The Competitive Edge
How Charles Lachman stays on the Inside
By Paige Albiniak -- Broadcasting & Cable, 12/12/2004 7:00:00 PM
Charles Lachman, the executive producer of Inside Edition, defines dedicated—or crazy. The show's executive producer has never once called in sick in 16 years. Even when he was recovering from surgery, he performed his job from his office couch. “I had two knee operations, but I made it to work by show time,” Lachman says. “He's the hardest worker in the business,” adds Fox's Bill O'Reilly, who once anchored Inside Edition. “He brings his sleeping bag and stays there all day and all night.”
Lachman starts each day at 6:45 a.m. and usually hangs around until 8 each night. He also comes in on Sundays to prepare for the coming week. In a competitive marketplace, Lachman's work ethic serves him well.
IE prides itself on breaking stories and treading controversial ground. Recent shows included an investigation of groups who rent out golf courses under the guise of charity fund-raisers, while they are actually hosting strippers. IE also explored the dangers that realtors face in showing empty houses to prospective buyers who assault or murder them. Its mix of everyday people and occasional celebrity scoops has proved potent; since 1992, with the exception of the 1994-95 season, IE has remained in second place among syndicated newsmagazines, behind only stalwart Entertainment Tonight.
Although he has worked in TV since 1988, Lachman began his career in print. After graduating from Brooklyn College, he became a reporter with the White Plains Reporter-Dispatch and ended up a crack correspondent at the New York Post. “I wanted to go on adventures and be paid for it, then come home and write about them,” he says.
During his eight years at the Post, Lachman covered the war in Beirut and was the first reporter to sneak into Granada when the U.S. invaded.
“We were running exclusive after exclusive. Four days after we broke the story, The New York Times admitted the invasion had happened,” says Bob Young, Lachman's former editor at the Post and former boss at Inside Edition.
Yet Lachman plays down that experience. “I'm not sure I would do it again. But I had a scoop mentality and the ambition to prove myself.”
His love of the get got him noticed by News Corp. executives, who pulled him off the newspaper and plunked him down at A Current Affair in 1989. After a few months learning the ropes, he migrated to Fox-owned WNYW as managing editor.
“I had always wanted to go into television,” he says. “Newspapers are a great training ground for TV in terms of research, writing and reporting skills. Once you have them, it gives you a richness of background that's a little rare in television.” During his yearlong tenure at WNYW, Lachman wrote In the Name of the Law, a cops-and-robbers thriller, before King World snared him for Inside Edition. Michael King had lured some of the producers of A Current Affair, and they persuaded their protégé Lachman to join them.
“He's developed into a remarkable producer,” says Roger King, CEO of King World Productions, “and changed the direction of Inside Edition.” Under Lachman's leadership, the show aggressively pursues enterprise pieces. “I love screening an investigative story that has taken months to pull together and jumping on the pop-culture story of the day,” Lachman says. “But my favorites are the human-interest stories—covering the civilian thrust in the national spotlight and scoring that first interview.”
While he cites 9/11 and the Clinton impeachment among his memorable stories, his favorite is “Unclaimed Funds,” a show in which viewers were told how to retrieve millions of dollars owed them that they didn't even know existed. “In one case, we found $500,000 for a viewer,” says Lachman, adding, “My proudest story is one on insurance fraud that won a George Polk Award.”
Inside Edition also keeps its toes in the celebrity pool, interviewing Anna Nicole Smith following her bizarre appearance on the American Music Awards and NBA star Ron Artest after he brawled with fans. It pays its respects to entertainment but casts a much broader net than Entertainment Tonight, The Insider, Access Hollywood and Extra.
Inside Edition anchor Deborah Norville says the show stays on its game because Lachman and his team have read and seen everything. “Our mandate is to produce a journalistically sound, informative show with real stories. It was a strategic decision to do network news with network credibility. What we've got going for us is history and longevity. That's our currency.”
That history explains why he has stayed at IE 15 years. Says Lachman: “There's a drama going on every day.”
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