View Full Version : A Question?...and a Warning! - - JOURNALISTS

2nd Apr 2003, 20:14
How many of you out there know how to react when approached by a journalist asking questions about your job or employer? Or perhaps more to the point, who has been instructed by their employer on what to say and/or do? And if so, what are those instructions?
As a journo myself I can guess the answer, but as a fellow pilot I suggest everyone here would do well to consider such a likelihood and their own circumstances. Many a well-meaning employee has gotten themselves into deep doodoo with their boss when all they had done was given truthfull answers to reasonable questions. And the helicopter community's recent spat with the Daily Mirror newspaper offers lessons, too.
So let's hear it. And NO, I'm not going to do a knife 'n' fork job on your words, or use them in any way. Those that know me from the Rotorheads Forum know I'm one of the good guys.
(aka Dan Coughlan)

2nd Apr 2003, 20:16
As an employee in Aviation ive been told not to speak to press and now as an employer i give the same recommendation to my staff.

Im saving all i know for my book !


Raw Data
2nd Apr 2003, 20:22
Dan, virtually all aviation employers (if not all employers in general) have a clause in either their contract of employment, or (in the case of many airlines) their Operations Manual, that expressly prohibits a staff member from talking to the press without permission of a senior manager. This then gives them the ability to dismiss the employee for Gross Misconduct, should they break the rules. Ignorance is no defence as it implies that the employee never read the Ops Manual/contract. BALPA reinforce this, in advice about what to do in the aftermath of an accident.

Apart from which, common sense dictates that it is unwise to speak, on the record, to a journo! ;)

It's really a bit of a no-brainer...

2nd Apr 2003, 20:54
I speak to journos on most days, but it's about stuff like the latest euro zone jobs data, retail sales, or an ECB rate cut.

They're from the wire services. I trust them and have had the odd beer with them. If The Sun called up asking for stuff, I'd not talk.

You can't say all journos are the same, just like all pilots are not the same.

That said, Raw Data is right in that if you've never met a journo that cold calls you about something sensitive -- clam up.

2nd Apr 2003, 21:01
Talking to hacks is a game with rules. Establish the ground rules before conversing on the topic in hand and you should not go wrong. Get clear beforehand what you want from the menu:
1) to be quoted by name
2) to be quoted anonymously
3) to talk on a background basis with no names or quotes.

If you want mixtures of the above, you have to be absolutely explicit when you are going on or off the record.

If you do not establish the ground rules before you speak, many journos will take that to mean that you are speaking on the record (i.e. name and quote). The more unscrupulous among them might not let you express your conditions at the end of the conversation, making it vital to get the rules right before you speak.

2nd Apr 2003, 21:30
Speaking as a PR consultant Id say clamming up helps no one.

A persistent journalist WILL keep calling around your company; it is after all their job. Eventually he or she will get a result, someone either foolish enough or vain enough to talk on a subject when they should not.

If you are called and are not authorised to comment be helpful, take a name, number and commit to calling back, ask for the journalist's deadline and try to find out who else has been spoken to. Then call your PR contact (It's in the manual right?) and pass on the details, get them to call back or provide you with a set of agreed words or if the situation dictates a statement to read.

The key is to manage the process. Refusing to comment, ducking questions, guessing or worse lying are all at best unproductive at worse commercial / professional suicide. Providing timely accurate information will help squash scare mongering and reduce "an industry source" type speculation.

Any company involved in aviation would be well advised to build press relations into their crisis management plan. You should ideally practice implementing this - including involving local journalists - firstly this adds realism for your team, secondly its good training for the journalists (!), they will know where to come, who to expect to talk to etc and finally it's good to build the relationship.

2nd Apr 2003, 22:22
Unless your job requires you to interface with organisations outside your own company (eg the press, suppliers of goods for which you authorise expenditure etc.) then you have no business attempting to represent your company (eg talking about what is going on, asking for goods to be supplied etc).

Common sense requires you to check your response back with appropriate mangement BEFORE you enter any agreement. Don't attempt to manage anything - if a journalist approaches you then direct him/her to the PR department, no more, no less. If anyone knows who you work for and is asking you questions there could be any number of reasons why you are being approached, none of which you have any idea about.

Delicate negotiations, personal difficulties etc can all be made much harder by un-informed, if well-meaning, gossip.

