Excerpt: 'The Newsbreaker,' by Larry Garrison

ByABC News via via logo

Sept. 7, 2006 — -- Larry Garrison knows the news. Over the past 25 years, he has worked with a slew of networks and shows bringing to light some of the most significant stories of our time.

In his latest book, "The Newsbreaker," Garrison divulges untold details about some of the biggest stories of the past few decades, including the Oklahoma bombing, the Jon Benet Ramsey murder and the Mary Kay Letourneau scandal.

Garrison reveals what happens behind the headlines -- how the news changes from the scene of a story to when it hits a television screen -- and offers readers a rare look inside one of today's hottest industries.

I hate traffic. Driving home up Highway 101 -- Hollywoodbehind me and my home in Westlake before me -- a thirtymiledrive takes over an hour. The one good thing aboutSouthern California road time is that it gives a person a chanceto reflect.

I had just dropped off lunch for my twenty-one-year-olddaughter, Lindsay, at the movie set where she was working. Shehad forgotten to pick it up before work and coaxed me intodelivering it. I got to the set and was proud of my daughter'sprofessionalism. I spoke with the director for a moment andwatched a take. Just as I was leaving, one of the extras asked,"So, Mr. Garrison, what kind of work do you do?" I justsmiled, shook his hand, and walked back to my car.

My kids have a tendency to be a little dramatic. It's a directresult of having a father who has been involved with the entertainmentand news industry for the last twenty-five years. Fortwelve of those years, I've been a single dad. Because of that, mykids have often been exposed to my work. And like me, they'realso becoming goal-driven adults with a dash of overachiever.This troubles me when I think about my middle child -- howrelentless the business is that she's chosen. The money andromance of the entertainment industry are hard to resist, but it'sthose same traits that make it cutthroat and competitive.

Ambulance chaser and media whore are just a couple of theless flattering descriptions used to label me and what I do. Mostjobs have titles like firefighter, CPA, or whatever. One or twowords or an acronym, and that's all the explanation needed.The easy out for me is to say that I'm an executive producer forfilm and TV. But what I do requires much more explanationthan a simple title can provide. No matter what the shortdescriptions are, they describe only part of what I do.Ambulance chaser? Maybe so.

Part of my work requiresthat I be on the lookout for people who get caught up eitherdirectly or indirectly in a situation that is so far out of the ordinarythat their story becomes newsworthy. Personal injuryattorneys, the other so-called ambulance chasers, have been thebutt of jokes for years. Some view them as scavengers whoseonly purpose in life is to search out and exploit the misfortunesof others.

Most people go through their lives oblivious to theworkings of the civil law process, until misfortune rams intotheir lives and they really need help from someone who knowsthe system. Lawyers, I guess, will always take the brunt ofjokes -- until they're needed. Then they become a victim's bestfriend. Attorneys have to be familiar with the laws to representtheir clients well, to ensure the highest possible settlement, or tosuccessfully argue in front of a jury why their clients are entitledto compensation for their pain and suffering. Lawyers takean oath to do just that -- represent their clients to the best oftheir ability.

My clients are of a different nature. I don't practice in acourt of law; I operate in the court of public opinion. But thepeople I represent need me in the same way a victim needs alawyer. My clients have often been thrust into territory so far

from what they're accustomed to that the process could chewthem up and spit them out without someone like me to watchout for their best interests. In much the same way lawyers helptheir clients through the legal system, I help my clients navigatethe media machine, specifically the news media. And eventhough I don't always chase them, I am always on the lookoutfor them.

I have more than eighty other people in the field on thelookout. I call them stringers, field people, and sometimes producers,as they often work with me on producing a story for thenews. They could be doctors or lawyers or anything at all. Oneof my most significant researcher/producers is my sister, R.Stephanie Good, Esq. As a lawyer, author, and sponsor ofhumanitarian causes in New York, she has brought me countlessstories that have ended up in your living room via TV news.My sister does it to get the spiritual side of stories heard, butother bookers often have a different agenda. Most are moneyhungryor just get a rush out of finding newsworthy stories.They scour local papers, keeping their ears to the ground, knowingthat whoever is the first to find that story that makes yousay "Oh, my God" out loud may be in for a cut on a film orbook deal.

