Archive for June 2nd, 2008

Journalism. PR. Again.

Very nice piece by Damien McCrystal in the Guardian today. I especially liked this bit:

“Why are people deserting journalism for PR, or going straight into PR from university?

It might be the lure of money, because journalists’ average pay has been in decline in real terms for some time, according to the NUJ. But I don’t think that’s the only reason. Money was certainly a motivator for me, but I would have crossed over anyway to what PRs gleefully refer to as “the dark side”, because PR is more fun than journalism these days, and fun is what we were after (with the exception of a few crusaders) when we became hacks in the first place. It was cool to tell people what you did for a living and see how impressed they were.

It was cool that important grown-ups listened to you and treated your opinions with respect, or at least pretended to. And it was cool to get your own back in print when necessary. It was fun. But where’s the fun in having to produce so much copy that you don’t have the time or budget to meet your contacts? Or in being scared to ask for a pay rise? Or in not being allowed to devote sufficient resources to get your story right?”

Yes. Yes to all. I loved the good bits of journalism but I didn’t enjoy working every hour that god sent, not having the time to follow through a good story and, yes, indulging in Churnalism to make sure there were enough stories for the next day. And pay. Pay is a massive issue with pretty much every single one of my friends who was or still is in journalism.

PR was, to me, never the easy option. Just a different option. And, in my current role, one that allowed me to look at how the internet could be harnessed for all media. The challenges are different, not easier (although having time for lunch is still a novelty). Just as I always had respect for good PR people when I was in journalism (who could be worth their weight in gold at the right time), so I always have respect for good journalists now I’m on the other side of the fence.

Would I ever return to journalism? Possibly. But I like what I do too much to go back at the moment. Anyway, I have this blog and other assorted writings that keep my hand in, and part of my mindset is still set in journalism mode, and I doubt that’ll ever change. That’s probably a good thing.

Besides, both professions are changing because of the web, and that’s the area I want to stay in more than anything else. Ultimately, we’re both storytellers and the way we tell stories is changing. Are you excited about that? I certainly am.


A brief and probably ill-advised foray into political commentary no.17: drink

One of the reasons I’m not a fan of the current government is their solution to pretty much anything seems to be:

  1. Criminalise it
  2. Blame the parents (if appropriate)
  3. Treat everybody as if they were five years old when explaining the policy, as if admonishing a naughty child.
  4. If anybody’s enjoying the problem, they’re probably wrong.
  5. Point out it was all much worse under the Tories, and all society’s ills can probably be traced back to Disraeli, Peel and Pitt The Younger if you look hard enough (last resort).

In short, the current government feels somewhat like a mix between one of the old ward Matrons and a bunch of middle managers who have too much time on their hands.

And so the five rules of government that I’ve just made up on the spot while feeling incredibly rough, thanks to an angry set of internal organs, can be applied to the announcement that parents are to be given guidelines on how much their kids can drink, along with potential prosecution if said wayward feral youth does not desist from drinking alcohol.

Largely it seem to overlook the idea that teenagers are largely autonomous beings. Flawed (but then aren’t we all) yes, still learning, yes, but capable enough of knowing exactly what the effects of a double vodka and orange are, and more than capable of finding concealed areas of parkland to consume several double vodka and oranges – and no amount of sitting on the naughty step is going to change that. If anything, it’ll probably increase the idea that drinking is a good thing.

Secondly, it assumes that parents are too thick to know what a double vodka and orange does to their child. Frankly, you’d assume that if the kid is regularly getting drunk and the parents are aware of this, then they’ve probably got a darn good idea what a double vodka and orange does to their child.

The stats at the bottom of the article make interesting reading:

“The government said the number of 11 to 15-year-olds drinking regularly had fallen from 28% in 2001 to 21% in 2006.

However, average consumption by young people who drank had nearly doubled from 5.3 units in 1990 to 11.4 units in 2006.”

Which somewhat implies that the teenagers definitely know what they’re doing, and no amount of legislation will change that.

I have no idea what the solution is – other than to somehow engineer a massive cultural shift away from the idea that a good night out involves drinking yourself into a stupor, which won’t happen anytime soon. Force feeding teenagers alcohol until they throw up and suffer a hangover from hell would probably put most of them off, although also probably suggests its a good thing that I don’t plan to have children myself [Note to friends starting a family: this includes Godparenting roles as well – small children terrify me and older ones just irritate me].

The yoghurt-munching, beard-stroking liberal in me would always say educating – or at least speaking to them – would probably make more of an impact that locking up their mum and dad. The other part of me, which is god alone knows what, would say that teenagers have always sat in a park consuming cheap cider, knowing it to be wrong and no amount of laws will discourage them from doing otherwise. And the rest of me doesn’t have an opinion but just knows it’s probably a very stupid idea. This may well be the genetic make up of a Guardian reader, although I’ve started reading the Spectator as well now.

And without wanting to make the next bit sound like one of those people who write letters to newspapers prefacing them with the words “Dear sir, I am not usually one to complain but…” it really does feel that now they’ve made inroads into smokers, the government has decided that anybody who drinks, but mostly the middle-class because they have higher levels of guilt due to the large amounts of fair trade products that they purchase, is probably having too much fun, doing something bad and should be stopped. And so Matron and the middle management combine again.

And before you ask, my queasy internal organs have nothing to do with drinking today.

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June 2008

Throw letters together and send them to me

Yes, this is my name. And my email. Use it wisely or you're not getting a biscuit with your tea: garyllewellynandrews [at] gmail [dot] com