No harm in you asking some questions, though. Feed it back to the appropriate people and you may well be helping keep you, your colleagues, your jobs etc. safe.

Journalism must be fascinating and demanding - but do journalists control what happens to the story after it has been given to the editor ? Where do their loyalties lie - to you and yours or their own ?

t'aint natural
3rd Apr 2003, 01:08
I'm a former Fleet Street news editor with 30 years in the game, tabloid and broadsheet, on three continents.
My considered advice to anyone - not just anyone in aviation - who is approached by a journalist is to say nothing. If they persist, tell them to f*** off. Not 'no comment,' they can print that.
No journalist is there for your benefit, or that of your company or industry. Nor are they there to enlighten or educate the public. They are there to profit by creating the most saleable story possible from a set of circumstances, and their presence can never improve any situation. They almost always get almost everything wrong, only occasionally through ignorance, and the broadsheets are worse than the tabloids.
I have many, many friends in journalism and not one of them would honestly disagree with me on this.
As a helicopter instructor I've signed a document which debars me from speaking to the media, and I was happy to do so.

3rd Apr 2003, 01:42
Good post t'aint natural - sums up the modern journo beautifully.

3rd Apr 2003, 01:51

There is no way I would do what you suggest. We are told on the pre-line brief that the policy is to tell journalists to call media relations. That's all. That's the company policy and so that's what I would do. Anything more and I could lose my job. Why should I go to the trouble of ringing anyone back and doing all the legwork as you suggest? That's ridiculous. I would never, in a million years, speak to a journalist regarding aviation in any sense.


3rd Apr 2003, 02:32
T'aint and Soddim...you're right. Of course you are. :rolleyes:

Rwy in Sight
3rd Apr 2003, 02:45
Hello All,

What is the story about the Daily Mirror and the helicopter community? Did they publish an inaccurate story?

Thanks for your answers!

Rwy in Sight

Agaricus bisporus
3rd Apr 2003, 07:36
t'aint natural tells us that for acurate reporting the broadsheets are worse than the tabloids (!!!)

Well, I think that any adult or child of above meagre intelligence will immediately recognise the level of accuracy in this statement, and perhaps detect a serious chip-on-shoulder there too.

Just what does this tell us about the "tainted" levels of honesty in journalism?

3rd Apr 2003, 14:58
Check out the Rotorhead Forum thread of about a month ago for the full story.
Essentially, a Mirror journo and photographer anonymously hired a light helicopter for a pleasure flight along the London Heli Lanes. The next morning they ran a scare story claiming they could have been terrorists, that their identities and bags were not checked, and that they could easily have over-powered the pilot and flown the craft into any building they wished. The Mirror's front page featured an aerial photo of the Houses of Parliament, the seat of UK government, together with a claim that they hovered there for five minutes.
The Mirror, spurned on by quotes from an exposure-hungry minor politician, also claimed it had exposed a major gap in UK home security. A letter of response sent by the well-regarded operator concerned was ignored.

Self Loading Freight
3rd Apr 2003, 17:48
"Never talk to journalists" and "They never know what they're writing about" seem to be two themes here.

I wonder if they are related?


(a journalist, who doesn't recognise what he does for a living from the thread so far...)

3rd Apr 2003, 18:30
t'aint natural

I always thought the fact that junior trainees and burnt out hacks were always desperate for a story was a secret, now everyone knows.

Ace Rimmer
3rd Apr 2003, 19:11
Hmmm anti-journo thread on pprune imagine that....

Clearly, it was a complete waste of time spending a week flying a cumulative 16,000 ish miles, interviewing two airline CEOs, one FAA administrator, three Chief Pilots, two test pilots, three design engineers, doing two demonstration flights and four hours of sim time (all in the name of doing some good and...gasp... accurate stories) . When I could have stayed in the office made it all up and then gone to the pub. Bollux. Still after all this time you'd think I'd have worked how 'real' journos do it....:rolleyes:

Not defending them in the mainstream though....

3rd Apr 2003, 19:48
Ace Rimmer and SLF, discussing another matter this morning with Sick Squid, he coined the expression a "rhinoceresque skin". Being what you need to enjoy PPRuNe.

Journalists seem to be bearing the brunt of it at the moment, but many other professions regularly get picked on and villified by posters.
Lawyers, flight attendants, and pilots (shock horror) come to mind without any effort. It's a fact of PPRuNe life that we always seem to know very well, from the comfort of our computer chair, how the other guy/gal should have done the job.
What's the American term, monday-morning quarterbacks?