It has been said there are two sides to every story, then thereis the truth. I am on the lookout for the people who can giveyou the truth of a story that has captured public attention.Although I have dealt with stories regarding some of what goeson behind the scenes at the White House and with manycelebrities, most of what I cover is mainstream. It is not oftenthat I am involved in matters pertaining to national foreign policy,and I offer less attention to people who claim to have beenabducted by aliens. My work lies somewhere between thetabloid headlines and the stories covered in Time magazine, buteverything is fair game. And yes, I must admit I love thosemajor sweep stories that I put on the covers of magazines andbring to the attention of the world.

Maybe when asked what I do, my answer should be that Iprovide the public with the news stories it cannot get enoughof -- the kind of stories people talk about at the office watercooler, at hair salons, or over casual lunches. Most of the contentis not really that important in the grand scheme of things,but everyone knows the stories because they can't resist theirpull. I am not owned by any of the big news organizations anymore.Rather, I supply them with the stories viewers want toknow about. If the story and conditions are right, I'll develop itinto a book or movie.

The American public's appetite for news has changed drasticallyover the years, as has the news itself. A few decades ago,fatherly figures on sterile sets provided information on theevents of the day and left it to viewers to form an opinion ofwhat was important. They delivered the facts and the publicwas left to draw its own conclusions. Once in a while, the newscastersgave their opinions, but they clearly stated it was acommentary.

There were no twenty-four-hour news channels,and, aside from the nightly telecasts, most of the news showswere seen Sunday mornings and on the occasional bulletinsthat are now called breaking stories. News organizations leftentertainment to the entertainers that followed the newscast.Somewhere along the way, news moved away from the newsand became more of a business, and the priority changed.Ratings are paramount, and it is the American public thatdrives the ratings war.

News organizations still pride themselvesfor being accurate, informative, and unbiased; but the ratingswar has changed the face of news and the way it operates.Instead of the Walter Cronkites of yesterday, today you seeyounger and much-more-attractive-than-average newsmen andnewswomen reading news scripts into the camera. TV news hasbecome more of a show. News is delivered from elaborate sets,luring viewers to believe that newscasters are sitting in a livingroom while they sip their morning coffee; or that the newsroomreally is right there in the studio, and reporters can actually beseen working diligently in the background. Many times, a tickertape runs along the bottom of the screen to offer additionalnews, just in case the story being covered by the talking headisn't good enough to keep the viewer's attention. As they deliverthe news, there is more voice inflection here, little commentsthere -- whatever it takes to keep you tuned to their channel andnot the competitor's.

In Cronkite's day, all that was heard in a newscast was thevoice of the reporter. Now, when sad stories are reported -- thediscovery of the bodies of a young boy and his mother after anextensive search hoping to find them alive, for instance -- youhear mournful music in the background to accentuate thetragedy. There are also the shows that try to sway an individual'sthought process as they report the news. This type can beseen just about any time of day, seven days a week, fifty-twoweeks a year. These shows take current news stories and milkthem for all they are worth. The subject matter might be petty,like why movie stars' marriages fall apart. But it can also bemuch more significant, with far-reaching effects.

Ten years ago, in December 1996, the nation first heard thename of six-year-old Jon Benet Ramsey, who was found murderedin her upper-middle-class home in Colorado. The casesoon became the subject of household conversation, due to theamount of coverage it received. Before this, the job of the newsagencies was to report only the facts, but something changedwith the Ramsey case. The media took it upon themselves toplay jury. Instead of simply reporting the evidence, reportersanalyzed it on-air and drew conclusions as to what mighthave happened. No one came out and said that the child'sparents killed her, but almost every update to the story madesure that the public knew that the parents were the primesuspects.

When new evidence was brought to light, themedia would spin it to seem more damning to Jon Benet'smother and father. If evidence was introduced that mightlead people to believe the parents were not guilty, it wasdownplayed. With the barrage of reports and the loss of trueobjectivity, the media, in short, passed judgment on Johnand Patsy Ramsey and destroyed what remained of theirtragic lives. The media reports that Patsy was jealous of herdaughter and trying to live her failed modeling career throughJon Benet was sickening. It was almost as if the news agencieswere trying to establish a motive to support their suspicions.Reporting quickly changed to speculation and becamecruel.

