I used always to be a bit smug about being a food writer. Colleagues who dealt with the celebrity and fashion world would regale me with stories about the terrible hoops they had to go through to get time with the “talent”, how there’d be ranks of officious PRs sitting in on their interviews, interrupting as soon as the conversation was deemed to veer off message. (That PRs and journalists have opposing views of what a “story” is, is one of life’s great imponderables).
Not me, I’d say, it’s just me and the chef, and if I’m lucky, a bit of food as well.
And so it still normally is, but I’ve noticed more PRs expecting to sit in on interviews recently.
To be honest, I don’t much mind. We are hardly covering controversial ground and if they are new to the account, it is a useful way for the PR to learn a bit more about their client for next time.
What does irritate me, though, is when they start to chip in with their own words of wisdom. Part of the journalist’s art is to steer the conversation in the direction we need. We know what ground we want to cover and generally have a roadmap of how we are going to get there.
When a PR starts throwing in a few handbrake turns it upsets the flow.
More importantly – and I’m sorry to put this so bluntly – we don’t care what you think, so when you join the conversation you are taking time away from the client you are there to help promote.