rifish

82Joined Jun 2021

Comments
1

I'm a journalist, and would second this as sound advice, especially the 'guide to responding to journalists'. It explains the pressures and incentives/deterrents we have to work with, without demonising the profession... which I was glad to see! 

A couple of things I would emphasise (in the spirit of mutual understanding!): 

It can help to look beyond the individual journalist to consider the audience we write for, and what our editors' demands might be higher up in the hierarchy. I know many good, thoughtful journalists who work for publications (eg politically partisan newspapers) where they have to present stories the way they do, because that's what their audience/editors demand... There's often so much about the article they, as the reporter, don't control after they file. (Early career journalists in particular have to make these trade-offs, which is worth bearing in mind.) 

Often I would suggest it could be helpful to think of yourself as a guide not a gatekeeper. An obvious point... but this space here [waves arms] is all available to journalists, along with much else in the EA world, via podcasts, public google docs etc. There are vast swathes of material that are already public and all quotable. The community is an unusually online one compared with other fields I report on. It's great! But the problem for a journalist is therefore not really that information is scarce and hard to come by, which you as a source could gatekeep - on the contrary, it's that so much is all already there, and there's far too much of it to digest before a deadline. It means a bad journalist could cherrypick; a hurried journalist could get only a fleeting impression. Generally, what we journalists need is a guide through it all - context, history, depth - so we can form a picture that is fair and accurate. 

With that in mind, I would always advocate for speaking with us face-to-face or via video, rather than emailing...it's just a more human way of connecting, more efficient and responsive, and frankly makes it a little harder for a journalist to ignore your guidance if you have given them your time and shown you are a real person rather than a quote-machine! If a journalist asks for answers to their questions in email, for me that's a sign that they don't have that much of an interest in engaging and learning. I admit I've done it myself sometimes when pressed for time, but it's not good practice. Also it's not serving the needs of audiences/publications because, unless a source is an unusually conversational writer, it leads to flat quotes that are less natural and engaging in tone. 

Last, just to return to the OP, I agree that far more attention is coming. In the past I have observed a sentiment that seems to assume that the EA world can stay under the radar by not engaging. There's perhaps been something to that - insofar it avoids actively advertising – but I'd also say it's as much that relatively few journalists so far have had reason and motivation to look. I'd suggest that will change for a few reasons - there are many great positive and important stories to tell that interest wider audiences, as I've discovered myself, but increasingly also because journalists have a civic duty to write about concentrations of power and money.