I spoke with the Ramseys in the early part of 1997. We discussedthe possibility of doing a book to strengthen their casein the public eye, but at that time the media was on a witchhunt. Even though I brought plenty of information to the networksthat contradicted what they were reporting, it was toolate. The only thing they were interested in broadcasting wasabsolute proof that the parents didn't kill their daughter, orthings that would increase the suspicion that they did. It is a lotharder to prove you didn't do something than to prove that youdid. In my gut, I knew the Ramseys had nothing to do withtheir beautiful daughter's death. I remember the frustration Ifelt for them as we parted ways later that year.

In January 2005, DNA evidence proved that the Ramseyswere not guilty. Scientific evidence showed that someone elsehad been in the basement of the Ramseys' home. The newsmagazine show 48 Hours ran the report, and a few pieces didmake it to the air, but the damage was already done. The onlypeople who truly hold the media accountable for what theyreport are the media, and it doesn't add to the ratings whenyou admit that you were wrong. For every minute of coveragethe exoneration received, there were hours that implied theRamseys' guilt.

Maybe it was with the advent of cable news. Or maybesomeone just came up with the idea that if they could make thenews more interesting and entertaining, more people wouldwatch, the ratings would go up, and more money could bemade. Whatever the cause, the newscast as we knew it changed.Even the stories, or types of story, have changed. Things thatmade page three of the local newspapers in the fifties and sixtiesare now part of the headlines. What middle-aged man fromMiddle America killed his wife and almost got away with it, orwhat teacher is having an affair with her underage student?Things that were not considered newsworthy back then, orwere just swept under the rug, have become part of the headlinehype. The stories that really have no impact on the day-todaylives of the majority of viewers are the very stories that theybecome fascinated with and have come to demand from theirnews.

These stories have to have someone to tell them, and that'swhere I come in. I represent the people who have the newsthat the American public is hungry for. That hunger has createdmy job.This is where it becomes a little complicated. People wantto be able to take for granted that the information they receivefrom their news is accurate. They don't want to feel that theyhave to second guess the information being provided to them.At the same time, they want to get as much information as possible -- at least as much information as they find interesting.

The public is becoming more knowledgeable of how the mediamachine works and expects more details with their news. Thenetworks know that if a story can grab the public's attentionand they can present the story in a way that is entertaining aswell as informative, the ratings will improve. With this inmind, they have to dig deeper and be ready to report on differentaspects of a story in a way that will hold the public's interest.It is this relentless need to maintain a top position in theratings war that creates an inherent danger of reporting somethingother than the truth.

Part of my job is like that of an investigative reporter/producer/journalist -- to dig through the facts and make absolutelysure the information I relay to the news agencies is accurate.Literally hundreds of stories are run past me every month, and,at the risk of sounding cliché, many times I have little more thanmy gut instinct to filter out the truth from the myths -- at leastat first. I don't rely strictly on gut feelings to verify the informationbrought to me, but I have to admit, in the last twenty-fiveyears of bringing the "Oh, my God" stories to the news agencies,my gut feelings are exactly what have kept me out of hotwater. Not one of the pieces I have brought to the news hasproven to be false. Often, it was nothing more than a gut feelingthat stopped me from pursuing a story, which was laterfound to be a lie.

The bigger the story, the more important it is to be diligent.In April 1995, the bombing of the Murrah FederalBuilding in Oklahoma City, where more than 160 people losttheir lives, shocked the nation. At first, the news agencies ledthe American public to assume it was a terrorist attack fromoutside the country; but when evidence revealed it was anAmerican that was suspect, the media had to change gears,and the hunt for any information on Terry Nichols and TimothyMcVeigh was on.

