Journalists? Tossers, the lot of us them

I got an email the other day:

Hi,
The Independent on Sunday are looking to do a piece for National Allotment Week, and we’re interested in doing a few case studies on individuals who are willing to be photographed and interviewed about their allotment. If you or anyone you know if [sic] may be interested, it would be great if you could let me know, and pass on any contact details. Thanks a lot.
Rudy Cow

(Name changed to save writer’s blushes)

Emails like this turn up from time to time, and I’m flattered. Nice if someone notices what I say here.

But here’s the thing: I don’t need or want publicity. Honestly. I’ve seen my photo and byline in lights for 20 years. I don’t give the tiniest shit.

And I don’t want or need exposure or traffic: I do what I do on my allotment and on this blog because I love it, and because I genuinely want to help others. I don’t make (nor intend to make, nor could I make) a penny from it. Hard to believe, I know, but it’s God’s honest truth (Nurse! The straitjacket!).

So it was in a spirit of helpfulness (I didn’t want to do this) that I replied thus:

Rudy hi
Happy to do it provided you only use the name ‘Soilman’, and not my real name or precise location. No problem with photos. You can ring me on such-and-such number.
Cheers

Guess what? I never got a reply.

So here’s my comment on the matter.

First, to Rudy Cow (you know who you are): When you approach a total stranger for help, and they bother to reply (even more so if they come back with any kind of assistance), it’s the barest, tiniest act of courtesy to write back. Even if it’s just ‘thanks, but no thanks’.

To everyone else in the ‘veggie community’: If Rudy (email me privately to check real name) or anyone else from the Independent on Sunday approaches you asking to appear in any kind of vegetable growing piece, I suggest you say “No”. Or – better yet – “Fuck Off”.

To journalists everywhere: Angling for free content from contribs or punters? Try charm. If you can’t manage that, at least be polite. Or get the fuck out of my face.

9 Responses to “Journalists? Tossers, the lot of us them”

  1. Carrie Says:

    Beautifully put

  2. Melanie Says:

    Hello Soilman,

    Being from the media, can I ask your advice? I started a school garden at my son’s school. This this is a very big allotment style plot right on the school ground. I’ve been trying to get the community involved as allotments are seriously lacking in our area.

    I’ve contacted the local press, bbc, gardening magazines and even the River Cottage crews. Not a peep from anyone. No one cares…including my local community. Im at a loss. I thought school gardening was such a “hot” topic. I get so many people telling me I should get the media involved but I just cant seem to get them to care

    What should I be doing? Love your blog by the way…more posts wouldnt go amiss ^.^

    Melanie
    http://www.growsonyou.com/mebennet

  3. Soilman Says:

    Melanie

    Bloody media. You see? All tossers.

    Seriously, this is a tricky one. Mags and newspapers are an unguided missile. You can aim them – a bit – but it’s very hard to get them precisely on the target you want.

    What you’re lacking here is a ‘story’ that stands out. “School starts vegetable garden” is no longer a story on its own; too many other people doing it. It is indeed a ‘hot’ topic, as you divine, but that’s now counting against you. Too much competition for headline space.

    To get the media’s attention you now need something fruitier. A classic way to get this is to find one person (better yet, a child) who will benefit/lose in some very tangible or moving way if the vegetable plot can be made a success or is a failure. Disability works well. So do sob stories of almost any hue.

    I know. It’s pretty sick. NOW are you beginning to see why journalists are such tossers?

  4. tanya walton Says:

    Well put soilman…if we all wanted fame and fortune I doubt very much we’d be growing a few veggies and humbly throwing tips and ideas back and forth between ourselves!! I say sod the reporters too!!!!!

    Oh and Melanie…soilman is right…no-one really gives a toss if they can’t get anything out of it…my sons old school has a wonderful plot and they do lots for the community with this but the headmaster started it off his own back because he wanted to involve the children in growing things and getting them to try more vegetables. It is reguarly put in the childrens school newsletter but that is as much publicity as it gets…lets face it…what we do is hard work and thats when most people lose interest!!

  5. Melanie Says:

    fair…im starting to agree with both of you. though that said, there are no allotments where i live and its a deprived area where ppl winge and wine about not having space to grow stuff. i would have though my hard work would have gotten recognised. guess not. the worst thing is: i did it for other people. i though the community would appreciate a bit of land to grown their own food and let their kids play safe…sigh. idealistic i guess…

  6. Bill Bennett Says:

    A very good point indeed. Of course, the flip side of this is to remind journalists:

    a) being polite pays dividends. Mind you, it has to be sincere or at least have the appearance of being sincere to work.

    b) if you sow arrogance you’ll reap some bitter fruit. And, mixing my metaphors, this could come back and bite you in the bum.

  7. Bill Bennett Says:

    @Melanie – I don’t know if this still works in the UK, but in my time as a journalist there (ie the 1980s) and even now here in New Zealand, some really, really nice photos are usually a way to get coverage of this kind of story.

    Trying ringing the photo desks on newspapers. They can schedule the story for a junior to handle on a quiet day and may possibly come up with gold. Otherwise find a parent who is brilliant at photography and UNDERSTANDS media photo requirements.

  8. VP Says:

    Melanie – we had similar probelms with getting publicity for a swimming club my husband started.

    He ended up having to take the photos and write the story – a bit like doing a press release. When thus spoon fed, the local paper obliged and printed the whole thing – verbatim.

  9. Soilman Says:

    You’re so right, VP: it’s important to remember that local media, in particular, are under terminal financial pressure nowadays. What few journalists are left working in local papers are being paid two tenths of bugger-all and working hours that make junior doctors look lazy. They barely have time to copy out a press release, let alone leave the office and write something original. If you provide them the whole package, chances are high they’ll just run it. Cos it’s easy and free (the two big content buzzwords in journalism these days).