Thoughts on aggressive readers

This is an old Facebook note that I thought needed a more public repost and a bit of a do-over. It springs from a discussion I had today with two of my colleagues – where somebody sent an email that read pretty much: “UNSUBSCRIBE ME FROM THIS FUCKING MAILING LIST!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” Seriously, who do you think you are?

I’m tired of being yelled at by readers who think that an Internet connection means they are entitled to express every single feeling that they have – in as rude a manner as they possibly can. Thankfully, I like to think I’m pretty good at my job so I don’t get as many complaints as some people do. But when I do, it hits pretty close to home – even after three years on the job.

Some thoughts.

1) First and foremost… I’m a human being. I have feelings. Calling me stupid or suggesting that I’m bad at my job actually hurts. If I make a typo, you can point it out in a polite, constructive manner. “Holy shit who the fuck do you think you are how did you get your fucking job you’re obviously a fucking retard and this site fucking sucks and this is why I never come to this website”… Really? Is this how you would speak to a bank teller? A cashier? A doctor? A lawyer? I don’t think so.

2) Think before attacking me personally or before being aggressive or rude in a comment/email/Facebook post. I don’t sit behind your chair and call you names while you’re trying to do your job, do I? It amounts the same thing.

I’ve been called a cunt, a slut, a whore, a dumb bitch (amazing how much has to do with the fact that I’m a woman)…

3) If you don’t care, don’t read. Don’t comment. Please. Writing “Who CARES?!!!” on an article is just a waste of everybody’s time. [And clearly, you do care… You care enough to comment.]

4) On that note, I am fully aware that celebrity gossip is not everybody’s cup of tea. However, can we just agree that it is of interest to millions of people in South Africa and that it actually does deserve a spot on our website? Please?

It’s quite simple: If you don’t like it, don’t read it.

5) Lay off the Caps Lock, bad grammar and the truckload of exclamation marks. You really lose a whole lot of credibility when you use the above to point out my failings. (I actually had an email, in which a reader pointed out an error of mine, then ended her email with “PUH-LEEEEZ!!!!!!!!!!”)

6) If your comments are racist, homophobic or sexist or could be considered as any of these, I can and will delete them. If you continue in this manner, I will ban you. Even if you come back with another email address, I can (and will) find you and ban you again. And again. Don’t email me to complain – you should have read our Terms of Use.

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I hate April Fools’ Day

But particularly, April Fools’ Day in the media.

Now, I realise that this is going to make me sounds like a pretentious, snobby, stuck-up bitch. Frankly, I don’t care. I’ve been called those names more times than I care to count. Once extremely publicly.

But wow. I hate April Fools’ Day. The jokes are pretty much entirely transparent, and the originality is diluted tenfold when posting in the social media space. I only saw two half-way decent attempts today. Most people post a variation of the “OMG! I’m pregnant!”/”Sarah is now listed as In a Relationship”/”Bob is no longer listed as Engaged” blah blah blah. It’s almost always lame. So I ignore everything that goes on Facebook the whole of 1 April.

But what ticks me off more than unoriginal crap on Twitter is April Fools’ attempts in the mass media. I work in the media and I steadfastly refuse to get involved in the fuckery. Why? A number of reasons.

1) As the media – and yes, maybe I’m still super-idealistic, but you know what, I don’t care – we have a responsibility to make sure that what we are is accurate and trustworthy. Playing a “prank” does not fall into that mandate. People are stupid, they largely believe what you tell them.

2) It dilutes the credibility of the rest of your content. That’s a non-brainer, really.

3) The world is getting smaller. Content is shared more easily. Your April Fools’ prank can go “viral” – and that’s not a good thing. Especially if it’s picked up by another media outlet (who yes, should be checking everything, but sometimes that’s not possible). Once that’s happened, are you one hundred percent sure your funny (for now) story is going to be revealed as a prank? Once the content’s out there, you’ve got no control over where it goes. And what if you’re Google?