A few weeks after the reports first implicated Nichols andMcVeigh in the bombing, Lana Padilla, Terry Nichols' ex-wife,contacted me saying she wanted to reveal information abouther ex-husband. With the type of work I do and as importantas this story was, I could not help but think this would beanother huge feather in my professional headdress. After numeroustelephone conversations, I realized that Lana and Terry'sson Josh were just as amazed about Terry's role in the bombingas everyone else, and they really didn't have anything to offer tothe story at that time. Because of the size of the story and Lanabeing who she was, I had no doubt that a book could be writtenfrom her point of view, but I passed. Ten years later, TerryNichols revealed information to Lana, and timing became a factorin developing her second book with me.

What I did find intriguing was the call I received fromsomeone who identified himself as "John Doe Number Two."The man told me that he had been falsely implicated in thebombing disaster. After a little investigation, I found that hisonly crime, which wasn't a crime at all, was wearing a shirt thatresulted in false implication. His name was Todd Bunting. Aftera little work on his situation, we were able to help him provethat he was innocent of anything with regard to the bombing,and he was able to go on quietly with his life.

There are different types of reactions from people who arethrust into the public eye or think they are in a position to bethrust into it. Some are just plain scared. They do not want anyattention and just want the situation to pass. Some crave thelimelight; they get a high out of the attention given for beinginvolved in something people think is important. There are theones who really do want the truth to be told; who, in manycases, will put themselves at risk to make sure it is. Others usethe attention as a cleansing process, getting things off their chestthat they have held inside for a long time or nobody believed.

There are as many different reasons people get involved in themedia machine as there are stories. The ones I watch out for arethose I call opportunity seekers. These are the people who seegetting my attention as their shot at making it in the entertainmentbusiness, and they are willing to bend the truth or justplain lie to get in front of the camera or see their names inprint. When someone from the media wants to talk to you, youbecome more important. Sometimes, what the opportunity seekerssay cannot be trusted. I have no problem with people pursuingtheir dreams or making some money. I do have a problemwith people being dishonest to get there.

CBS and Dan Rather found out just how disastrous broad-casting something wrong can be. In the latter part of 2004, thenegative side of the obsession to be first to report a story rearedits ugly head. Getting the scoop or beating out the competitionto get a story on the air is a boost to ratings. The bigger thestory, the bigger the reward; but one mistake and one's credibilityis lost and the news organizations become the news themselves.In the midst of the 2004 presidential election, CBSjumped on the bandwagon to discredit our commander in chief.Michael Moore's Bush-bashing movie Fahrenheit 911 was ablockbuster at the theaters, and books were being publishedthat cast a disfavoring light on the Vietnam service ofDemocratic presidential nominee John Kerry. It seemed that theratings would improve if some dirt could be pulled up on eitherof the candidates' military records.

60 Minutes and its spin-offs are considered the mothersof "reliable" reporting. Therefore, when Rather reported onSeptember 8, 2004, that he had documents and interviews providingincontrovertible evidence that George W. Bush hadreceived special treatment and did not complete his service inthe Texas Air National Guard because of family political connections,people believed it to be true. The next day, all hellbroke loose.

Other media giants and several watchdog groups attackedCBS and Rather, refuting the credibility of the interviews andthe documents the report was taken from. But Rather stoodhis ground and was adamant at times, arrogantly dismissing allaccusations. Some call CBS's stand a cover-up, others justpoor judgment. Whatever you want to call it, it lasted abouta week and ended with a public apology from Rather. CBShad to come clean and admit that the documents used inthe report to discredit the president's military career weremost likely false. The media had turned on one of its own, andCBS appointed an independent panel to figure out just whatwent wrong.

It was a good show on CBS's part. They brought in somebig hitters like Richard Thornburgh, former attorney generalfor presidents Reagan and Senior Bush. After months of speculationfrom everyone in the media, CBS announced, in a pressrelease of all things, that they fired four top executives to whomthey assigned the blame. Rather announced he would be steppingdown from the anchor desk. CBS turned out a little tarnished,the news media overall is a little less trusted, and theratings war continues full steam ahead.

One of the four executives forced to leave CBS was a topnews journalist and someone for whom I have a great deal ofrespect. Betsy West was responsible for bringing me into ABCyears ago. She is one of the most professional people I knowand has always been well respected in the business. I learneda great deal from her on how to present stories that were fairand accurate. I am certain that Betsy was a victim of circumstancesand had to take the fall with the others. Unfortunately,that is the nature of the business -- a career of great journalismand integrity washed away by the overzealous drive of othersto get a story on the air.

