11 June 2013

How to make a blogger laugh

Over the past week or so I've needed cheering up, and this morning a bit of sunny, patronising tosh brought forth the laughter that, for an influenza sufferer like me, brings on hacking coughs. After I'd finished coughing I still appreciated what I assumed was a joke.

One of the great lodes of comedy is the collision between high-minded idealism and everyday reality. Charlie Chaplin built a career on it and so have plenty of others. This article may not be intended to continue that tradition, but it does miss the important point that journalism is as journalism does.

Let's look at her 10 tips for getting yourself into a position where "you may [my emphasis] have a successful working relationship with someone in the newsroom.":

I've been reading newspapers since I was ten. I'm 44. Don't tell me what headlines are meant to do. Like anything a headline can let you down. A duff headline can mean the detail of the story won't be read and so the whole process of collaborating in one has been a waste of time.

Besides, who do you expect people to vent to? The journalist is the one person in the media organisation with whom you've struck up a relationship. A sub-editor is not going to take a call from anyone. They don't even like journalists and these days don't even work for the same organisation as the journalist, or even for the media outlet which put out the story.

Nature of advice: patronising, silly

Journalists are not the only ones in that position. Small business people, the target audience for the story, also face tight deadlines and pressure on matters other than the story under discussion.

Nature of advice: lacking in self-awareness - and awareness of others (a quality a journalist is expected to have in spades, hence etc.)

The journalist sells the interviewee on the idea that he/she is just telling the interviewee's story, and then gets all upset when the interviewee wants to say something different - particularly when the journalist is interviewing someone not accustomed to being interviewed.

If you think real journalism is fielding half a dozen calls each day from Joel Fitzgibbon, you can jam the above quote as far as it will go.

Nature of advice: lacking in self-awareness, lack of understanding of own job (someone buy Kate Jones a copy of The Journalist and the Murderer)

The journosphere only wants the compelling action shots like this:

Or fresh and arresting visual images like this:

So don't even bother with your brother-in-law who has all the you-beaut Canon gear and takes wildlife photos on weekends. Who does he think he is, Mike Bowers?

Nature of advice: lacking in self-awareness, pointless (admit it, there is no policy on what pics media outlets will or won't use, apart from pixel count or size. Journos love cliches in text and pics, they love readers who love cliches and shut up about it)

So when you've spent hours explaining something to a journalist, and they still don't get it, suck it up.

Nature of advice: lacking in self-awareness. The whole business of journalism involves seeking other people's opinions.

Journalists tend to work for organisations that are, for all their difficulties, multi-million-dollar organisations that employ hundreds of people. Small businesses, by their nature, aren't like that. Some small businesses might hire a PR person to field media enquiries, but most don't. A journalist who has spent time with a small business person, watching them get pulled in ten different directions in as many minutes, need not wonder why such a person has not returned their call as a matter of urgency.

Nature of advice: lacking in self-awareness. People are living the life that you write about. If you had cultivated a better relationship with the interviewee, prompt returning of calls might be part of it.

Come on, say something nice: I liked the idea of a hard-hitting balanced investigative piece on Mother's Day sales. People have gotten Walkleys for less.

Yeah, you never know when rumours about Kevin Rudd challenging Julia Gillard might pop up. It might be tomorrow, it might be the day after. Whatever journalists write about, that's news, and if they don't write about it then it isn't. Unless it is, in which case see 5 and 9 above. There aren't any hard-and-fast rules about news. Interviewees: don't get sucked in by journalists. Journalists: do a better job of managing expectations.

Nature of advice: lacking in self-awareness. If it's your job to have the news sense, why do you complain when others lack it? And if others have news sense and you don't, haven't you been found out?

Nature of advice: Fair enough.

Now where would anyone get a crazy idea like that?

Nature of advice: lacking in self-awareness, awareness of others. This person is focused on building their business. They may even be running the sort of business that competes with Justin Hemmes'. They wouldn't be talking to you at all unless it helped that end. And did you not promise coverage, exposure to a wide audience ...?

See 4. above.

Copyright for all images in this blogpost (c) The Sydney Morning Herald, the same publication that runs Kate Jones' story, and yes that is part of the point I'm making here. This is media advice for people who don't know what the media is, presumably commissioned and approved by an editor in a similar position. The story fails as a serious endeavour, but my goodness it could make a cat laugh.


