Thursday, January 15, 2009

What is wrong with writing about good causes?

You see, the thing about writing about a good cause is that while it makes you feel good and it sure as hell beats writing about rape and torture, the organisations you come into contact with will usually try to Shanghai you into a story.

Not familiar with the art of the Shanghai? Let me explain.

To be Shanghai'd into anything refers to the pushy merchants of Shanghai generally notleaving you alone until they make a sale. This principle applies to charity organisations, which upon hearing that you're writing a story about them will try to get you to write about six more on them.

I'm not saying all organisations will do this, but it's one of the most frustrating things you can run into as a journo when you just want to write a simple 500word story on a worthy cause but they want you to write a 3000 word opus. They just seemto think that we can command column inches from our editors at will for some reason, or that we are in fact the best writers in the world and will get their stories published on the front page of The Australian.

So, how to deal with being Shangai'd?

The way I have dealt with pushy organisations keen to gain more exposure is to play along for a certain extent. Be quite enthusiastic about their idea (after all, it is a worthy cause) and show an interest. This will demonstrate that you're not just another bastard journo trying to exploit their organisation (although you may actually be). Then what you do is explain that you're unsure that you have space in the paper in which to fit their stories.

Now you've shown legitimite concern, and given a reason why their stories won't fly this particular week. Then what you want to do is say something along the lines of "I'll keep it in mind for future stories".

This will show that their organisation is on the forefront of the media's thinking, and they'll be reasonably happy with you for all the help that you've given them. So at the end of the day, you get a story, they get exposure and nobody will end up in tears.

'Till next time

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