4) It makes my life – as a wannabe-credible-producer-of-news-yes-even-celebrity-news-shuddup-I’ll-change-the-world-one-day – a living bloody hell. Why? Because I spend all day researching everything in case some wise-ass has decided to slip an April Fools’ Day joke in somewhere. Thankfully I’m pretty good at spotting them a mile away.

All of this hatred, of course, could stem from an April Fools’ Day joke some idiot kids played on me when I was younger. They tried to tell me I was adopted – which would have worked better if my mum hadn’t told me my birth story pretty much from the time I was five.

*I realise this is very rant-y. I’m tired and grumpy and pretty much everything is putting me in a bad mood this weekend. 

An open letter to PR people

This doesn’t apply to all of the PR people that I deal with. I have some dear, dear favourites (I bet you know who you are) who I do go that extra, extra mile to help out. I know some PR people that are so wildly excellent at their jobs that they probably deserve some kind of medal. This open letter is directed to those PR people who, from where I sit, look like they couldn’t care less about their jobs.

Dear Public Relations Person:

I get it, I do. You’re under pressure to sell your product. I’m under pressure to attract readers to my site. We need each other. Yes, I’ll admit it. I need you. It’s a difficult, complicated relationship. I’ve done some bad things, but so have you. In the interests of getting our relationship back to where it should be, I’ve compiled a list of small changes that you can make – and then some ways in which I can change.

  1. Please at least try to get my name right. I understand that I’m just one on a list of 500 names that you need to deal with, but how can I take the rest of what you’re saying seriously if you don’t take the time to check that you have my name written correctly. I’ll tell you a secret: We like to feel special. Spelling my name (which is “Candace”, by the way) as “Candice”, “Candance” or, true story, “Can” does not make me feel special. It makes me feel as though you don’t care.
  2. Please run your press release through a spell-check… And think before you click “Accept change”.  If I want to publish your press release, I want to do it with as little effort as possible. I do not have a team of journalists at my bidding, I’m afraid, so correcting the spelling and grammar so that I can use your press release just isn’t feasible for me. Make it easier for me, and I will be more likely to publish your piece. (*In all seriousness, when you learn public relations and marketing, is there a writing component?)
  3. Do not use 500 different types of formatting (bold, italics, underline, different sized fonts and bright colours) – I just have to strip it all out anyway. Also, please do not just send me a flyer/PDF/JPEG image. I am an online publication. I can’t use your pretty pretty flyer. It doesn’t fit in my template. (And no, I can’t change my template “just this once”.)
  4. Please attach an image to your email if you can. It stops me from having to request one from you within 30 seconds of receiving your mail. If you can’t attach images because you’re mass mailing, then please ensure that the time between my requesting an image and you sending one is less than a space of hours. I work online. If you have to source an image from somebody, please tell me so I can be prepared.
  5. Please do not call to check whether I received your press release. Unless you got a bounce-back, I did receive it. I may have chosen to ignore it, but I did receive it. If you absolutely must phone (and I know that for many of you, it is in your job description), then there is a certain… Etiquette that should be followed. Generally, I answer the phone with my name. This is because I pronounce my name “Cand-ACE” and not “Cand-uhs”. Do not then greet me with “Hi Candice”. No, I did not mispronounce my own name. Also, please, introduce yourself early in the phone call. Preferably before you’ve asked how I am. “Hi Candace, this is Sarah from Imaginary Press Releases calling. How are you?” is better than “Hi Candace, How are you?” The latter will get a snappy response. Or be met with dead silence. Next part of the phone call is usually “I’m just calling to check whether you got my press release”. And what was it about? When did you send it? I get a minimum of between 80 and 100 emails a day. I can’t remember them all. Some details go a long way to helping to jog my memory. “I’m just calling to check whether you got the press release that I sent on Thursday about the Imaginary Music Event” helps me to go yes/no/maybe more quickly.
  6. Please please please do not spam me with press releases regarding your event/competition/promotion/brand. The more I get spammed by you, the more I am likely to ignore your emails. Do not send me the same email twice. Do not send me five emails a week about your project. They will get ignored.
  7. I physically can’t make all of your events. I wish I could. I wish I could clone myself and have little versions of me going to events and writing about them. But I can’t do it, I’m sorry. Please don’t sound so hurt when I say I can’t attend. It’s not you, it’s me. Really.