Ratings don't improve if you're the second to report somethingsignificant. You cannot brag in commercials that youwere almost first to bring your viewers an important newsdevelopment. CBS and Rather should have been more careful,but the nature of the business brings with it the inherent riskthat something that is not really news, but a myth, will bereported. The cruel part for Rather is that his brilliant careerwill be overshadowed by this mistake. To add insult to injury,Walter Cronkite was quoted weeks before Rather's departure assaying that "Rather was not my choice for taking over theevening news at CBS." Cronkite viewed Rather as more of anewsman, whose main priority is to get a story on air, than athird-party reporter, who is objective. Cronkite also said laterthat he couldn't figure out how Rather kept his job as long ashe did. CBS lost credibility, but, right or wrong, they also gotsome publicity, which could conceivably help the ratings in thelong run.

Spinning stories is another risky way the networks battleover the ratings. Some think to put a spin on a story is to makeit something it is not. It's not that simple. No one knows whowas the first to use the term, or when it became part of themedia vocabulary, but it has become a very real part of the business.Spin makes a story seem more important than it is, orallows a reporter to speculate to the point where nonfictioncomes dangerously close to fiction -- anything to add more lifeto the news piece that will keep viewers tuned in and wantingmore information. I'm sure the term comes from the toy thatwas popular before video games and remote-control cars tookover our children's imagination. A pull of a string and the toptook on a life of its own. The energy would send the playthingacross a surface, and it would continue to capture the imaginationuntil all of the energy was used up.

Today's media has to use spin to stay competitive in the ratingsgame, and it has learned how pull the strings. Just like thetoy, the harder the spin, the more unpredictable the storybecomes. I look for stories that can be spun to stay competitive,but I must also be certain that all the information can beproven true, or at least not proven untrue. To complicate mattersfurther, I also have to decide between what is newsworthyand the public's right to know, and what is better left out.This is where I have to go out on a limb. As important as itis for the networks to report the news, for me it is just as importantthat the people who come to me with their stories be protectedfrom the media and the spin they put on many of thestories. Some are of the opinion that the public has the right toknow everything about anyone who is in the public eye. Othersfeel that there are boundaries as to what should be broadcast. Ioperate somewhere between those two positions, and they arealways subject to change. It is not the stuff with which popularitycontests are won.

In February 1997, I procured the story of Dick Morris, anadvisor to Bill Clinton for his presidential campaigns. Theevents that transpired over the next few months blurred the linefor me as newsman and human being. Dick found himself rightsmack in the middle of a controversy that was tearing his familyapart. Bill Clinton's lack of self-control when it came towomen was fast becoming the easiest story for the media tospin into big ratings. Even before anyone heard of MonicaLewinsky, Clinton's extramarital affairs were a mainstay of thenightly news. Then Dick Morris's private life was exposed, andhis family had to endure the media's microscope as theyreported on his extramarital indiscretions. Some would say thatthe public had every right to know about the private lives of theMorris family, given his relationship with the commander inchief. Others would say it is really no one else's business outsideof the family. In any event, I found myself making the decisionfor the public as to what was really important for them to know.I chose to help a family rebuild.

I did everything I could by calling in some favors to protectthe Morris family and keep the problems out of the media. Iwas not entirely successful. They were trying to save their marriage,and it was obvious that the added pressure of the mediascrutiny would make that impossible. I had witnessed firsthandwhat media attention can do to people long after reporters havestopped chasing them and the story itself became a distantmemory, and I take the responsibility of protecting lives fromneedless harm seriously. The networks will always feel it isimportant to put the spin on their material. I will always feel itis just as important that the people who come to me with theirinformation be protected from the media, which have a tendencyto jump to conclusions. I am sure there will be many whodisagree, even dislike me for taking this position; but I gave upon the popularity contest long ago.

