".  I did a few interviews but declined many, especially "Inside Edition", telling the booker I only spoke to journalists and her show was the farthest thing from journalism.  She hung up.

While I was happy to speak about commuter safety and remind motorists that crossing gates, flashing red lights and bells mean "a train is coming!", I refused to speculate on what caused the crash.  I didn't know the facts.  That's the NTSB's job.

But one thing I did say was that this time (the third Metro-North collision in less than 2 years), the accident was NOT Metro-North's fault.  Some reporters didn't like that and kept provoking me to pile on, playing the blame-game.

Sorry.  Let's let the investigations determine the facts.  Let's not rush to judgement.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

What a Young Mom Can Teach You About Messaging

By Amy Fond / Cameron Communications Inc.

Have you ever tried to dress a kangaroo? Probably not – but I can tell you getting a 3- year-old out the door daily must be similar. I have three kangaroos to dress, 3 year old twins and a 4 year old. Every morning since September, as we get ready for nursery school, I shout, “Get your shoes on” a dozen times and typically no one listens. Until last week.

Instead of begging my kids to pay attention, I decided to use language that forced them to pay attention.  Changing “Get your shoes on” to “Who here knows why getting your shoes on will get you a Hershey kiss?” I hit upon what they really cared about, forced them to think about it, and then act.

With toddlers, chocolate does the trick. But in Media Training, it’s more of a verbal promise – if you pay attention you’ll get something useful that will directly affect you. Before you give your next presentation or interview, ask yourself first, what will the audience really care about?

The truth, is people truly care about what affects them. Local news stations know this. They won’t run lengthy international stories, but they will tell you every six minutes about your weather. They know they’ll keep audiences glued if viewers expect every six minutes there will be a story that directly impacts their lives.
Listen closely the next time you hear an advertisement trying to get you to watch the nightly news. They won’t say “Up next at 11, a story about dentists.” They know America isn’t racing to the TV to catch that.  Instead they’ll say, “Coming up at 11, the 3 questions you need to be asking your dentist before your next visit.” Suddenly, if you don’t pay attention you’re missing something important.

Phrases like “What you need to know” and  “Why you should be doing x, y, and z” help signal that your message will be of use to the listener. A short list is also a great way to get people to pay attention.  You, the expert, have culled through the nonsense to give  “The top three things” the listener needs to do.

The next time you want your audience to pay attention, position your message so the audience wants to listen. It’s the equivalent of a Hershey Kiss bribe. If you listen, there will be something good you’ll get in the end. 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014


(Reading time:  75 seconds)

While there are certain efficiencies of scale that can be achieved in holding a press conference, there are also several down-sides to consider:

= If anything in the event is embargoed, set the ground-rules up front: No Tweeting!

= Spoon feeding the same message to all media will leave them all with the same story… but they will each want their own angle, so beware the pre/post event chit chat.  It’s all on the record.

= No savvy reporter is going to ask a brilliant question in front of all his / her competitors so they all get the answer.  They’ll seek one-on-one time before or after the event.  Be careful of being seen to play favorites.

= If you make a mistake in a one-on-one media interview, it’s one thing.  But if you make the same mistake in front of a gaggle of reporters, it magnifies the faux pas and starts a feeding frenzy.

= While you want the focus of the press conference to be the speaker(s) at the front of the room, smart reporters are also listening for commentary-like asides from employees and co-workers of the sponsor.  Don’t “paper the house” with pretty faces that might kibbutz their boss’s presentation.

= How long should a press conference be?  Just as long as it takes to deliver your message and answer a few questions.  Shorter is better… unless you are Chris Christie.


(Reading time 75 seconds)

Anyone who has followed me over the years knows my passion for improving Metro-North, the commuter railroad that connects Connecticut with NYC.

Late in 2013 I resigned from the official CT Metro-North Commuter Council after 19 years when it became clear that deteriorating train service was not being addressed by the railroad or the State.  My blog proclaimed that I had “resigned, but not quit”.

In January, I launched a new effort, The Commuter Action Group, focused on social media.  I knew that 125,000 daily riders had time and smartphones and we could harness both to affect change.

Our website (built using free software) connected commuters directly with the railroad and their elected officials.  The Twitter feed kept them updated on service outages and our Facebook page provided a forum for longer discussions.

The media pick-up was incredible.  In a month we had 500 opt-in e-mails, 2,300 Twitter followers and a thousand visitors to the Facebook page.  Complaints to the railroad more than doubled and lawmakers were suddenly focused on fixing the problem.

A “Commuter Speakout” event, which drew almost 200 angry commuters, dozens of politicians, four TV stations and all the major state media generated coverage seen by millions.

The campaign worked.  And it wasn’t expensive.  Aside from my time and energy, the total out-of-pocket cost was $12…  $10 to register the domain name and $2 to make some flyers.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

How Chris Christie Spins The Media

(Reading time:  60 seconds)

NJ Governor Chris Christie was in trouble this week.  Legislators in New Jersey were grilling him about his involvement with an appointee’s decision to shut access lanes to the George Washington Bridge from Fort Lee, allegedly as political retribution against that city’s mayor, leading to a massive traffic jam.

The Governor’s testimony went well, with Christie begging ignorance of his long-time friend and top aide Bill Baroni’s decision. ( Baroni has since resigned even as Christie said he was planning to replace him.)

Then came the press conference.  

As New Jersey Public Radio’s Matt Katz tells it, the Q&A went on for over an hour!  Katz told sister station WNYC that he alone was able to ask four questions and the press conference only ended because reporters ran out of questions.

Katz says that Christie has done this before when in a crisis… after taking a state helicopter to his son’s baseball game, after unannounced lap-band surgery.  But the strategy is intriguing:  appear so open, so willing to answer questions and with nothing to hide that nobody can accuse him of being unresponsive.

And Katz says the media in attendance were so overwhelmed with sound-bites that each could write three or four different leads.  There was no “killer cut”.  Everybody came away with a different angle.

Bottom Line:  Rather than run from the press, Christie put it in a bear hug. 

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Use your iPhone for your next radio interview

Radio is still my favorite medium for fast, timely news.  And radio stations around the world are always looking for guest experts.  But relying on scratchy phone lines to get interviews is so last-century.

Did you know you can use your iPhone for a digital quality hi-fi interview?  Not the telephone part of your iPhone, but by using the Voice Memo app.

While being interviewed on the phone, you record your end of the conversation as a Voice Memo and then e-mail the file to the radio station which synch’s it up with what they recorded over the phone.  The result is FM quality sound rivaling that achieved had you been in the studio.

Even without an iPhone, you can record your interview on any desktop computer using a simple mic and e-mail the audio file to the station.

You sound better.  The station sounds better and your message is delivered in hi-fi!