That things (in any particular field) are often vastly more complicated in reality than they seem to the unitiated observer is another matter that often gets brushed under the carpet here. Why let the truth get in the way of a high-feel-good-factor-blow-your-top post? ;)

Cultivate the thick skin and keep putting out the truth about how you do your job.
That's my survival tip of the day. :=

3rd Apr 2003, 19:54
There is no way I would do what you suggest. We are told on the pre-line brief that the policy is to tell journalists to call media relations. That's all. That's the company policy and so that's what I would do.

If that's the policy for your job role then I cannot disagree with it.

Anything more and I could lose my job. Why should I go to the trouble of ringing anyone back and doing all the legwork as you suggest? That's ridiculous. I would never, in a million years, speak to a journalist regarding aviation in any sense.

But someone needs to actively deal with that call.

Letting the PR team / management spokespersons do this is best - and a good career move! (We PR people are after all expendable if we say the wrong thing - even when that "wrong thing" was agreed in advance with management!)

However I would urge you to call the PR team, even if the manual does not demand it - perhaps it should - as you could provide useful info to them on the journalist's approach to the story - even if it is just a "heads up" that extra 5 minutes can make for a smoother response and a better result for your employer.

My point was that companies need to be prepared to deal with media enquiries - not automatically clam up. Some of the worst PR received by major companies has been the direct result of refusing to talk to the press, being evasive or dishonest.

It's the nature of the press that bad news always lives longer than good, if you make the press drag it out it can become a zombie...

Ace Rimmer
3rd Apr 2003, 22:19
I actually didn't mean it to come out as a rant... it was supposed to be a little tongue in cheek picture (although an accurate representation of the last road trip coupla weeks back) of the lengths that a lot of journos (aviation ones anyway, like I say I don't defend the mainstream types most of there stuff is bollocks ) go to to get an accurate, timely, and readable story...

Self Loading Freight
4th Apr 2003, 01:54

I don't think I could have stuck it out (ooo-err!) on Pprune for three and a half years as a self-confessed Qwerty Gerty without having a certain horniness (will you stop that?) about my epidermis.

And anyway, the day pilots stop complaining vigorously about journos, managers, engineers, passengers, other pilots, furriners, Northerners, Southerners and anything else that happens to have rubbed them up the wrong way of late... well, that'll be one of the signs of the End Times, right there.

Now and again, though, it's worth pointing out mildly that things are somewhat more complex than may appear to the apoplectic.


t'aint natural
4th Apr 2003, 04:14
Agaricus bisporus:
Sorry if you don't like it, but there it is.
Most modern journalism can be traced back to that great populist, the first Lord Northcliffe, ancestor of the current Lord Rothermere (Associated Newspapers) and a man who at one time owned the Daily Mirror and The Times. Northcliffe always refused to be interviewed, saying: 'I'm like the little boy who doesn't like jam, because I've been to the factory and I've seen how it's made.'

Raw Data
4th Apr 2003, 05:50

But someone needs to actively deal with that call.

No, they don't.

Any journalist with even a modicum of intellligence knows that you go to a company management, or their PR company, for the official line. Any journalist talking to a line pilot, or other employee, is after "dirt", not the line a PR company will spin them.

Some journalists, by their professionalism and sense of what is fair and right, gain the trust of pilots and will get all sorts of inside information on what really goes on aviation. Others are less trustworthy, and simply use those who will speak to them to further their own careers, and the hell with the consequences for their informants (the recent use of a caterer to smuggle fake weapons onto an aircraft, for example). Fortunately, the journalists who are visible on PPRuNe tend to be the former, not the latter.

But, going back to the point:-

However I would urge you to call the PR team, even if the manual does not demand it - perhaps it should - as you could provide useful info to them on the journalist's approach to the story - even if it is just a "heads up" that extra 5 minutes can make for a smoother response and a better result for your employer.

Wrong, wrong, wrong. If a company employee was to speak direct to their companies PR firm, the very least that would probably follow would be a stiff talking-to by their line manager- more likely a disciplinary action would follow.

My point was that companies need to be prepared to deal with media enquiries - not automatically clam up. Some of the worst PR received by major companies has been the direct result of refusing to talk to the press, being evasive or dishonest.