Dick Morris received counseling and his marriage wasrebuilt. He published Behind the Oval Office in 1998, chroniclinghis experiences at the White House with very little spin -- and without attacking his associates. The book was a success. Iworked with Dick and his lovely wife. We became friends whenhe came to Los Angeles. I have Dick's autographed book coverand statement to my son encased with a shirt from Clinton anda pen from the White house in a shadow box in my war room.Dick wrote, "When you turn 50, I will run your campaign forPresident." The inscription was kind of a kick for my son, butalso very inspirational.

There are no college degrees for what I do, and the onlyway to learn the skills needed to be successful is to do it. I didn'tgrow up wanting to be the guy who brings the sensational storiesto the news. I wanted to be an actor. After eight years ofbeing a successful stockbroker on Wall Street, I decided to pursuemy dream, so I packed up and moved to California.

I had a good start. In New York, I studied with LeeStrasberg, who is known as the best acting coach in the world.He taught method acting, and it helped me procure a recurringrole on the soap Santa Barbara. I also played opposite NickNolte in the movie Mulholland Falls. As my success grew, so didmy understanding and love of the industry, but things changedsuddenly. In 1994 after seventeen years of marriage, I wentthrough a heart-breaking divorce and found myself a single dadwith three young children to take care of. The pressures ofgoing to auditions and casting calls and still making sure thekids were to school on time forced me to rethink my strategy.So, I looked into the producing side of films and TV shows andforgot about being a star. I quickly found that I enjoyed workingwith the true stories, and I found inspiration in them. Thepublic feels the same way, which made them a much easier sell.The producing was a natural; I could work from home and stillfulfill my responsibilities as a father.

In the early 1980s, I got the rights to do a story on Marchof Dimes poster girl Tracy Taylor. This young lady was incredible.Despite her disability, she was an accomplished snowskier, gymnast, and horseback rider. I entitled her story "AChild of Joy." It caught the attention of People magazine andthe publication did a story on her. One thing led to another,and before I knew it, I was invited to partner with the DickClark Film Group. I was in awe. Growing up, I had combedmy hair like Dick Clark of American Bandstand, and now myoffice was on the same floor as his. I was so hell-bent on makinga good impression that I started moving my things into myoffice very early in the morning so I could get a fast start. I wasa bundle of nerves as I rounded the corner toward my office.It looked like a janitor was on his hands and knees cleaning upa spill, and he was blocking the path to my office. I nervouslyasked the guy, "Do you mind getting out of the way? I have tomove in so I can get to work."

A familiar face looked up at me and said, "Sure, no problem,kid." I wanted to die. It was my boss, Dick Clark. He hadalso come in the office early that day and had brought hisWeimaraner, who had marked his territory at the door to myoffice. I had a flashback at that moment of being in the EastSchool Elementary play Around The World in 80 Days in LongBeach, New York. I played Monsieur Le Bleu, and I said mytwo lines as classmates pulled a giant balloon across the stage.The audience stood applauding, and a friend of mine came ontothe stage and said something I would never forget: "Larry,someday you will be a star." I think he had it backward, becausethat classmate was Billy Crystal. As I looked at Dick, I felt thesame elation of pride and achievement and wondered if perhapsBilly had some insight for the both of us.

I learned more on the job with Dick Clark's company in aweek than I had in months on my own. In my first week, I gotmy first mention on the front page of Variety, a trade paperthat reports on the industry. "Garrison Moves From QuotingStocks to Producing TV/Film" was the title of the article thatneglected to mention either my success as an actor or all theyears it took to get to that point.Sometimes good situations were hard to come by, no matterhow hard I worked, but once in a while they just fell in my lap.I owned the rights to part of the story on the Lindbergh kidnapping.Richard Hauptmann's ninety-four-year-old widow,Anna, was willing to tell how Richard was innocent and revealthe facts on "The Crime of the Century." One day, some producernamed Bill Self called me and said he was very interestedin partnering with me on it, an offer I immediately declined. Iremember asking him, "Why in the world would I want topartner with you?" He laughed and told me it might be a goodidea to ask my boss about it.

Later that morning, I was in Dick Clark's office going oversome of the projects we had in development and I mentionedthe call. "My God, that is the grandfather of the industry!"Dick said wide-eyed. "That guy is president of CBS Theatrical."After some back-pedaling with Dick and a humbling phone callto Bill, I had a new partner for the film, and my career took asudden turn for the better.

