Paul Dacre – A Good Egg

The letter below doesn’t require a great deal of explanation. For those of you who don’t know, Paul Dacre is the editor of the Daily Mail and chairman of the PCC’s Editors’ Code of Practice Committee. He’s also a good egg. I was paid this morning. 

Dear Paul Dacre,
I’ve no idea if this will reach you, be ignored, or be binned, so I’ll endeavour to be brief.
In short, I’m in a tight spot. Earlier this week I was due a payment from the Daily Mail for a feature I had filed on November 5th. Today – and despite assurances to the contrary – I’ve just found out that the invoice will not be processed until the second week of January. For many writers, one unpaid invoice in December wouldn’t cause a great deal of alarm, but for this writer it has. I was banking on that payment to get me through Christmas and all the expense involved; without it, it looks as if I’m going to have to come up with novel (i.e. badly homemade) gifts for people, or no gifts at all.
I was wondering then, if you were able to use your not inconsiderable clout and get the invoice paid this month, the month I was expecting it. I understand this is an unorthodox (and no doubt annoying) approach in getting payment, but perhaps you could inject a little Christmas spirit into my life. It’s probably scant consolation, but I run an award-winning blog read mainly by journalists, and I would love to title my next post: “Paul Dacre – A Good Egg”.
Can you be a good egg?
Merry Christmas,

Pitchingtheworld

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21 responses to “Paul Dacre – A Good Egg

  1. Diamond

  2. I might try this honesty instead of issuinglate payment surcharges. Seems to a) work and b) make the world seem a happier place.
    (I’m owed an invoice from September, but not from the Daily Mail.)

  3. The (automatically generated, I know) possibly related post says Dacre is “utterly odious” – a good egg gone bad? Full of win, anywho.

  4. F**k off journalist c**t

  5. Homemade gifts sound great! Perhaps you could give your family and friends invoices that cannot be processed until February??

    I once house-sat for a couple who went on a world cruise, and the Daily Mail arrived everyday! I actually got quite into the puzzles, and daily updates on what does and doesn’t give you cancer. And the photos of killer squirrels – immense! Shame about all the homonegativity, ignorance and racism though.

  6. Cracking news.

  7. People can shine if they want to and the approach is right.Good egg indeed and good job to you for taking a different approach to get what you needed…

  8. You can tell if an egg is hard-boiled or raw by spinning it then stopping it with your finger. If it carries on moving after this, it’s raw, if not, you’ve got a cooked egg. This is useful to know in case you live with someone like me who spends his holidays hard-boiling eggs, cooling them and putting them back with the raw eggs.

  9. Un Oeuf 's Enough

    Still stuck for family gifts? Give the gift of amazement.

    Place an egg in the palm of your hand. Squeeze the egg by applying even pressure all around the shell. To everyone’s amazement the egg will not break.

    Only failed once for me; be careful the egg white strips paint if not cleaned sharpish.

    PS I need a fresh hit of your blog if you wouldn’t mind obliging

  10. How about telling us a bit about yer actual pitching ?

    I really would like to know what work you pick up ?

    Can I have a look somewhere ?

  11. Appreciate all the egg talk – especially from you, fake Paul Dacre.
    Boz, you’re quite correct, there isn’t much on here about actual pitching, but if you hunt through the archives there are one or two scraps of information that will blow your head off. And there will be more stuff to come. Which won’t blow your head off. Nor, in truth, will the archive stuff.

  12. Yes, my head is blown off and yes, unfortunately it by just scraps too minute to make sense of.

    What I’m interested in is this. I have long been various types of journo but never a freelance.

    All the information I currently have about freelancing is that it is the pits.

    Doing the actual work is great, but getting it isn’t.

    Even people with several 2000 word features to their name in nationals seem to give up without ever earning a living.

    My extremely limited foray into freelancing confirms the apparent silliness of expecting to earn a reasonable living from it.

