Shawn Brown

Fast Facts

Name: Shawn Brown
Market: Virginia Beach
Station: Christian Broadcasting Network
Current Title: Sports Anchor/Reporter
Preferred Title: Sports Anchor/Reporter
Experience: 10 Years

Agent Name: Mort Meisner
Agent Phone: (248) 545-2222
Agency: Mort Meisner Associates

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On-Air Talent Find Ally In Metro Detroit

Veteran news chief Mort Meisner builds niche in scouting
By Maureen McDonald / Special to The Detroit News

HUNTINGTON WOODS — Mike Huckman was getting burned out chasing ambulances and fire trucks around Metro Detroit to find prime time stories for WXYZ-TV. To get a shot at an anchor post in national broadcast he turned to veteran news director Mort Meisner.

“I don’t think I could have landed a job with CNBC-TV on my own,” Huckman said, noting he worked 10 years in Detroit before moving up two years ago. “Mort knew the national market, knew my talent; he worked hard to get me placed. He continues to help me with employment issues.”

Meisner, 48, president of Mort Meisner Associates in Huntington Woods, runs one of the few firms in the Midwest that specializes in placing on-air news talent in radio and television jobs. His four-member, five-year-old firm generates $650,000 in yearly revenue and expects to grow measurably.

Profits are made from identifying talent quickly and placing them. News directors look for help in assessing who could succeed in the Detroit market, ranked 9th nationally.

“People flop for a variety of reasons. They can’t pronounce street and city names. They say Livernois (liver-noy) like liver-no-wah or liver-noise,” Meisner said.

With increasing demand for attractive talent, actor-quality voice and diction, Meisner sorts out who has proven reporting skills as well as looks, knowing viewers have strong loyalty for TV personalities. Almost 80 percent of his work comes from reviewing audition tapes and resumes.

The former news director of WJBK-Fox 2, who also worked at stations in Chicago and St. Louis, left the news side during a station reorganization to test his mettle as an entrepreneur. He says experience in ratings sweeps, Emmy awards and contacts around the country help him gain a gut-level sense of performance. “You look at the audition tape, if it impresses you, then you ask for a copy of today’s newscast, something fresh, unrehearsed. You call around to learn this person’s reputation for accuracy and integrity,” Meisner said. “You ask if this person could move up in the markets with the help of makeup and wardrobe consulting, additional college classes or voice lessons.”

Agents make about 7 percent of the talent’s gross contract, over a certain number of years. Meisner can neither guarantee jobs nor charge for search time. It took a year to place Huckman in his current position, while some jobs happen overnight. Who is a candidate for television or radio?

“I get calls all the time for people in banking or retail who think they could be better than Carmen Harlan, who is absolutely one of the most successful news anchors anywhere,” Meisner said.

“I tell them to quit their job, go to school for the next three or four years to learn about media and society, take a job at a Traverse City station for $16,500 a year, and come back five years later,” Meisner said.