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November 2014

Money for nothing and your print for free

Everyone wants something for nothing. Everyone’s “on the make”. At every turn, there’s another hand out – looking for a handout. Never mind a “culture of entitlement” – that’s being far too kind - like dressing a pig in a suit. It’s now a fancy-looking pig, but it’s still a pig. Entitlement? Pah! Let’s call a spade a spade here. It’s just plain “GIVE ME!”

Folks don’t even have the skaam to blush or gussy-up their virtually naked demands in nice language half the time. They just come right on out and say it. “Can I have…”, “Will you…”, “I’m sorry to bother you, but…”, “I wonder if I could…” Have you heard those and countless others just like it as conversational openers more times than you care to remember? And the very next words are the punchline – followed by smile like a hungry crocodile. And then you are “the bad guy” if you have the heartless, bare-faced, scrooge-like gall to say a simple “no” to the (often outrageous) requests, aka demands. You get the stink eye. People sniff and glare at you like they came across a hooker in church. You’re not allowed to say no. If you do, you’re the scum of the earth.

Fortunately, journalists generally have thick skins and are long-used to occupying that lowly position. We’re used to it, so thinly-veiled insults, sarcasm, disdain and hauteur doesn’t work on us either. We know that we are like condoms - useful for a single purpose before being discarded. The only difference is, in the newspaper game, folks don’t want to use us for anything fun (like a bit of nookie) – they just want free print space. For their business, their event, their “significant social contribution”, their grand idea, and sometimes, just because they think “being in the ‘paper” will make them famous.- The individuals, the wacko’s, the “I’ve just finished walking to the moon and back” folks, the “aliens took me away again last night, and do you know that Elvis was piloting the mother-ship?” folks, the old grannies remembering the grand old days when they used to “carry catties to ward of lions on the way to school everyday” people. They are all good. They are actually what we love about this game. They are what make us smile, they are the ones who keep is going. It’s the corporates, the big companies, the global giants that give us the screaming hab-dabs. The ones that have us reaching for the venom…

A necessary evil, an “it-goes-with-the-territory” part of publishing are companies that want something for free - even though they can afford to pay for it a thousand times over, they still want it for mahala, type of companies that besiege us. Often they are big banks, financial companies and insurance houses. The kind of company that can afford to (and do) place full-colour, centre double-page spreads in the Sunday Crimes at a per-insertion cost in excess of R100 000. Then they hire Public Relations and Media Liaison companies to knock on the doors of publishers to tout thinly-veiled requests for free page space, pathetically disguised as “press releases” and “items in the public interest”, but they’re absolutely, no way, interested in supporting said publisher(s) to the extent of perhaps (Gosh!, Eek! Stop-die lorrie!) placing an honest-to-goodness ad. to help pay a few bills here and there. No chance.

The old adage holds true: “If you don’t ask, you don’t get.” The corollary is: “Sometimes, even if you do ask, you still don’t get.” It’s not so much the asking, or even the skaamtelose attitude that goes with it. It’s just the flat, po-faced refusal, to “come to the party” that comes as part n’ parcel of the asking and the unwillingness to offer something (no matter how small or seemingly insignificant) in return that gets up the Curmudgeon’s nose. Let’s talk… Something for me, something for you… We can always make some sort of plan… Don’t just stand there like a shnook with your paw out and dare to try and make me “feel bad” when I tell you to go and take a long walk off’ve a short pier.


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