Thomas Bonk is a former reporter for the Los Angeles Times. He is a freelance writer based in San Francisco.
What’s your top priority at work for today?
What I’m doing now is to provide digital content to support both the marketing and public relations efforts of some corporate clients. Some of them are in entertainment-hospitality, others commercial startups.
Tell us about your dream assignment.
I had more than a few, actually, including covering the ‘Showtime’ Los Angeles Lakers of the Magic Johnson-Kareem Abdul Jabbar-Pat Riley era for the Los Angeles Times. They rarely lost, so they were usually locked into a good mood. Plus, they all understood the importance of the LA entertainment factor. This was back in the prehistoric days when the writers traveled with the players, rode the same buses, stayed in the same hotels. Kareem and I formed our own book club, he talked about jazz, civil rights and Persian rugs and I talked about travel, barbecue and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Our No. 1 connection: A shared admiration of jazz trumpet visionary Chet Baker.
One more, if I might. Covering a celebrity golf tournament in Palm Springs, I wound up as the friend-of-the-week of coolly detached baseball legend Joe DiMaggio. He must have thought I was good company (i.e. amusing) because I had breakfast with him every day, rode with him on his golf cart every day and dined with him every evening. That really was thrilling. And no, he didn’t want to talk about Marilyn.
Describe one of the wackiest proposals/ideas you’ve been sent.
Too many to count, but I loved being assigned by the Times to cover the tree-sitters at Berkeley who were noisily and very publicly protesting a planned expansion of Cal’s sports facilities. I had never previously conducted interviews with people hanging from tree limbs while side-stepping the law that wanted them down immediately.
What is your PR/Marketing pet peeve?
Not enough people totally grasp the very nature and the wide reach of public relations.
What’s a top industry trend you’re currently following or are interested in?
Staying with a semi-sports theme, it’s the marketing-PR thrust of the Golden State Warriors as they fast-break ever closer to their new arena in San Francisco, which will open next season. They’re well-funded, particularly well-run and amazingly entertaining on the court. They never seem to do anything wrong, with the possible exception of blowing a 3-1 lead to LeBron in the 2016 NBA Finals.
Tell us a little about yourself.
Both of my parents were educators, my father a doctor of psychology at North Texas and my mother a reading teacher in the public schools. I grew up in Denton, Texas, named for famous Indian fighter John B. Denton, who had a bad afternoon one day and never came back. I graduated from North Texas with a Radio-TV-Film degree and have used the knowledge I gained to work in two of the three fields. I was employed as a sports writer, columnist and feature writer for newspapers in both Houston and Los Angeles. I hosted my own call-in radio show in Los Angeles as well as serving as a TV commentator on pro tennis matches. I have hosted shows on ESPN (golf) and Fox (also golf, the Masters). I live in North Beach with my wife. We have made it our quest to try every restaurant we can reach on foot. That means all of them.
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