    For example : Two really good commissions from the high end of the PR world fell into my lap some time ago without me even looking for them. Both should clearly have resulted in continuous streams of work.

    Job done to everyone’s satisfaction – then sudden death. Not just no further work, but the weirdness of cutting me off stone cold with no replies to me etc as though I was suddenly a leper. It was inexplicable.

    Then; The sudden casual keenness of the Daily Mail to take a news/feature just on the basis of a phone call from someone they had never heard of before. It was the easiest selling pitch imaginable.

    Then, after bothering to send their photographer and a reporter getting involved, spiking the bloody story and just paying me a pathetic kill fee.

    The astounding thing about this is it was pretty much a fantastic prescient scoop I had given the stupid rag, because two weeks later a government report about the scandalous inadequacy of maternity care in the NHS was published and every print and broadcast media channel gave it acres of news coverage followed by even more acres of feature coverage in following weeks.

    My story, still held by the Mail, was absolutely perfect to weave into any coverage of that govmnt report they would have done.

    But the Mail was the only media channel in the entire UK not to cover this govmnt report story which was a front pager everywhere else.

    The idiot Mail gave it a four line para as news and that was completely it ! Aaaaaaargh !!

    Instead the mail was completely filled with celeb crap from cover to cover for weeks with no room for any news from anywhere it seems.

    A handful of other pitches have been totally ignored.

    Now I know that being ignored is par for the course, but a ‘hit’ rate of maybe 5-10 % of replies might be expected at least – even if its a no.

    But, it puzzles me that, a long time ago, when I had no meaningful experience of anything, let alone journalism, I just asked and got, just like that.

    – Wrote to Lord Mountbatten for article- got polite refusal. Wrote again, then he wrote it for me.

    – Wrote to Fatso Robert Maxwell telling him his magazines were lousy and I could produce them better. He asked to discuss this with me with a view to me producing them.

    – Wrote to Telegraph Editor Bill Deedes for job. Got prompt reply with invitation to meet followed by freelance offer.

    And so it went on.

    Now, it seems quite different and much, much harder .Or is it only me not having tried properly yet ?

    But, I do also hear from lots of other journos that it is pretty dubious.

    So, if you only started freelancing a couple of years ago and have had loads of commissions in that time, you are doing well.

    And, if that is the case, I want to know how and why you are so much more successful at getting the commissions in compared with all the doom mongers carrying on at me.

    So, the promise that your blog will yield the secrets of freelancer pitching, but doesn’t, is frustrating !

    C’mon give us the goods!

    http://rocketspage.wordpress.com/

  13. Boz – thanks for taking the time to post such a detailed comment. I know this blog must be frustrating from time to time, but bear in mind it’s being written by a madman.
    A couple of things struck me from your comments above. First, you seem to have a pretty firm grasp on how to make yourself stand out from the crowd – writing to the ed of the Telegraph, for example – and, from my experience at least, anything you can do to carry on in this manner is good. Become bolder even, if you can stomach it. Second, yes, it seems the industry is in a bit of a state, with fewer freelance opportunities, more freelancers and slashed/non-existent budgets. Shitty, I know, but there are one or two ways round it. One way is to quit, and rent out pedalos for a living. Another way is to ignore a lot of advice: what I’ve heard anecdotally about certain publications not having the budget for freelancers or not commissioning has not been borne out in reality. Another way is to realise that, for the time being at least, there is still a real need for freelancers and you can still make a decent living from it – you just have to be better than a lot of the other freelancers. Or, at least, more creative in your approaches.
    Unfortunately I can’t really give you the “secrets of freelancer pitching” as I don’t know what they are. There are a couple of posts here containing pitches that worked (“Football Pitch”, I think, and “The one that didn’t get away” among them) and over the coming days and weeks I’ll endeavour to put up more successful ones.

  14. Thanks for that.

    I have worked at the sharp end of PR, sometimes in a senior position, often with nerdy clients of virtually no interest at all to anyone.