An employee should direct any query by the press to their management, making no comment in the process. I also take issue with your statement- I don't believe for a minute that refusing to talk to the press has resulted in bad PR. It is certainly true that being evasive or dishonest has resulted in bad PR- but only because the person concerned did talk to the press, and handled it badly. If they hadn't done so, no bad PR. QED.

Unfortunately PR people seem to live in a different world to the rest of us- if you are not skilled in the art of spin, best to say nothing (and be thought a fool- than to speak... etc...)

Faire d'income
4th Apr 2003, 08:10
What if your PR section are the scum of the earth! What if their sole activity is spinning yarns for the media that you are overpaid, underworked, ungrateful, lazy, unreliable, completely untrustworthy, constantly complaining and a persistant thorn in the side of your wonderful management's attempt to save the world from your dispicable colleagues? :yuk:

Genghis the Engineer
4th Apr 2003, 14:44
I still shudder when I think of the day I was taking off to do some gardening, the Chief Exec was on holiday abroad, the Chief Safety Officer was out aviating - and the airprox board reports hit the newsdesks. The junior staff were quite right to give them my home number (Chief Engineer in this context), they needed somebody to talk to, but it does rather ruin one's day-off to be phoned mid-morning with "good morning, I'm the transport editor of the independent". You'll find me quoted on the front page the next day as "industry experts", which I thought was quite flattering given it was my day off and I had no idea we had a problem until they phoned me.

My point is, that just occasionally, one has to talk to the blighters, applying the perceived "best practice" of keeping schtum means they'll just print what seems like a good idea at the time.

To make a second point, there are two types of journalist in this context....

Firstly there is fleet-street (yes I know they aren't there any more), consisting of people highly(?!) trained to get a story that makes interesting reading, sells papers, and contains enough grains of truth to avoid their being sued for libel or deformation, but not necessarily any more truth than that. Dealing with these chaps requires both speed and delicacy - they'll go to print unless you can convince them that the whole thing is so boring there's no point. They also work to very tight deadlines - so if you are going to talk to them (usually safest) then it's best to make sure it's done quickly, by somebody who understands what's happening. Then the best approach is to drown them in bland facts, that are of course calculated not to cause problems.

Secondly there is the specialist press. I'm talking about the range of magazines from FTI to Flight, from Microlight Flying to Pilot, from Popular Mechanics to Professional Engineering. These chaps are very different, firstly the deadline to them is much less important than getting things right, and not causing widescale offence within the industry that they serve. When talking to them, it's worth finding out who you're talking to and what their interest in. The best way to get in trouble here is to tell them too many company secrets, but generally you'll find that if you take their details, say you'll call them back in a few hours, go talk to company senior management, and they'll either confirm the amount of information you should give them, or give you a steer as to who the normal contact point is, and you brief them. Specialist journos have a deep abhorence of causing trouble within their areas (they might publically whinge about something outside {a magazine specifically aimed at pilots may well be rude about the engineering profession for example} however, so do be a bit careful).

And just in passing, the latter are worth cultivating because they get a lot of their material from people like us - industry insiders, albeit often writing under pseudonyms (one of this month's high street flying magazines has about 4000 words of mine, but you'll not find my name anywhere), and at anything from 5p to 20p per word, with care not to p*** anybody off, it's not a bad second income once you've learned the ropes of the business. Even if that isn't your interest, a personal relationship with a few specialist journalists can help get your company's preferred view of the world reflected in the press read by your competitors and customers, and that can be a good thing.


4th Apr 2003, 15:03
IMO, this illustrates the challenge journalists face on all but the largest newspapers.

Sorry for the quality, it's been in my clipping file for nearly a decade.


4th Apr 2003, 15:37
My professional recommendation would be that you hire a top flight PR agency to work on changing the perceptions of your PR department ... :D

4th Apr 2003, 20:51
Nice one seacue...if only it was that organised!:D

6th Apr 2003, 10:28
Many sensible replies on here but Genghis sums it up to perfection and I'd only like to add a footnote about the specialist press.

The specialist press needs people who know the industry and that often means retirees or just industry people who like to write and like the broader contact with the industry.

But those people (and their editors/publishers) often find themselves lacking in journalistic skills. They can write, yes, but it takes them twice as long or more to write an article; they see all sides of the issue in shades of grey and agonise over the details trying to be fair; they know so much about the industry that they let their personal opinions creep into the text; in journalistic terms they are inefficient and terrible on deadlines. And they tend to be more expensive than the young professional reporter.

