It’s no mystery as to where Marion Herbert will be on Friday night, and she certainly won’t be alone.
“A bunch of my friends and I have been huge, huge fans of the show for as long as I can remember,” said Herbert, 26, of “‘Dateline NBC,” which premiered on NBC in 1992.
Over the years, this primetime news program has presented a mix of breaking news, investigative pieces, reports on confounding cases and profiles of newsmakers. Recently, the show set about getting to know its audience a whole lot better, which is where Herbert comes in.
On Friday, Sept. 27, she and her fellow “Dateline” fans will welcome correspondent Josh Mankiewicz to a home in Stamford where the group will watch the season premiere of the show. They are the winners of a recent contest that asked viewers to make the case as to why Mankiewicz should be at their home when it came time for the season premiere. They beat out hundreds of submissions.
The show took to social media, employing #DontWatchAlone and asking for for entrants on Facebook, which was the lure that attracted Herbert.
“I saw it in passing,” said Herbert, noting that at first she entered on a bit of a whim. “I put together the Top 10 reasons they should come to Stamford. I didn’t thing to much about it … it was just fun and goofy, but then the post started to get a lot of likes and I started to pay attention to the contest.”
She went back to the group, (Billy Byrne, Kimberly Donovan, Kate Pigué, Jenny Sussin, RJ Higley, Sean Willoughby and Chelsea Petrovits – all Stamford residents), and soon they were crafting up a video. (You can see the full group in photo above, and the video below.)
“It was all of us, but I guess I got the ball rolling,” Herbert said.
“We asked everyone to be as creative as possible in their submissions, and the group in Stamford clearly were,” said Mankiewicz. “It was clever and funny; it was great.”
This is not Mankiewicz first trip into the home of a loyal viewer. Last year, he made a stop in Kansas City to watch a show with a fan and engage the audience with social media. Last week, he was in York, Pa., to launch the contest.
“We have been engaging the audience through social media for a couple of years now,” said Mankiewicz. “For so long, television was only one way. We did the programs and they watched.”
Still, there can be some unintended consequences.
“There has been a tremendous amount of discussion on how I dress,” he said, laughing.
Just as he may learn the fans’ preferred color of tie, he said he also learns interesting things about the audience, their interest in the show and the topics that are covered. It has only made him a better storyteller, he said.
For Herbert, the stories are compelling, but the allure mostly has to do with the time she spends with her friends. A relative newcomer to Stamford – she moved to the city three years ago – Herbert said establishing a new routine with a new group of friends was something that made the transition an easier one.
“It’s become our thing,” she said of the group.
Herbert said her family is excited and hoping to come down from the Harwinton area, where she grew up, to be a part of the festivities. During the day on Thursday, Herbert and others went around Stamford with the producers as part of promotions for the show.
If you tune in on Friday at 9 p.m., keep your eyes open, as the group is expected to be featured. You can also probably see some scenes of Stamford.
Mankiewicz, who worked as a political reporter on Channel 2 News in New York City from 1986-91, said he is familiar with Stamford, but is looking forward to meeting new people and fans Friday night.
“I think it will be a whole lot of fun,” said Herbert, whose only worry was that she would have enough room for everyone.