Stuff Journalists Like – #3 Free Food

Free foodjpg Having a boring informative meeting, press conference or ribbon cutting ceremony? Not sure if anyone from the local rag is going to make?

To boost your odds of having a reporter there, have free food. Journalists like free food. No really, they like free food.

There is nothing more journalists like when attending a press junket, dinner, speech or conference than free food. It soothes the contempt of the journalist who has to be in the Mississippi ballroom of the local Radisson on a Thursday night missing “30 Rock,” to listen to a speaker of a local organization ramble on about “community engagement” or “stakeholders” or any other meaningless phrase.

If a journalist is handed a press release about a planned speech to be given by the candidate of House District 52 (hypothetically) and the release says dinner/lunch/brunch/snacks/m&m’s found in a couch will be served, than the keyboard monkey journalist is more apt to show up and between bites of rubber chicken and watered-down iced tea might take down a few quotes and comments. Better yet, organizers should just provide a copy of the prepared speech as to not interrupt journalist’s free meal.

Note, it’s probably best not to hold off serving food until after the speech since the reporter probably skipped his/her regular meal of soup in a can to attend the event in the hopes of scoring some free food.


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  1. Tim says:

    Hey, wait, I never ever ever ever take free food at an event, not even a coffee. Are a lot of people doing this? Poor choice, I say. Sure a buttered roll isn’t going to affect coverage, but I don’t like the idea of the public seeing us eating off the dole of whatever we’re covering. Unless it’s like an emergency operations center event where you’re locked down with sources for days, the eating of free food isn’t what we’re there to cover.
    Now, if you’re talking about entertainment or sports journalists, that’s a whole different story….

  2. Marla Fisher says:

    I have to say I never eat the free food offered at events because I don’t want the people I cover to see me pigging out at their expense. it’s a bad example. I know plenty of other reporters though who have no such qualms. The free food I was thinking about was free food in the newsroom, which no matter how old or nasty, is devoured in seconds even though i work for a paper that pays people enough to live on.

  3. Magdalena says:

    While I once took a PR job during college largely because of the organization’s impressive spreads of free grub (lamb chops, people! free lamb chops!) and did made myself ill on the free Jelly Bellies, beer, and shrimp n’ grits offered to me by a film festival during my first post-college job, I can safely say that I have now reigned things in enough that I no longer do anything more than a polite nibble while on the job.
    To be fair, though, this may have more than a little to do with the fact that I don’t work in newspaper and, thus, can feed myself at home quite well.
    I’d never begrudge free food to the poor saps working 60-hour weeks for less than $30K and no job security.

  4. Paul says:

    I love the picture at the top of this one. If the free food actually looked like that most of the time, it would be a lot harder to resist. The odds that the free food provided at most of these events would somehow involve a warming tray are pretty slim.
    I’ll stick to my canned soup.

  5. frank says:

    Christ. Try going to a trade show where the saddest of sad sack reporters hit the buffet or the cocktail reception like they haven’t eaten in a year. The receptions are the worst. You can always spot the reporters as they’re clumped together in the back of the room all together, hunched over napkins piled with cheese. Worse yet are the catered technology showcases. I went to one a few years ago at the Hammerstein Ballroom in NYC — cocktails, wine tastings, sushi, and some pretty high-profile reporters stuffing their faces, knowing full well they weren’t going to write about anything. Maybe that’s what the sponsors get for going so overboard to impress a bunch of beat reporters, but it’s still a depressing and I swore I’d never go to one again.
    I can afford to buy myself a drink and a meal, thanks very much.

  6. Shawn says:

    It’s “Radisson,” among other things.
    Old habits die hard.
    – A former copy editor

  7. Lorenzo says:

    “I don’t want the people I cover to see me pigging out at their expense… ”
    Hey, R we jokin’ or what?
    If I have to skip dinner to cover a press event I don’t mind eating infront of my targets… Moreover, I don’t know how things are in the US, but in the ol’Europe people are more keen to talk if they have a glass in one hand and a fork in the other…

  8. Maggie says:

    Word, Lorenzo. Word.
    As long as your hands are free enough to take notes and you aren’t spitting cracker crumblings out of your mouth at your interview subjects, I say eat away.
    There’s no reason to be a rude piggie, but there’s also absolutely not reason to fastidiously starve yourself when food is offered to you. This ain’t the same thing as accepting fine dining meals in exchange for good coverage or some shit. It’s cheese cubes, people.

  9. Tim says:

    I eat if I am hungry, I don’t if I am not. Even if I am not, I generally have a small nibble. It is as rude to refuse hospitality freely offered as it is never to offer it yourself. It is usually reporters who are happy to express openly the most extreme biased political opinions around town to anyone who will listen that are the ones who sniff at a plate of chow on alleged ethical grounds. Do they also turn down awards (and the money that comes with them) from all but journalist groups, on the grounds that accepting such awards might show bias towards the group that is awarding it?