Specialist publishers have to try to balance that inefficient expertise with the more productive "real" journalists and hope the experience will rub off on them. Tain't easy. "Experienced" ponders motives, mulls over scenarios and few things can be more irritating than a hack who's got 10,000 characters on five different issues to produce by 1700 TODAY and needs the text equivalent of five soundbytes. "Experienced" soon learns he'll be tarred by association with the "hack" brush. With few and honourable exceptions he will eventually either find greener pastures or assume the cloak.

If you're a potential source within the industry, my own suggestion is be cautious, as you would be in any contact with outsiders. Take your time and get to know (e.g. via Google) what sort of stuff the person who contacted you is writing, and try to understand what their agenda is. Handle it right and, as Genghis says, it's an excellent way to put your own ideas across or to boost your own company's image. Build up trust and you'll find information is very much a two-way street. And to hell with anyone whose primary concern is his/her deadline.

6th Apr 2003, 21:18
What few people realise is that journalism is neither a profession nor a job..........

Its a disease

Genghis the Engineer
7th Apr 2003, 01:51
Oh no, people are taking me seriously again - beer voucher's in the post Broadreach :O

It's an interesting point when people like myself (that is professionals who write part time) get together we traditionally whinge about editors. It's interesting to read Broadreach's slant on the editor-writer relationship. It's often difficult, even with reasonable experience (I can claim 17 years {albeit with a few long gaps} part-time writing for various specialist magazines in the UK and US so am starting to get the hang of it) meeting their needs, and in particular matching their house style - a very difficult skill. Deadlines occasionally move without warning (or interfere with your professional desire to do the job properly), and not every (read most) editor(s) will run sub-edited text past you before running to print, even if you did have it in well before the deadline. A certain magazine editor got a severe private broadside from me not long ago for inserting 5 column inches under my (real) name that I hadn't written; several figures have been edited in a piece that many of you have probably read this month (under my current favourite pseudonym) from the more correct ones I used, to the ones published by a certain manufacturer - a fair call on the part of the editor since it's he that will get solicitors letters, not me. But, that gives an idea of the process before something goes to print. (And anyway, he left in most of my other criticisms, so I'll forgive him !).

But raitfaiter, I'm afraid that you are wrong. Just as there are some pretty poor or unethical journalists out there, we rub shoulders with Engineers and Pilots whose ethics one might doubt under closer examination. The misguided scum who flew into the World Trade Centre, or designed Japanese Kamikazee aeroplanes did far more damage than any bad journalist can - and were trained in our professions. We need to protect ourselves, as aviation professionals, from the poor journalists, and get to know the good ones - usually those writing for the publications that I'm sure clutter up your coffee table and crewroom just as they do mine.


7th Apr 2003, 02:28
Not sure where Gods Country (sic) is, but please try to contribute something a little more constructive, if not original. Maybe you or yours have been mistreated by me and mine at some point, but that's not so say all journalism is bad. Indeed, by posting on Pprune you take part in that very process - publishing. Think about that for a minute.

You are arguably every bit a journalist as those who also happen to get paid for it!

Meanwhile, consider this. Ever heard of Watergate, or Aitken? Could the actions of the Washington Post or The Guardian be considered diseased on those occasions?

Perhaps you can explain why you feel so strongly? ? ?


You said:

"...a fair call on the part of the editor since it's he that will get solicitors letters, not me."

Be careful my friend. If your editor inserts copy under your byline (pseudonym or not) you too will get a solicitor's letter. Your only defence on such occasions is to produce what used to be called a 'black', ie: your original copy as submitted. (The term comes from the colour of the carbon copy [remember those?] you kept when you mechanically typed your copy/text...Ah the good 'ol days)

These days this means a date stamped, and in any other way, validated copy of your email. Access to your hard drive can also help validate what you originally wrote. Suffice to say, regular floppy back-ups are a must in libel cases.

Sorry to go off message for a bit, but as I started this thread I reckon I've got the right...so there!

Mister Gash
7th Apr 2003, 06:00
Some interesting points on this thread and some that are piercing my rhinoceresque skin.

t'aint natural,

Perhaps your sweeping generalisations are indicative of the quality of journalism that you once practised, but don't you bloody dare state that ALL of us have the same pathetic standards as yourself and your 'many friends in journalism'.

