Regular readers will be well aware that this project (if you can call it that) has more or less been a psychological, emotional, financial and matrimonial (and pretty much any other al-suffix) bap-up since its inception in 2009. Plus: brackets. Way too many brackets.
But then this afternoon as I was idly dodging work and hiding from the scarier corners of my life (read: all of them), I realised that all along I had been doing the whole thing wrong.
By the whole thing, I mean pitching and writing articles. And by wrong, I mean wrong.
Let me explain.
This afternoon I watched the Cambridge Analytica press conference in its entirety. Cambridge Analytica, as many readers will know, are credited with some degree of orchestration in the Trump and Brexit campaigns and have been implicated in the illegal hoovering up of data from tens of millions of Facebook users. And so today, in order to clear things up, Cambridge Analytica held a press conference conducted by Clarence Mitchell, a former “BBC journalist and PR specialist,” according to the Guardian, who gave a statement before brusquely fielding questions from various journalists.
So far, so normal. I don’t really understand the mechanics of such things, but if I were in Cambridge Analytica’s position that’s exactly what I would do: get a person in to be its spokesperson, preferably someone who doesn’t have any history with the company and who, at a press conference, can answer questions badly (or not at all) about what said company been up to.
One exchange in particular really struck me. It was as if, oh I don’t know, as if Clarence Mitchell held some sort of key to the secret of journalism (and the secret to life, perhaps) and here he was, in all his blunt glory, offering it to me.
Below is a brief transcript from this afternoon’s press conference:
Journalist: “If Cambridge Analytica’s position is that no work was carried out by Leave.EU, why did it invoice Leave.EU?”
Clarence Mitchell: “Because if you understand anything about business, you’ll understand the pitch process, i.e. a bid to get the contract, to get the work, involves a certain amount of time and effort and personnel…”
And suddenly it all clicked. There was a me before this press conference and a me after. I realised that before I didn’t understand anything about business but that now, after hearing some words from my new guru Clarence Mitchell, I did. I’d been wasting my time. I didn’t need to write for these magazines, I just needed to pitch them. And the pitch didn’t even need to be any good, thank god, as long as it involved a certain amount of time and effort and personnel. After that I could invoice.
A journalist post-invoicing, earlier.
Frankly, I’m delighted with this new slant on getting paid for stuff, of doing business. But it’s not the only thing that I’ve learnt from – and subsequently been delighted by – Cambridge Analytica in the last couple of months. In February 2016 Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix wrote in Campaign Magazine that, “We have already helped supercharge Leave.EU’s social media campaign by ensuring the right messages are getting to the right voters online.”
Yet when questioned by a House of Commons select committee earlier this year about such a statement, Nix said, “Let me be absolutely crystal clear about this. We did not work for Leave.EU. We have not undertaken any paid or unpaid work for them, okay?” But the Campaign Magazine stuff? “Drafted by a slightly overzealous PR consultant.”
Mr Nix also went on to say that meeting and being in contact with various groups and companies could be classed as work. This, again, is gold for me. Over the years I have been in contact with tons of newspapers and magazines about writing for them and in most instances it’s all kind of petered out. Yet because of these new, Cambridge Analytica-shaped “rules” I can now class them among my employers.
That will have to do for now, I’m afraid. It’s late, and I have hundreds of invoices to send and a new CV to write.