Friday, June 05, 2015

More on the care and feeding of journalists

OK so this is the second part of a two part item on the Care and Feeding of Journalists. Although, let's face it, this is just about feeding this journalist in particular. Although I think some of the guidance is useful for many of the people I work with at The Economist.


What is the best way to reach you?
Email, which is my first name and second name as one word then an "@" You can also follow me on Twitter @natashaloder, and try to catch me there. When I'm checking Twitter, I'm open to being engaged in chitchat.

Can we send you anything?
It would be great if you could exert a bit of control over what you send, it may be just a press release for you but with all the junk I get sent it is death by a thousand cuts. A previous post lists the sorts of things I am interested in. (When I start getting particularly irrelevant pitches, I have resorted to using the #spamPR hashtag to highlight the worst offenders.)

If you really must send press releases about things that we both know are of no interest, please us both a favour and don't follow up.

If you think that it might be of interest, please feel free to send a second email reminding me about the first one.

Can I get feedback on what you thought of the release?
No. Seriously. Too busy. It will either get deleted or filed if I think it might be useful later.

And if you call me to re-pitch me a press release when I'm busy please don't expect me to be delighted to hear from you. And if you say "do you have a minute right now?" that is going to make me cross because we both know it is going to take longer than this. Also you have started your pitch with something we both know is a lie... which really doesn't help your case.

I would say that one or two in ten of the people who reach me on the phone actually have something to discuss with me that I want to hear. This is a really poor hit ratio so if you are calling you need to know that I'm expecting the call is going to be a complete waste of time before I've even picked up the receiver. When we speak, be prepared to answer questions such as, "what kind of article do you imagine I might write about this?" And, "have you ever read a piece like this in The Economist?", or "how does this technology work?".

How often do you write stories based on press releases?
Not often, truth be told.

Will you send me a reply to my email?
Sometimes. If a personal pitch is made to me (not just a mass email release), and I think it has a pretty good sense of what I'm interested in, I will try and say thanks but no thanks. If it is something I might pick up on at a later date, I will try and reply.

What do you look for in a story?
See my previous post. Bear in mind that in the age of the internet, as a journalist I really do need something new and different to say. Also, you know there really are only so many articles that I can write about the scourge of antibiotic resistance or mobile digital health.

When should I contact you?
It depends on what you have. My busiest days are Mondays and Tuesdays. That said, if it is late news for that week then these days are fine. If you are wondering what the best day to send something that isn't exactly news but which you would like to read, I would suggest Thursday or Friday. If you have a story that is going to need a lot of legwork, your 1,000 page annual review of the drug industry, you should send me a note a few weeks before it is going to hit.

What are your deadlines?
This varies according to the article concerned.

Can you send me a list of questions?
If you requested the interview, NO. You already emailed me to tell me what you wanted to talk about and I said yes. Seriously total time suck all round.

If I requested it I will give you an idea of what I want to talk about. Again list of questions is total time suck, and could well have changed depending on who I've spoken to prior.

Top tips 

* Try and keep pitches focused to my main thematic areas. Business stories on health (and pharma), and medical science and technology. See previous post.

* If I do agree to speak to your executive on the phone, please do not email to ask when the story is going to come out. That just shows that you don't understand how this works.

* I detest voicemail.

* Please don't use email tracking. It is impolite. All you need to know is that I do my job by reading my email as regularly as I am able.