Over the past seven years two of my colleagues, both of whom were friends of mine, were murdered as a direct result of their tireless campaigns to bring the truth about various individuals and organisations to the public. Others I know live under constant fear of death. These people were not out 'for the most saleable story'. They were meticulous in their research and it really, really battered their professional pride when they occasionally got things wrong.

The majority of journalists with whom I work have the same standards and I know that most of MY friends in the business would agree with me.

For the record, I work as a senior editorial executive on a non-UK national newspaper and also have many years experience in 'the game'. I am also a pilot, albeit in a private capacity for now.


Excellent contribution. Perhaps you would care to expand on your theory.

Apologies in advance for any errors in spelling or grammar: all the bloody subs have gone to the pub. ;)

t'aint natural
7th Apr 2003, 06:17
Interesting sentiments. What surprises me most is the fact that most readers remain charitably disposed to believe what they read in newspapers, despite the evidence of their own eyes. Dantruck dredges pretty far into the past to show a newspaper in a good light - it's now nearly 30 years since the Washington Post brought down the American government. My most cherished memory of the Post is of it winning a Pulitzer Prize for a story about a nine-year-old heroin addict, which it later had to admit was invented in its entirety. As to the Guardian, mention of the Stothard Affair quietens them pretty quickly.
I have written for many years for aviation publications as well as Fleet Street newspapers, and I have to say that comparing the two is simply not valid. They have in common the use of the written word, in the way that priests and arsonists have candles in common; beyond that, their purpose, imperatives and approach are so disparate that no true comparison can be made.
One final thought; all the major players in the British print media refuse to be interviewed in newspapers. How many interviews have you seen with Paul Dacre, editor of the Daily Mail? Rupert Murdoch? Les Hinton, executive chairman of News International? Lord Rothermere? If they avoid talking to the press, shouldn't you?

Genghis the Engineer
7th Apr 2003, 06:34
Where I had effectively stated that a manufacturer was not telling the truth about their product, and the editor felt they didn't want to run that, I felt that was his right.

Where copy was inserted in my name, trust me, the editor, his boss, and his bosses boss knew very quickly - the apology was very private, but also very grovelling and in writing - I aint daft.


7th Apr 2003, 17:28
Ah, yes Watergate, the epitome of investigative journalism......just think of what would have happened if there never was a Watergate.......****** all frankly!
For those who need a reminder of what investigative journalism is all about, how about the posthumous demolition of the crew, especially the flight engineer, on the Saudia L1011, what a bunch of prats eh?
The facts of the incident were never reported, (try reading the independent accident investigation report), the vivid image of some prostitute of an actor sitting next to the F/E panel mouthing 'no problem' as some journo prat flashed the panel test lights switch on and off is indelible, as is the portrayal of the two pilots as a pair of idiots who gave up, moaning insh'allah and singing religious songs.
The journos in charge of this should have been publicly horsewhipped, preferably by the relatives of the crew............:*

7th Apr 2003, 18:21
Noam Chomsky has you lot sussed....

What the finest thinker alive thinks about Journalists (http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/interviews/9501-journalism.html)

Enjoy the read....

Happy Landing !
7th Apr 2003, 18:44
You seem to tar every "Jurno" with the same brush, hardly any wonder you get up their noses !

Take a leaf out of T'aints book.

8th Apr 2003, 19:54

I only chose Watergate as an example because more Ppruners would know of it, especially our non-Brit friends. There are many more recent examples, as it would appear you should know.
And I think you'll find editors avoid giving interviews to rivals more simply because they are rivals, not because they fear being misquoted or otherwise. You only have to turn on the telly to see newspaper editors talking to non-rival media.

And raitfaiter...

...If you choose to get your news from what you indicate was some kind of TV dramatisation, you'll see what you bloody well deserve. You really are missing the point about the value of good journalism and, for that matter, the purpose of this thread. Try reading a serious newspaper more than once and then come back and contribute something interesting.

8th Apr 2003, 20:26
Raitfaiter - I said earlier in this thread I talk to the wire services.

Reuters are now mourning the death of one of their guys in Baghdad.

Tell this man's widow and son that he's a disease.:mad:

9th Apr 2003, 00:48
My deepest condolences to the family of the Reuters man.