I can't tell the exact moment that my attention switchedfrom the development of entertainment programs to the newsside of the business, but the pairing of the two is a natural. Bybeing a producer, I can give my clients something the networkscould never dream of offering, a big paycheck. I also realizedthat I could be more effective as an independent producer, so Ileft the Dick Clark Film Group after a year and went independent.It was easier to procure the rights to stories and hype themin the news, so networks and studios would come to me, ratherthan the other way around. Later in my career, I affiliated myselfwith MTM, Mary Tyler Moore's company, as an executive producerwith offices, but again I realized that being independent isthe only way to go.

Some news shows will pay a few grand, or much more, fora picture or video that will entice someone to go on-screen andspill their guts for the nation to see. But if the story is credibleand big enough, I can beat them out and offer the possibility ofchanging that same person's standard of living. Of course, notall of the stories that come to me have the potential of becominga movie or a book. Most of the stories that warrant suchexposure are often taken away by my worst enemy, publicdomain -- a producer doing the story without owning the rights.The only way I have to protect my clients is by controllingtheir news rights and maintaining independence from thenews agencies. This way, I control the spin on a story and howit is released to the public. It is a game of telephone. The peoplewho represent the news shows know exactly what I am doingand would love to keep me out of the picture; but when Isecure the news rights, they have no choice but to work withme. I now enjoy a reputation for being good at what I do.Ironically, the competition often calls me on slow news daysand asks, "Hey, Larry, do you have any good stuff we can useright now?"

At this stage of my life, it's not the money that is important,it's the person. I have made and lost money in this crazy business,but it is the people and their incredible stories that stickwith me. Most of my clients are normal folks who get caughtup in extraordinary circumstances, and in many cases findthemselves at risk simply for being at the wrong place at thewrong time. They didn't want to have their lives become part ofthe media circus, but they do want to avoid the limelight. I havelearned that if I put them first, the success will follow. By protectingmy clients from the media monster, I can preserve theirlives and still bring stories to the media that the public wants tosee.

Although money is important, it can't be the priority. Thisbelief makes me better at what I do. Many of the people whocome to me with their stories also have a spiritual investment inthe situations they find themselves in, and I always look forthose. It always pays off in ways money never could, and Irespect the people who are not afraid to take a stand for the rightreasons. I take care of my clients, and a trust is built that allowsthe truth to come out -- then the real story can be told to you.That is what my job is really all about, making sure thatthe real story can be told. I find the people with the stories,lock up their news rights, get some media play, help them makea few bucks, if possible get a movie or book deal for them, goon to the next story. On the surface it sounds simple enough,but it's really not that easy.

After the endless, traffic-laden drive, I pull my car up to theguarded gate of the community I live in. A new guard pokes hishead out of the guardhouse. He smiles as he sees my licenseplate, "MOVIE TV." I'm never really sure what people thinkwhen they first see it, but it is fun nevertheless. He presses thebutton that opens the twenty-foot steel gates that act as a barrierbetween community residents and the rest of the world. Off tothe left is a lake, and the glare is so bright off the water from theafternoon sun that I have to squint even though I'm wearingsunglasses. The homes in my neighborhood are stunning; oversizedpillars emphasize the power of the residents who livebehind them. Most of the homes are modern, but it's apparentthat big bucks have been spent to give them the feel of oldmoney. They are all custom, no two are alike, but they do sharethe air of affluence. A quick turn into my driveway and there ismy house, the little David that sits among the Goliaths. My littlecabin built in 1950 is hardly worthy of being guest quartersfor some of the homes that surround it, but I love it. I am hereright in the middle of what I cover with the news stories, but itis still my escape.

Just over the trees in my backyard, you can almost see thehome I sold a couple of years ago. I never look over there. I stopand make funny noises at my pet squirrels as they run aroundtheir open ten-by-ten cage in my backyard. On the other side ofmy house is the chicken coop. Every morning I go and collectthe eggs and feed the chickens. I am fairly certain I have theonly chicken coop in my neighborhood. On the inside, myhome is modest, but it does have some outstanding features.Throughout the two-thousand-square-foot, three-bedroom-onebath cabin you can see expensive paintings on the walls, Tiffanyand Lalique sitting next to old-fashioned bearskin rugs thatwere a gift, and a dog pen.