    Not only did I have to have the pizzazz to pitch to very snotty (sometimes the biggest ) clients, but I had to frantically pitch endless no hope non-stories in a desperately embarrassing bid for column inches knowing I was a total pain in the backside to journos I knew would bin the idiotically irrelevant press release the minute my back was turned.

    So, I can be a hard nosed pitcher and I have plenty of ideas. But, as I lack the real and actual experience of doing it as a freelance journo, the mechanics are a mystery right now.

    Viz: Nothing can ever change this neurotic state of mine until one of two things happen.

    1 – I earn an increasingly ‘good’ living from a very long period of freelancing stretching from now several years into the future. Only then will I know the numbers. Like, How many pitches produce how many polite no’s and what net percentage of pitches results in actual commissions etc, etc.

    2 – I look over the shoulders of other freelancers who have just started, recently started (like you) and have been going for ages in general, to see how they pitch and what results they get.

    All I see at present is a load of ‘junior’ freelance type people occasionally being paid either nothing at all or about 2p to excitedly write something really boring in Widgets Weekly or Mummy’s Weekly Musings while they really earn their money by scrounging from relatives or doing painting and decorating jobs or teaching English as a Foreign Language on the side.

    Or I see more experienced freelancers scrambling around trying to make a half baked living from excruciatingly rude editors/commissioning people who are entirely unaware of any common and everyday politenesses towards their fellow struggling journos and generally can’t even be bothered to return a polite no thanks but maybe next time to a pitch.

    ( see (sebastian Cresswell-Turner at

    http://women.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/women/the_way_we_live/article1719509.ece and/or

    http://women.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/women/the_way_we_live/article1719509.ece)

    You will find these articles interesting, I think.

    And it says something about freelance journalising; exactly what is open to interpretation though, as I suspect this guy isn’t quite so down and out as he says he is. But, maybe I’m wrong there.

  15. Interesting stuff. I may be preaching to the converted here, but have you been on Journobiz? There are about 20 pages of successful pitches on there and lots of other handy advice too, from well established freelancers. It’s well worth a look.

  16. Yes, I have been on journobiz a lot to try and learn everything I can from there.

    And it is really frustrating, because all it seems to teach me (and I have looked at everything) is that I seem to know more than many/most people on there about most things except this godamm ‘experience’ thing.

    This, of course is not actually there on journobiz – although you might think it is. When you actually look it ain’t there at all.

    In fact Journobiz seems just the right place to completely put you off earning a living as a freelance as it appears to be mostly full of sob/total failure stories and what have you.

    Although, obviously, there are many journos clearly making a living there. But the trouble is you cannot quite see how and why they are earning a crust and what is different that means the others aren’t earning any crusts at all really, certainly not enough to make a viable living.

    • Boz that was an interesting Times article you linked us to there. It is for the very reasons described in that piece that I refuse to get a mortgage and to engage in the financial struggles that nearly all professionals do these days. It makes me sad and livid. I also despise Blair and his government for allowing this to happen, amongst other things. It really wasn’t like this back in 1996: I had yet to go to University then and I had more money than I do now. We should all stop putting our money in the banks and refuse to buy houses: that’d really screw em up.

    • I’m… confused. There are people on Journobiz who work regularly for national newspapers and magazines. There’s plenty of “experience” on there.

      “But the trouble is you cannot quite see how and why they are earning a crust and what is different”

      Yes, you can, if you look. The people earning a crust are creative, ambitious, write good pitches, network well and so on. And, ah, don’t have an attitude problem like yours.

  17. I made an error (I think) when posting the two links to two separate Times articles by Sebastian Cresswell.

    The link that doesn’t work should be this one which hopefully does work.

    It is a seriously interesting article and quite germane to this blog post.

    Here it is:

    http://women.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/women/the_way_we_live/article6973826.ece

  18. Pingback: » Cablegate: Danbo Weighs In Dirty Garnet: Dug up, uncut news inlaid by unbribed freelancers

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