To return to the thread:

"The Uk media has lost the plot. You stand for nothing, you support nothing, you criticise, you drip. It's a spectator sport to criticise anybody or anything, and what the media says fuels public expectation."

Air Marshall Sir Brian Burridge Commander of the British Forces

In todays Times.........

Genghis the Engineer
9th Apr 2003, 03:59
Perhaps Raitfaiter you could define which bit of the media you don't like, then you can trade insults with anybody who works for them and the rest of us can stay out of it. For that matter do you know specifically what part of the media AM Burridge, a servant of our democracy, was referring to? I'm pretty certain it wasn't Air Clues for a start.

As a part-time writer for specialist aviation and engineering publications (plus once for a few outdoors magazines and briefly for C4 on Scrapheap Challenge), I've never been accused of the sort of perfidy that you feel is rife, so I can only assume that you mean somebody else.


On a totally different note, and specifically not directed at Raitfaiter - there are clearly a lot of us in Pprune that write full or part time on aviation. Is there a case here for a forum where we can discuss such issues as deadlines, style, rates, difficult editors, sourcing pictures, information sources and other subjects quite critical to writing about aviation well and profitably?


Raw Data
9th Apr 2003, 06:23

I'm sure there is a place for you journos to chat, but please god not on PPRuNe; how about a journo forum of some sort, more suited to such discussions? Apologies if that is what you actually meant. PPRuNe is increasingly crowded, it seems, and new PPRuNe fora should ideally be aviation based, doncha think? BTW that is purely my view.

Regarding the journos being killed in Iraq- I have great respect for their tenacity and dedication, but, frankly, if you want to report from the middle of chaotic battle situations, you have to expect casualties. The media these days want to get as close as possible to the action, and bring as much explosive force and viscera as possible to our screens. This really says more about us than it does about them, I guess. I am sure the armed forces only allow it because they want to use the pictures for their own purposes; ditto the Iraqi authorities. If you want to wander around a war zone with a camera crew, you need to have the same expectation of iminent death as the fighters do. Baghdad is now even more of a war zone than it was on day one; it is extremely dangerous to be there for anybody; some journalists will die if they stay there. I am astonished that anybody should find this surprising.

Perhaps the real question that needs to be asked, is how much is enough...

I also write on an occasional basis for different publications (none aviation-based), so can see it from both sides.

Genghis the Engineer
9th Apr 2003, 06:44
I agree with you 90% RawData, but speaking for myself only, I'm an Engineer first, an aviator second, and a writer third. Ultimately when I write, it's as an Aeronautical Engineer and Aviator - I call myself a writer occasionally, never a journalist. I'm guessing that this is true of most others here such as Irv or John Farley who are primarily very very able aviators, but also happen to write decent prose and get paid for it.

The closest I've been, or wanted to be, to the front line, was testing kit for the RAF roundabout the last bash. The closest I've been to Fleet Street is buying the Daily Telegraph on Thursdays when the Engineering jobs are in there.


N.B. the following has been doing the rounds for at-least a century, but is occasionally worth resurrection:-

One cannot hope to bribe or twist, thank God, the British journalist. But, seeing what the man will do, unbribed, there's no occasion to.

t'aint natural
10th Apr 2003, 01:55

"And I think you'll find editors avoid giving interviews to rivals more simply because they are rivals, not because they fear being misquoted or otherwise. You only have to turn on the telly to see newspaper editors talking to non-rival media."

Tosh. Of the current crop of editors, the only one who speaks to TV is Piers Morgan, and he's not going to be around for much longer. Editors avoid interviews because they are a no-win proposition - and not just for editors.

Celtic Frog
21st Apr 2003, 04:44
Any journalist who approaches innocent staff rather than going through "proper" channels (ie: contact company management/ PR reps) is clearly not having a care in the world about how badly he's trying to drop you into the dirt. These people are vermin and they're trying to bite you..so why be nice to them? Put a brick wall between you..tell him to take a hike and don't even help him by offering info about who to contact..let him do the work himself. Every piece of dialogue you offer can be published the next day.. eg: ."the staff we spoke to didn't even know the correct phone number for us to call..." etc.
I'd rather tell my boss that I told the press to go away rather than enter into any discussion whatsoever about who to call, how to contact..etc...then at least I'm blameless for any rubbish which is printed.:*