  10. Tim says:

    note that that last time is not the same as the first one

  11. Trinny says:

    Awesome site guys…
    Free food is so stale – I´m in this profession for the free booze ;)

  12. Alpana Lath says:

    i’m a journalist in mumbai and it’s amazing how journalists across countries are the same. journalists sans borders…

  13. I agree with the first comment. Taking free food is poor form indeed. I can’t say I haven’t done it, though it was mostly out of necessity. I was was interviewing an elderly couple for a community profile who essentially refused to talk unless they shoved a brownie down my throat and followed it with a funnel of diet pepsi.
    Other than that, I never touch the stuff.

  14. ncphotog says:

    To those that look down on other journalists for chowing down on the free food GET OVER IT. There are too many days where I’m so swamped I don’t even have time to think about a meal. If I’m somewhere and they’re offering free food and I’m starved I’m taking it because I don’t know when my next chance to eat will be. As long as you’re not being a pig about it what’s the problem?

  15. Greg says:

    totally agree with the first comment. i even decline glasses of water because its unprofessional.

  16. geeyore says:

    Once I jokingly asked the marketing guy/flak from some company to have a plate of tropical fruits including sliced kiwi available for our upcoming meeting.
    Imagine my shock when he actually did have a mammoth plate of arranged tropical fruits including sliced kiwi delivered to our meeting room (and this was back in the primitive days before kiwi fruits were sold at your local Safeway).
    Anyway it was at a Ritz-Carlton so in addition to being a gargantuan platter it was also very pleasingly arranged.
    And of course it was mucho tasty.

  17. geeyore says:

    The reality is that the sponsors are very happy to have captive “high-profile” reporters milling around their soiree with mounds of cheese cubes and crackers while drinking exotic wines. Sometimes it’s shrimp boats. Other times it’s BBQ baby back ribs and cornbread. Or cauldrons of steaming spicy chili.
    They pay such huge sums to the promoters for the milling. At that particular even (I know the one you’re speaking of) no tech “product” is allowed. Only milling and pleasant chit-chat.
    And face-stuffing with moderate drinking. All for free.
    And that’s why “high-profile” journalists show up.

  18. Katie C. says:

    “Sure a buttered roll isn’t going to affect coverage, but I don’t like the idea of the public seeing us eating off the dole of whatever we’re covering.” Are you kidding me? I’ve spent 12 hours per day with the school board for three days in a row. You think I’m going to skip the free food to appear professional to the public? Anyone working on a journalist’s salary (for me, that’s $19,700 a year) knows that they’re getting paid crap for the time and work they’re putting in. I’ll be shoving my mouth full of those complimentary chocolate chip cookies and enjoying it while you look “professional” in the corner of the room. Think of it, not as a bribe for good coverage, but as a perk of our profession!

  19. Dicky Dunn says:

    Spoken like a true blogger.

  20. Kristin says:

    I remember back in my early days when I was hardly earning any money as a reporter at college and small-town newspapers. Back then, we were thrilled to have free food whenever possible. Reporters miss regular meals while driving long distances to attend long, boring events, and sometimes a free cookie is the best part of your day. Reporters are much more likely to attend if there’s going to be food.

  21. I think some of the people with sticks up their butts about taking free food need to relax. If the person I’m interviewing offers it and insists, then yes, I will welcome myself to free food. Where I work it is more rude to not accept. Our competition never accepts and instead they look standoffish and stuck up, which is fine for me because then my newspaper gets more biz. :-)

  22. Isaac says:

    One journalistic tip – never accept a hot drink on a job, you’ll be guarenteed to be finished before it’s prepared and cool enough to drink.

  23. Mik says:

    You should go to indonesia. Journalists there ALWAYS get food and I mean a full banquet. Sometimes they even hand out cash – no shit.

  24. debraschell says:

    Usually I try to avoid eating at events, and if I do eat, it’s after I am done working (taking pics and doing interviews) but sometimes when I sit and talk to people while eating, I get more than I would if I didn’t join in. Food at most events isn’t healthy and that’s the biggest reason why I tend to steer clear of the food, but sometimes, come on, we are broke. It means I can save the lunch at my desk for another day. I don’t go out to dinner and lunch like others in the office, simply because I am broke. So yeah, I could care less if people at the events I cover see me eating, sometimes they bug me to eat.

  25. Debarati says:

    ewwwwwwwwwwww…iv seen some fellow journos do it! but then such pigs are part of all professions! i never ever do something like this.

  26. Kate says:

    “Sooths”? C’mon . . . sp.

  27. Jo says:

    I read this and I think : Hunter S. Thompson


  1. [...] makes my crush deepen as it proves that all journalists — even the big broadcasters — like free food. It’s nice to see even they’re human. Like this:LikeBe the first to like this post. [...]

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