“Always Know Who’s In The Room Before You Go In” Words Of Wisdom With Mark Steines Of Home & Family
“Have a tough skin. You have to swallow the ratings pill. As a journalist, it’s personal. It’s about you, not a character you are playing. So always be authentic and wear your “you-suit.”
I had the pleasure to interview Emmy award-winning journalist Mark Steines. Mark hosts Hallmark Channel’s Emmy-nominated “Home & Family.” Along with his co-host Debbie Matenopoulos, Steines entertains and informs their audience daily with an array entertaining and relevant lifestyle topics, such as do-it-yourself projects, cooking, celebrities and experts. Prior to joining Home & Family, Steines help set the gold standard in entertainment news while co-hosting Entertainment Tonight for more than 17 years.
What is your “backstory”?
As a mid-western boy born and raised in Dubuque, Iowa, I could not have imagined the trajectory of my career. Attending the University of Northern Iowa on a full football scholarship, I graduated with a degree in Radio and Television. My broadcast career began at KWWL-TV, where I worked my way up to the position of reporter and photographer. I then served as a sports anchor at KSPR-TV in Springfield, Missouri. This led me to KCAL-TV in Los Angeles, and eventually ESPN. From there, I co-anchored Entertainment Tonight for 17 years where I had the pleasure of interviewing hundreds of Hollywood A-list actors, musicians, directors and producers. Since 2012, I have had the pleasure of co-hosting Hallmark Channel’s Emmy-nominated Home & Family. I am humbled to be a three-time Emmy Award winner, and proud to be the dad of two great sons and my new baby daughter.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career?
There are so many to share, but I recall one night in particular when I was interviewing Hollywood celebrities for Entertainment Tonight as they walked the red carpet. As I was about to talk with the beautiful Sandra Bullock, I was amused to notice she was chewing gum and said something like, “Really, are you going to stand there chewing gum?” I held out the palm of my hand like a parent, she lowered her head and spit the gum out directly into it. So now there was a wad of chewing gum in my palm, and not knowing what else to do with it, I decided I was going to have to chew it. So I put it in my mouth. Her reaction was priceless, and it was all captured on tape.
I try to create moments that are memorable, and the gum incident was certainly one of them. It comes in part from my study of comedy at The Groundlings, the renowned school of improv. This training has been invaluable for my work as a television journalist and host. I learned the importance of being in the moment, of being responsive to what is happening around me.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
In 2017 I was deeply honored to be named the co-host of the Rose Parade for KTLA-TV with Leeza Gibbons. I am blown away by the extraordinary work and commitment of all involved in this exquisite parade, so I spent a long time studying up on its background to do it justice for our millions of viewers. I immerse myself in story details of parade floats and participants towards creating a fascinating and smooth presentation of the event.
It was a delight for me to be the official photographer for the book “Norbert’sLittle Lessons for a Big Life,” published by Simon & Schuster, which features the adorable 3-lb. registered therapy dog, Norbert. The book was written by my wife, children’s book author and Norbert’s pet parent JulieSteines, and her mom, Dr. Virginia Freyermuth. Norbert is beloved by millions on social media because he promotes kindness and compassion. His mantra is “you don’t have to be big to make a BIG difference in the world,” and he’s living proof of that. Julie and Norbert volunteer at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles as a pet therapy team. They do amazing work, and this book extends Norbert’s caring demeanor in the world.
Who are some of the most famous people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?
I would say my interview with Cher, Tina and Oprah, because it required the combination of all my training and experience. When you interview famous folks who are in the spotlight, especially those who are known by their first name alone, you have to bring it. You have to bring your best energy, your sincere interest, and your curiosity. As the interviewer, you might come to it with your own agenda, but if they want to be light-hearted, you have to listen and respond to the music they are playing so you can dance together. You have to be willing to move around and sidestep if necessary. Going in, I already had good rapport with Cher, so she was a catalyst, and we got some fun and memorable moments.
Which people in history inspire you the most? Why?
This is a hard question; there are so many I could mention. But I’ll say James Taylor. I admire and respect the unique way he uses the many challenges and situations in his life as a catalyst for his music. His work has an authentic resonance. To see how someone can turn a lived experience, be it dark or joyous, into music that touches the hearts of others is truly inspiring. I got to see him perform in Washington, D.C. when I co-hosted the National Christmas Tree Lighting for Hallmark Channel, and his performance was so moving. I’d love to sit down and have a conversation with him one day. His work is honest and enduring.
What advice would you give to someone considering a career in TV?
Concerning television journalism, my advice is:
Always be prepared. Learn about your interviewee ahead of time; do your homework. The most important words you can say are their name. Don’t be like the person who interviewed me and mispronounced my last name.
Maintain credibility with your audience. Be truthful in the moment. And be true to yourself.
Learn how to ask good open-ended questions, then be willing to see where it will go. Be curious. I once interviewed the great Robin Williams. When you interview someone like that, you have to be willing to go where they go. I simply asked, “ So Robin, what do you think?” He went off in his own direction and didn’t stop. It was great; he just needed to be teed up.
Cultivate good, positive relationships with people to build a solid reputation.
Bring your best energy to every endeavor.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Being in the public eye on a daily basis, I recognize the unique and humbling opportunity I have to do work that matters in the lives of others. Our show Home & Family delivers stories that inform and inspire. In addition to celebrities, we feature real families, real people, and the amazing things they are doing. We have a pet adoption initiative at Hallmark, and work to find forever homes for pets in shelters.
I use my passion for photography to capture the magnificence of nature, to tell stories, and to bring awareness to important issues. For example, I traveled to Sierra Leone with the doctors and nurses of the Lighthouse Medical Mission to document the needs of the people there. Selected images from nearly 10,000 photographs I took there were published in the book See the Light:A Passage to Sierra Leone.
My wife, Julie, and I support charitable efforts and philanthropic events. We believe in giving back and strive to make a positive difference for others.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why.
Have a tough skin. You have to swallow the ratings pill. As a journalist, it’s personal. It’s about you, not a character you are playing. So always be authentic and wear your “you-suit.”
Stay current, remain relevant, but be age appropriate.
There are no guarantees in the entertainment industry. Be grateful for work that comes your way. I’ve never taken my work for granted.
Rather than a brief flash of light that burned bright, I have strived to build a career that has lasted decades. Don’t be pigeon-holed.
Always know who’s in the room before you go in. Know who you’re talking to and why.
Is there a person you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?
I would love to enjoy a good long breakfast with my Dad. I miss him; he died too young, and I long for the opportunity to sit and talk with him about being a Dad. I now have two teenage sons and a baby daughter, and it would mean so much to get his advice and perspective on parenting and to hear what he would say about his grandchildren. I know he would be proud of them, and I hope he would be proud of me, too.