Wednesday, 15 July 2009

The advent of the modern age

Email is one of the most useful tools in the modern world and, to journalists, it can be quite simply a lifesaver.
Pics and quotes in an instant, records of conversations saved. No more digging through notebooks to find a phone number or fact.
But it is also becoming massively overused.
One of my journalists barely picks up the phone. Instead of calling, he bangs out an email and pings it. Almost all of his stories are done using email back and forths.
This is clearly bullshit.
Firstly, how in fuck's name does he even know his email has been read? (OK, I realise you can ask for a response when it's picked up but you cannot guarantee the missive's recipient is actually the one who read it).
Secondly, what about the length of time all this takes? Most stories, especially the back of the bookers or downpage specials, can be cracked out after a couple of five minute phone calls. Emails are hit and miss. It is a presumption that every one of your contacts is sitting by a machine waiting for the ping ping sound of a new email.
Thirdly, what about building relationships, finding out who is useful and who is not. A two minute phone conversation can often be the start of a beautiful relationship. While you are on you can even - gasp - ask if anything else is going on.
But the worst thing about email is that PRs fucking love email. They demand a list of written questions 90 per cent of the time on tricky stories. It means replies can be sanitised, pored over, spun and signed off.
Responses to serious, important stories can be fully given the press office bullshit treatment rather than snatching the brilliant off the cuff comments journalists should be getting to expose these overpaid wankers.
Email is a useful tool, not a new way to do our job.
Talk to people. Get contacts. Write real stories. Not the ones they WANT you to write!
Pick up the fucking phone, you lazy cunts.


  1. Lifted your piece for use on my paltry blog. Hope you don't mind.

  2. As one of those accursed PRs, I know what you mean about email: it's easier for us and it's easier for hacks to copypasta our finely honed and cleared words into their articles.

    But a good PR loves a crisis (I worked on a multi-year classic). The frustration is seeing two weeks' work on a detailed Q&A go largely wasted when inexperienced and unimaginative hacks ask the same three obvious questions. The phone should be harder, but so few callers get to the meat.

    At the end, that's where the good shit was. And I was ready to tell you, if only you'd asked. It's marked "if pressed". Just say it. "I'm pressing you now" and see what you get.