21st Apr 2003, 05:25
IF I were a journalist I'd wish to speak to the PR department AND a cross (or Cross!!) section of employees.
As an employee I would not speak to/be videoed by any media rep unless I had full editorial control. Since I clearly will not have editorial control then . . .
. . turned up at *** one day to be told on ground intercom that the local TV crew would be coming up to video our shut-down procedures - replied "Yeah right - nobody boards the plane until I say so and that will be when we are just about to disembark!" Sounds a bit hard, doesn't it? Well I've seen people's well-meaning attempts to 'help' a TV crew show them up as idiots and, since I am quite capable of inadvertent idiocy without the assistance of the editorial desk I prefer not to be videoed at all.

p.s. Stan, you really should stop your esteemed broadsheet trying to behave like a tabloid at times :p

21st Apr 2003, 08:54
Congratulations to Dantruck for having the guts to try where I had already failed by addressing the topic of this thread.

In my experience on PPRuNe, the person with the best understanding of the balance between the interests of aviation industry workers and the needs of journalists is Capt PPRuNe himself. If only others here would follow his sensible example. t'ain't natural, I'm not convinced what you say about you and your friends is true; either way, I am appalled at your attitude.

Most people visit PPRuNE because they are interested in aviation, not to trawl for information in a professional capacity. If PPRuNers wish to tell me things they believe to be of interest (and quite a few do on a regular basis) they know where to find me. That's up to them.

Oh, and for those who (rather childishly IMHO) complained that Watergate was an inadequate example of public interest journalism because it happened in 1974, I refer you to the publication three days ago of the Stevens Report into collusion between security forces and paramilitaries in Northern Ireland. In his report, Sir John Stevens acknowledged the significant role played by the media in obtaining information and documents, subsequently passed to investigators, which would never otherwise have been uncovered - thus preventing more deaths.

22nd Apr 2003, 18:56
Just to answer a couple of hanging questions raised in the above...

Celtic Frog...journalists regularly contact staff direct for reasons of accuracy, speed and - shock horror - PR departments don't always tell the truth. PR people are paid to promote and project the company's interests, not to be a pure factual source. Now, while I do not wish to imply all PR people are liars, unfortunately they are too often put in a position by management where they must at least be economical with the truth. Hence the direct approach is often necessary.

Also, most of us live in a democracy. Journalists have a right to approach anyone. Likewise that person has the right to decline to respond. This is the central point I hoped this thread would get across. Everyone above who has expressed concern at talking to journalists is right to do so. To be careful and to know your rights has always been my 'Warning.' Pushing aside the 'disease' and 'vermin' comments I hope everyone has learned something here. I certainly have.

Dan Coughlan:ouch:

t'aint natural
23rd Apr 2003, 02:53
You might be appalled at my attitude, but when you've been in journalism as long as I have, you'll share it.

23rd Apr 2003, 03:21
In a previous life I have had to deal with the media, primarily at a local/regional level, and have found myself misquoted and sometimes comments taken out of context. In my current job my contract forbidly expresses talking to journalists as do our SOPS for my company. I feel the best way to handle these situations is if as I currently am, unable to talk to the media, to politely refer them to the PR section. If you do not have that facility then perhaps the below may help.

If you have to speak to the media then keep it concise, easy to understand, and accurate. This saves them and the editor effort especially if they are working to a deadline. It obviously does not prevent the addition of any 'spin' if thats the bag they're into. If you're supplying images, make sure they are anotated correctly with location, subject, and names of people listed left to right, this reduces the chances of Mr Smith being Mr Jones and vice-versa. Producing interesting images is also challenging, as from my albeit limited experience as an occaisional freelancer, newsdesks seem to have a poor grasp of distance, time and geography from job to job! and you're still working to that deadline!.

A good source of stuff for writers is the writers and artists handbook, produced yearly for about 20:00. It has lots of good contacts in all types of media and gives lots of hints and tips to potential contributors. Also if you know you're going into a specific publication and you have the time, blag a previous edition/copy to see their style.

Genghis the Engineer
25th Apr 2003, 05:32
A few years ago I sat through an excellent presentation by the Chief Test Pilot of Westlands, concerning a messy but thankfully non-fatal loss of an aircraft in flight test.

One of the many lessons he admitted to learning from that accident, was the importance of including the PR department in the disaster planning. When something had gone wrong, it was far better that PR should know what, and what information they could pass out than either the PR dept trying to work it our for themselves, or journalists trying to bypass them in frustration.

Just a thought.