Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Great Britons - or great expectations?

Couldn’t get over the shortlist for ITVs Greatest Living Briton 2007. The Queen v Robbie Williams?

Anyway, it struck a chord, especially when Gordon Brown was rolled out to say a few words. Gordon was at the Guildhall a couple of years ago when, as editor of Telegraph New Media, we helped to launch what was to be an annual Great Britons competition with Morgan Stanley.

I was actually very enthusiastic about this. I don’t know why we are so obsessed with defining our identity but I know we are, and thought it was bang-on what our readers would go for.

Anyway, I did throw myself into it somewhat, often trying every marketing trick I could muster to tease more votes out of readers and give it a good show. The highlight was the star-studded dinner at which the great and the swigged champagne and the winner was announced to a fanfare.

So good were those bashes that, when I left last year mid-campaign on what would have been Great Britons 2006, I reminded the organisers that I was still expecting an invitation, for old times.

Absolutely, I was told. No problem old boy. Wouldn’t be the same without you. Then, when it came to putting names on the seats, they blew me out with a . . . hmm, places are a little tight. We’ll see what we can do.

They didn't.

A British trait? Saying one thing and doing another? Now, that's just too cynical.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Plane confused

A friend of a friend was on a plane, so I’m told, when a chap offered her a paper to read to pass the time. As you do.

When they touched down, he was amazed to learn she was not keen to go for a drink with him. Amazed? Because he’s given her a paper, not once, but two or three times. Surely, he insisted, she understood the ‘code’.

The code?

Sure, the paper represents a pass, a subtle chat-up. Having accepted it, she was “giving off all the right signals”.

She was baffled. And so was I. And so was the fashion editor, the music critic, the nose-to-the-ground columnist and the Rolex-wearing trendy f****er in Paul Smith suits I know in media buying.

Any ideas? I'd love to know.

Mind you, assuming this wasn’t a wind-up, I really should have asked what paper she was offered. It may have given a clue to Mr Mile-High’s intentions?

The Scotsman: Fancy a dram? I’ll pay you back.

The Catholic Herald: I have protection. But it’s under the seat.

The Mail: Education is crap, the health service is third-world and crime is out of control. Let's do it. We’ll be dead soon anyway.

The Independent: Let me bore you rigid.

The Metro: Come on, it’ll only take a minute.

The Big Issue: Sorry, but it’ll have to be your place. Oh, and any chance of breakfast in the morning?

Just a thought.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Take note (or should i say notes)

Have I missed something or are we really, seriously,
debating the merits of the email interview?.

The spat between Wired and the internet entrepreneur Jason Calcanis seems to have sparked some interesting exchanges in which the likes of Dan Gilmour appear to suggest they are a valid tool for newsgathering.

Surely not.

Any media students reading this take note. Email interviews reduce our craft to that of the market researcher. That's it: form-filling.

Why? Because there's no exchange, no prompting, no interaction between those with something to say and those who will persuade them to say it.

I'm not talking about the quicky Q and A; Metro's 60-second interview, official statements and advertorials. In fact, a written exchange with a reclusive celeb could even be more revealing - I'm talking about the worrying trend to assume that everything can be done from behind a keyboard.

It can't.

Merely publishing email responses would be like asking interviewees to send in footage of themselves for a video slot or a tape for a podcast. Good reporting is all about context. All this seems a step too close to allowing people to check over your notes.

As for the argument that it cuts down on the chance of getting anything wrong. There's a simple answer to that: Try harder at getting it right.