Dale Buss is a contributing editor to Chief Executive Magazine and a contributor to Forbes Magazine, Brandchannel, Corporate Board Member, New Nutrition Business, Automotive News, D Business, Philanthropy Magazine and many other publications. He also works with CEOs to tell their stories in book form. And he produces branded content for many companies.
Can you tell us what types of stories, trends or issues are on your radar now?
It depends on what are on my clients’ radar but I’m always interested in CEOs – what they’re doing, why they’re doing it, how their companies are changing as a result. I am always very interested in companies and people that are making Flyover Country per se, including Michigan, better and better. And I am very interested right now in how Trump’s policies are affecting the economy, companies and CEOs.
Describe the craziest or most fun story you have written.
That’s easy. When I was a rookie reporter for the Wall Street Journal, based in Dallas, they sent me to a rodeo-clown school in Kansas for three days. I managed to avoid getting stomped like other would-be rodeo clowns did – the key is to consider the charging bull as a wheelbarrow and stay inside his shoulder at all times – and wrote a Page One “a-hed” for the paper about the adrenaline-pumping experience.
What story or stories are you most proud of?
Hmm. Certainly some of the work I did for the Wall Street Journal that earned our team of three people a Pulitzer Prize nomination for covering the troubles of General Motors in the early Eighties. I’m also proud of coverage I headed when I was metro-state editor at The Milwaukee Journal of high-profile national stories including the Dahmer murders, Magic Johnson’s AIDS (huge news at the time) and the season of abortion protests. More recently, I’ve loved some profiles I’ve done including one of Domino’s CEO Patrick Doyle that’s coming out in the March-April issue of D Business.
What elements or characteristics do you look for in a story?
Money. Tension. Myth-popping. Political incorrectness. Trends that seem to be developing. I’ve always been pretty good at detecting those ahead of the curve, if you will.
How long have you been in journalism and how did you get started?
Technically, since I was 12 years old and began writing a weekly report on the local Little League for my hometown newspaper. I interned with the Wall Street Journal in Pittsburgh and went to the Dallas bureau after graduating from the University of Wisconsin. One of my first stories there was to go to John Hinckley’s hometown in the Dallas burbs to profile him for a Journal story the day after he shot President Reagan. I spent six years in the newspaper’s Detroit bureau and subsequently was an editor at metropolitan dailies in Tampa Bay and Milwaukee.
Finish this sentence: If I am not reporting, I am …
Writing. Dodging deer. Feeding birds. Playing basketball. Going to church. Babysitting our two grandsons. Helping run my son’s store in Rochester.
What advice do you have for PR people that want to pitch you?
Wow, where do I begin. I have learned to appreciate PR professionals like Jim Bianchi more and more over the years but also more and more to resent the things that incapable PR pros do to make my life worse. Here are a few pieces of advice: 1) Cultivate two-way relationships in reasonable ways that are meant to be long-term, and journalists like me will reciprocate; I have had great, sometimes career-long, relationships with a number of fantastic PR pros; 2) Don’t make the mistake of thinking I’m interested in seeing your raw client lists and in somehow combing them and coming up with ways you can pitch me! That’s not how it works; I have needs and you’re supposed to figure out how your clients can meet them; 3) Encourage your clients to submit to phone interviews rather than e-mail “interviews” which, while more controllable by you and your clients, inevitably are boring, less informative and less complimentary of your clients in the end. There are more but I’m tired.
Any pet peeves with PR people?
Several, but here are a couple of the biggest. First, please do not respond to, say, a Profnet or HARO query by offering up an executive or other source who subsequently isn’t available for some reason. Second, please in your media training stop telling executives to say to journalists, “That’s great question.” We’re on to the trick!
Tell us a little about yourself (family, interests, hobbies, background, etc.)
My wife and I have two great adult kids who live in the area and make us proud, and two grandsons, and there’s nothing better than being around family you enjoy. I’m not a workout warrior but I love to play basketball with other guys my age and try to do that twice a week. We love the Leelanau Peninsula and love Lake Michigan. I’m a Christian and love sharing that, and the main book I’ve written is a biography of James Dobson, one of the biggest contemporary heroes of evangelicalism. I’m also a huge booster of Flyover Country and have founded, and slowly am building, a not-for-profit called The Flyover Coalition (beta site at flyovercoalition.org), which is meant to boost media appreciation for what we do here and to promote economic development, companies and people in Flyover Country, and regional cooperation.
You can follow Dale on Twitter at @DaleDBuss