Yesterday, I was told to “fuck off” and then hung up on by a journalist at the Daily Telegraph.
Now, it’s worth stating upfront that I hate the ongoing sniping between PRs and journalists – that one side can’t do their jobs properly and that the other is always unpleasant and grabby – because it doesn’t do either side any favours, and aside from anything else, it’s boring to hear about. We’d all be better off if we admit we need each other, and learn to get along.
But this isn’t that.
I’m not getting my knickers in a twist because someone isn’t interested in a story I’ve pitched and has been a bit short with me. I understand that journalists are stressed out and busy; anecdotally outnumbered three to one by PRs – some of whom are just bad at their jobs, pitching badly researched and irrelevant stories at already-harassed journos. Hell, I live with a journalist: I frequently come home to tales of terrible PR practices and frankly ridiculous levels of idiocy.
As I said: this isn’t that.
I’m aggrieved because yesterday, in the course of doing my job, I was subjected to verbal abuse – because that’s what it was. And whilst I’m all for freedom of expression – shock horror, I’ve even been known to find funny jokes at my own expense – I’m rather of the opinion that no-one should be on the receiving end of abuse, verbal or physical, whether in their own home, out on the street, or in a place of work.
One of the responses I received about the incident yesterday suggested it’s part of the job when you’re a PR, and that we “have to be thick-skinned”. I completely refuse to accept that. The thick skin, fair enough: sometimes journalists are extremely short on the phone – even when they then go on to run the story you’ve pitched. That, I agree, is just part of the job. But I completely reject the idea that it’s ever okay to be on the end of expletive outbursts – especially when you’ve said little more than where you’re calling from.
Before I give the impression that all Telegraph staffers are like this: they’re absolutely not. Most of the people I’ve had the fortune to deal with at the paper are second in their charming nature only to journalists at the FT. But not this one.
And whilst I’m made of fairly strong stuff and my response was little more than a rolled eye and an aggrieved tweet, I’m sure there are some people out there who would be really quite affected by such behaviour – and if they’re afraid to pick up the phone next time, their job performance will suffer because of it.
Conduct like this isn’t just everyday brusqueness: it’s unprofessional and abusive, and no-one – PR or otherwise – should have to put up with it.