And speaking of me, I do agree that I haven’t been an angel in all of this either. And for that, I do apologise.

I promise to RSVP promptly to events, even if I cannot attend.

I promise to publish press releases and promotional materials on time if I say that I will, and if they are relevant to my audience.

I promise to return phone calls and emails if needed.

I promise to at least try to write/tweet/Facebook about your event after I have attended. Sometimes I can’t because once I’ve been to the event, I’ve seen it just won’t appeal to my audience, but I will try.

I promise to make sure that all the information you request is in the article on my site and I promise to include links where relevant.

And I promise to moan, just a little less, when you send me the fiftieth press release for the same event.

Early covers of famous magazines

Poached from Hurricane Vanessa‘s blog. She says that she poached it from flavorwire.com (I can’t check, the servers seem to be down!). Additional research by me. Which means I got deliciously lost in Google and found a whole lot of cool new ideas instead of working, which I should have been doing.

I love these sorts of things – I love looking at the design and seeing the snapshot of the time that was. One of the life goals (there are many) is to work in magazine publishing one day. In my opinion, there are few things as amazing as the feel of a brand-new glossy mag.

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s a superinjunction!

You can now read the jazzed-up version of this post on iafrica.com. And vote in a sexy little poll.

There have been some pretty loud rumblings in the UK over so-called “superinjunctions” taken out by various public figures/celebrities/footballers with more money than sense – and it’s come forcefully into the fore after a Twitter account was created with the aim of allegedly revealing gag orders taken out by celebs. Whether or not these claims are true is largely irrelevant to this blog (although Jemima Khan has protested, strongly, against claims that she had taken out an injunction) – but it does stir up the debate over whether or not these superinjunctions should exist at all.

To kick off with – a superinjunction is basically a gag order on steroids. The media aren’t even allowed to report that an injunction had been granted to an individual. Sure, they can (and do) hint until they’re blue in the face, but this Twitter account is a way to just show one finger to the courts and the spoiled celebs in the UK.

It’s an ongoing debate. Continue reading

Hiking up Table Mountain for charity

Not quite my usual fare, but I worked hard on this video and despite the voice in the back of my head (which sounds suspiciously like a university lecturer) I’m quite proud of this video. Especially considering I took one for the team and hiked up after the crazy pair, hereafter known as “Rob Squared”.

Basically, two of my colleagues hiked up the Platteklip Gorge trail of Cape Town’s Table Mountain four times each in aid of charity. The event – which attracted over 70 hikers – raised over R425 000 for the Watoto Babies Home for abandoned children and Wilderness Search and Rescue.

Here’s the link to the first-person account penned by one half of Rob Squared – and you can watch the video below.

It’s Robert Pattinson on Vanity Fair… With a reptile.

I would love to know the thoughts behind the styling and theme for the latest edition of Vanity Fair. Seriously.

I mean, apart from the entertainment value. The hysterical giggle that burst through my lips when I first saw it.

Sure, there’s the fact that it was taken by superstar photographer Annie Liebovitz. So, therefore, it must by default be awesome.

But it’s Robert Pattinson. Dressed as Crocodile Dundee. With a baby reptile slung over his shoulder all casual-like.

You know you want to see it, so I’m happy to oblige.

Robert Pattinson

Robert Pattinson on the cover of Vanity Fair.

There’s also a really cool interview, where he talks about fame, Kristen Stewart, admiring Charlie Sheen (!) and working on his latest film.