My cabin does not give the impression that a producer liveshere. In fact, the only feeling a guest would get is that the ownerhas not yet made up his mind on what theme to use in decoratinghis abode. Throughout the house are pleasant memories ofmy family. There are pictures of my son, Sean, my seventeenyear-old, who is an avid photographer. My daughter Jaime ismy oldest child. She is a massage therapist that works oncelebrities and the public. She has strong sense of what is reallyreal in the world. Four years ago she made me a grandfather, afeeling that is indescribable. Lindsay's picture is there, too. Myyounger daughter is a mix between a successful makeup artist,a genius with FX, and the next Max Factor makeup creator. Sheis simply a kick.

One of the small bedrooms could be called the war room.The walls are filled with reminders of my career in breaking thenews and fueling the ratings war. There are pictures of senators,presidents, famous people, and some shots of people that wouldbe recognizable only to people in the industry. In every case, apicture has a story worth a lot more than a thousand words.These mementoes are a tribute to the accomplishments of a survivorwho learned to handle the pressures of this business andstill come out in one piece, for the most part.Every one of these reminds me how crazy the world of thenews really is, from gifts sent by presidents -- in this case a poloshirt from the oval office to thank me for showing my discretionby not reporting the antics that only a president can getaway with -- to letters thanking me for helping the writersthrough a difficult time. Off in the corner there is an oddlookingporcelain figure, the Edgar Award for Best Fact Crimeof 2002 for Son of a Grifter. The ugly little statue could easilybe mistaken for a fifth-grade art class project. It serves as areminder of an incredible story, which was made into a moviestaring Mary Tyler Moore and established a valued friendshipwith Kent Walker. Kent was not only one of the recipients ofthis award, he lived the story and survived.

Right above the odd-looking figure is a window boxcontaining some military dog tags under a cover of Time magazinefeaturing Michael Durant. His story of survival as a prisonerin Somalia and how the political process really worksstill inspires me. His story would later be told to some degreein the movie Black Hawk Down. I will save this one for later,though.

On my desk are some postcards and many diaries thatbelonged to Bonny Lee Bakley. Her best friend is one of myclients and has entrusted the care of these belongings to me.Within the pages of the personal notes, a far different story istold from the grave of Robert Blake's murdered wife than yousee on the channels that covered his murder and civil trials.The letter from Linda Tripp and the pictures of PaulaJones's wannabe actor ex-husband, who would spill it all fora possible acting role, adorn a small spot.

An original photo of Jack Ruby, given to me with a theoryto solve the assassination of JFK by Melvin Belli, "The King ofTorts," is a one a of kind.

Every picture and object in the room has a story to tell, andnone of the stories would be what is expected, but then that ishow it works in my world. There is even a blank space that hasa story, above the Time magazine cover with Michael Durant. Ihad cleared that little area for a recent project I thought wasgoing to be the crowning achievement of my career, but it turnedout to be just like the space on my wall. Empty.

I look at the cover of our New York Times bestselling book,Aruba: The Tragic Untold Story of Natalee Holloway and corruptionin Paradise, that I coauthored with Natalee's father,Dave Holloway, and my sister, R. Stephanie Good. I reflect onbringing Joran van der Sloot and his family to New York for anABC Primetime interview, and I work to keep the story alive forNatalee to be found.

As I sit back in my old chair in the middle of the warroom, I am thankful that the phones that are usually ringingoff the hook with people on the other end of the line tellingme they have the next "Oh, my God" story of the decade arequiet. It does take a lot out of a person, but when people startto understand the hows, they start to understand the whys.Here, in this room, I am surrounded by the evidence that Ifought for the truth and in many cases succeeded. Then thereare the ones where things didn't work out the way I thoughtthey would. In any event, there is always the story behind thestory, the spin if you will.

I sit back in my chair and think about my work. Therehave been so many news pieces over the years, it is hard toknow where to begin. Another one of those job descriptions/labels comes to mind. I am also called a storyteller, and I dohave many stories to tell.

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