Archive for August, 2011

How farming can butter up journalists

The past few weeks have been very quiet in Farmers Weekly Towers. At one point, there were so few people in the office that I was worried I’d got confused and accidentally come to work on a Sunday.

The supply of serious news always tail off during the summer months thanks to the end of the parliamentary session and people swanning off on holidays. However, in agriculture the ‘August effect’ is always compounded by the fact that farmers are too busy harvesting to bother ringing to tell us what DEFRA’s done to annoy them this week.

But while the good journos of FW are left with slightly sweaty palms as we try to dig out a collection of worthy stories to fill our news section, for the national media agriculture is a rich source of summer-time stories.

As I type, ‘Silly cow’s head stuck in a ladder‘ is number three on BBC online’s most-read list, while the tale of Yvonne the Bavarian cow’s rescue mission has appeared on so many news sites that I’ve lost count.

Cow in ladder

Alongside those I’ve read dreadful puns about mushrooms the size of babies, animal rights protesters hanging signs on cow sculptures and bovine pedometers.

Last year I was interviewed by a journalist in America about the prominence of farming stories during the so-called ‘silly season’. She wanted to know why agriculture was the go-to subject for desperate journalists  and tried to steer me towards saying it was due to city-centric media types finding farming so alien and ridiculous that they looked to the industry as a sure-fire source of comedic stories.

If I’m honest I don’t know what the answer is, but if I was a farming organisation I’d make sure I held onto my best press releases until July or August to improve my chances of  bagging some media coverage (rural insurers NFU Mutual did a good job of this last week).

Bonkers, quirky stories are always going to appeal to journalists on under-staffed news desks during the holiday season. But as a journalist who is currently cringing at having written up the tale of Yvonne the Bavarian cow herself, I know I’d much prefer to be writing a worthy story.

Anyway, I’d love to hang around and debate this some more, but I need to crack on. This story about a cow made of butter standing to be US president won’t write itself…

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Making a statement

So my efforts to resurrect my blogging career failed miserably. I have an excuse though – I’ve been busy buying my first house.

I’ve decided this is the one and only time I’m going to do such a thing. Not only have I found it incredibly stressful, it’s turned me into a bit of a fruitcake.

Not only have I developed a weird interest in ridiculously termed ‘statement furniture’, I’ve started spending hours poring over soft furnishing websites. And I’ve gone slightly insane looking at colour swatches trying to work out what the difference is between heather, amethyst, slate and dove grey.

colormap

My interior design and furnishing madness peaked yesterday during a conversation about the London riots.

“If I was going to bother looting somewhere, I wouldn’t bother with a sports shop in Clapham Junction,” a friend said as we watched a load of idiots smash up our nearby borough on TV. “I’d go to the Westfield Centre so I could at least loot a decent shop.”

“Yes,” I agreed fervently, thinking of my dream Supermarket Sweep-esque looting experience. “There’s a Laura Ashley there.”

My cringesome middle-class sensibilities should have made me a perfect candidate for the random interview I found myself doing at 2am this morning.

After eight hours of watching people ransack shops and destroy areas about a mile away from my house, listening to sirens and watching police helicopters overhead, I got a phone call from a radio journalist in Australia who wanted to record an interview about what I’d seen.

By this point the gym across the road from my flat was on fire, so I was able to provide the drama and colour he wanted. What he probably didn’t want was my refusal to agree that what is going on is down to racial and social tensions in my community.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not so much of a clueless yuppie to know that there aren’t problems in London – heck, I lived in Peckham for two years and I hang out in Stockwell and Brixton – but to try and pin this on people making a social statement is just a complete nonsense.

What happened last night was the result of mindless opportunism. Those kids out pinching trainers and flat-screen tellies were just after a freebie, taking advantage of a stretched police force who couldn’t protect all of the areas under attack.

The real social statement about the area I live in came this morning from the hundreds of people who went out on the streets armed with brooms and mops to clean up the mess left behind by the morons.

Clapham riot clean-up

Anyway. You can listen to the interview here, I’m about five minutes in. I particularly like the glass-shattering and yelping they decided to play over it, because apparently there wasn’t enough drama last night so a soundtrack’s obviously vital.

I’m off to look at colour swatches again now. That’s really all the excitement I need tonight.

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