Before He Was Famous: Mike Fleiss Goes From Newshound to TV Producer


Throughout his childhood, producer Mike Fleiss confesses he spent a lot of time captivated by the small screen. But before he dove headfirst into the television space, he dreamed of having a journalism career — and that dream came true. He honed his initial writing chops covering sports.

“I was a sports writer,” Mike Fleiss says. “I went to Berkeley and I was the executive editor of The Daily Californian, which is the paper in Berkeley. And then I became a sports writer and I covered the Sacramento Kings, [the San Francisco] Giants, and the Oakland A’s. I was at the ‘Earthquake World Series’ — I was in the press box for that.”

Fleiss witnessed the history-making moment on Oct. 17, 1989, when the Loma Prieta earthquake hit California’s Central Coast during the third game of the World Series between the Oakland Athletics and San Francisco Giants. The 6.9 magnitude earthquake earned the contest — which the A’s swept in four games — the “Earthquake Series” nickname. Fortunately, Fleiss was fine and the stadium reportedly fared well after the extreme event, but elsewhere, the quake tragically took 67 lives, injured 3,757 others, and caused $5 billion worth of damage.

Being in an actual earthquake wasn’t enough to deter Fleiss from his writing passion. He wrote for various newspapers in Northern California.

“Journalism, for me, was more than just respectable. It was a noble profession,” Fleiss insists.

The entertainment industry pro says the relationships he forged on the sports beat were ones he wouldn’t soon forget.

“When I went to show business I expected I’m going to meet all these really, really smart people now that I’m leaving the stupid news game and I’m going to Hollywood, baby,” Fleiss recalls. “No, it was the opposite. The smartest people I ever knew were the people in the newsroom. The people with the most integrity were the people in the newsroom.”

Fleiss adds he was impressed with how they could all write a headline with ease, knew proper punctuation, and could spell with accuracy. “They were smarter and they took their job more seriously,” he says.

Over the past 20 years, Fleiss says it may have changed, but back in the early ’90s, reporters lived and died by fact-checking.

“That was it and people didn’t play fast and loose with that at all,” he describes. “I remember filing my story at night and then being asleep and bolting up in the middle of the night thinking, ‘Oh my god, did I misspell that guy’s name [who was] playing for the Warriors? Did I misspell his name?’”

The TV production pro admits he would wait with bated breath for the paper to come out the following day, when he would exhale a sigh of relief when realizing he didn’t misspell an athlete’s name. It’s a feeling any seasoned journalist knows all too well.

“And that’s how it was. It was serious business and now it’s just this fast and loose garbage,” he shares.

As he saw the once thriving force of journalism begin to weaken, Mike Fleiss decided to direct his love for writing toward the bright lights of Hollywood and took a leap of faith into show business. Eventually, it was obvious he’d landed right where he was supposed to be, rekindling his lifelong love for television.

“I was excited by The Howard Stern Show and The Simpsons and stuff like that, and so I felt like there would be more freedom of expression, at least at that time in history, in television,” Mike Fleiss reveals. “That was my goal because I grew up loving television.” Mission accomplished.

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More