  1. How Not To Annoy A Journalist, Addendum:

    Don't run your own blog which provides content at a higher quality than us. Stop rocking the boat and keep the status quo out there, we are the gatekeepers after all. We must maintain the lifestyle to which we have become accustomed.

  2. #7 Journo's won't stand for blatant political photo-ops? Geez! That's news to me, and anyone who watches the endless rounds of Tony Abbott and his blatantly political photo-ops ... er ... carefully managed policy release press conferences ... er ... brain farts ... er ...

  3. Gold Andrew!


  4. VoterBentleigh11/6/13 7:41 pm

    Thanks for an enjoyable article.

    Perhaps the MSM would be better instructing journalists about how to deal with manipulative and belligerent interviewees.

    In May of this year, one journalist attempted to tackle the Opposition Leader on the Coalition's policy regarding taxation and the GST. First, the Opposition Leader attempted to suggest that the journalist was lying by misrepresenting Colin Barnett. But the journalist pointed out it was a direct quote, so the Opposition Leader moved to ignoring the facts by saying, “I'll put that to one side”. In other words, I'm not discussing the truth. Tony Abbott began a spiel that was pure waffle without substance or evidence. Again the journalist persisted, but Abbott belittled him as a heckler offering personal opinion.

    Self-respecting journalists should not allow themselves to be treated in this way. It is about time the the Coalition circus of stunts and propaganda and the Kevin Rudd Show were closed down in favour of genuine discussion of policy issues. If journalists had any self-respect they would at least fight back. The only way to counter the burgeoning soap opera suds of propaganda being pumped out daily by the Coalition and other anti-Government forces is to deny it air.

    The trouble is that large elements of the journalistic profession within the Murdoch and Fairfax empires and the ABC are the anti-Government forces and actively promote the propaganda. Perhaps the issue is not that the public have stopped listening to the Government's message, but that they have stopped listening to the media.

    1. I think you're right. Part of Kerry O'brien's clout was the fact that he would occasionally refuse to be brushed off.
      Journalists should be able to stand toe to toe with politicians confident that their skills,research and well researched facts will ebable them through quality factual writing to actually be "gatekeepers" on what is said to the public vs. what actually goes on.
      At the moment it's apparent to all and sundry that journalism is essentially lobbying for commercial or vested intrests.

    2. Lobbying which means a lot of boozy functions albeit it sleazy schmoozing....

      Sorry Andrew but between drinks,the idiocy
      can be seen with some interesting liasons

      The Drum is hilarious to watch where the body language between these yuppy commentators and their 'expertise' borders on ridiculous and a waste of taxpayers money by biased and shallow analysis..

      Im on t.v. and your'e not!

      This reply from a yuppie that thinks theyr'e God ...


  5. She's a journalist?Hahahaha!

  6. Yup, this side of a Ben Hecht play, writing about journalism doesn't get much funnier.

  7. Bushfire Bill13/6/13 6:19 pm

    Just been listening to Hartcher, John Mangos and Monica Attard reciting their own epitaphs on ABC 702 “The Journos Forum”.

    They all said, virtually in unison:

    “If there’s a Leadershit story going we are duty bound to print it to the exclusion of policy. We just cannot ignore it. The public doesn’t understand this.”

    The public don’t understand it?

    How about a share price of 50c?

    Tanking circulation?

    Journalism rated among the lowest of the professions?

    Sounds like rather a profound “understanding” to me, just not the type of “understanding” they were thinking about.

    1. Self-delusion with no resources available to those who'd even want to pull out of the dive. Glover has a schtick on his show where he confront a media controversy and ask "but is the media to blame?", and he always frames the answer in the negative.

  8. http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/latenightlive/elite-racism/4747046


    This programme confirms what I have known secretly for years...

    Waleed et al has sadly exposed the middle class bigot of the fourth estate.

    Very sad yet confronting


  9. http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/sundayextra/outsiders/4756768

    Andrew et al,

    This 'interview!'with Grace Collier on radio national is woeful...

    Quite amusing that any conservative would even hire her after this episode...

    Respectable journalism eh?

    Kudos to Mr Green who handled it with grace and humour