A journalist has rung you and says they need your help with an article about hunting or shooting sports. You are fairly sure that they plan to do a hit job on you – to ‘monster’ you in the media – but maybe… maybe this time…
The first choice to make and the first question to ask yourself: do you want to stand up for hunting or do you have too much to lose from an anti-hunter in your life, perhaps at your work?
Fieldsports Channel helped two of the hunters cited in The Times article below. One works for a company which, he reckons, doesn’t understand the conservation benefits of hunting in Africa and may consider his name in the newspaper to be a fireable offence. Another is not worried about that and wants to use the opportunity to stand up for hunting sports.
So what can you do? Let’s deal with each of our victims one by one: Mr Helpful and Mr Unhelpful.
Big game hunter Adrian Cawte is The Times journalist’s Mr Helpful. Unfortunately, the story that The Times journalist Dominic Kennedy had sold his editor had the headline ‘How hunters’ trophies die in agony’, so Adrian was always going to be the victim of a hate-speech attack.
Adrian is a keen hunter and has spent £25,000 on his sport in Africa in the last five years, money which funds conservation. He helped Dominic understand how hunting works. Dominic may be personally grateful for the help but his responsibility is to prop up the headline he has sold.
Dominic is looking for angles that will help him monster hunters. It would have been most helpful if Adrian were either posh or lived in a big house. Unfortunately for Dominic, Adrian is not posh and his house is comfortable but ordinary.
One of the problems facing writers such as Dominic is that, from the moment they sell the story to their editor, they have a few days – sometimes a few hours – to become a world authority on that subject. It is the job of sub-editors on a newspaper to pick holes in the writer’s story and, if necessary, stop the newspaper from printing it. It is not in the writer’s interest to let any of his or her subjects know who the sub-editors are.
Because of this problem, it is most helpful if the source of a story is ‘cast-iron’. Dominic’s source is the animal rights extremist Eduardo Goncalves who has neither been hunting nor visited Africa, so Dominic needs Adrian’s help.
Eduardo told Dominic that hunters take ‘difficult’ heart shots and avoid ‘easy’ headshots in order to preserve trophies. Adrian was able to save Dominic’s bacon on that fact, and tell him that heart shots are easy and headshots are difficult to the point of bad practice.
Eduardo told Dominic that hunters like to shoot animals from long distances because they are frightened of them. Adrian helped Dominic avoid that mistake by explaining that part of the excitement of hunting is stalking close to the animal.
Dominic still went on to make mistakes such as condemning hunters for following up injured game, and asserting that most animals run on after the shot. Had he asked Adrian about those two facts, Adrian could have corrected him.
In order to satisfy his editor that he has a scoop, Dominic gives the impression in his article that his information is privileged and that hunters don’t discuss it openly. He ignores both Adrian’s help with the article and the enormous number of hunting websites that are freely reachable via Google, and where Eduardo does his research – or ‘copy-and-paste’ as it is also called.
At the bottom of the article, just above a plug for Eduardo’s book, Dominic gives Adrian two lines about the positives of hunting. Well, he’s never going to speak to Adrian again. He might as well burn him.
The other hunter Dominic contacted got back to him with two points:
- What you are about to print about me is untrue
- If you would like to use any of my pictures, it will cost you £3,000 a pop.
This hunter is Mr Unhelpful – and with good reason. He might lose his job, his wife might lose her job, and animal rights extremists might set fire to his house in the night. Dominic was happy to identify Adrian’s job and where he lives.
Dominic is an experienced writer. Half way through his research, he will know that Eduardo has sold him a pup with this story, and that Eduardo has little grasp of either hunting or Africa. Therefore, Mr Unhelpful’s ‘untrue’ argument will probably ring true with Dominic.
Dominic may argue: “Well, help me get my facts right”. Remember: it is not up to you to help a writer. It is up to the writer to check their facts if they are going to print them.
If writers have one over-arching ambition, it’s to come into work on Monday – not to be fired for a factual error in a story. Untruths may be libellous, and may mean The Times will sack Dominic.
Mr Unhelpful’s argument about photographs is much more ingenious.
There is the difference between ‘use’ and ‘copyright’. If you ring up a newspaper and complain about them using a picture, they will tell you that it’s in the public domain. That’s a clever use of words. They are trying to muddle you. What you need to do is complain about the ‘copyright’, which is different to the ‘use’, and ask for a reproduction fee.
For professionals such as countrysports photographer Sam Farlap of Farlap-Photography.com, it’s how they make a lot of their money. Sam uses agents including Pixsy.com and Copytrack.com to chase down illegal use of her pictures. You can do that or you can issue your own invoice.
Diggory Hadoke of VintageGuns.co.uk is a Mr Helpful. He even goes on Breakfast TV to present the case for hunting tourism, and gets shouted at by people like Piers Morgan for his pains.
A writer from The Times (again) rang Diggory and asked him for help with an article. The following day, The Times printed the article and used one of Diggory’s photographs without agreeing a reproduction fee. Diggory rang The Times picture desk, first demanded (nicely) £1,200, and eventually settled on £650.
Photographer Sam says it helps if you are regularly selling your pictures, because that helps establish a fair price, especially if the newspaper decides to go to court.
She recommends asking the newspaper (or other media outlet) to produce their licence to use a photograph. If they can’t, that’s when you issue an invoice.
Both Sam and Diggory have had picture desks ask them to prove they own a photograph. It is not up to you to do that. However, since there is money at stake, remember that the copyright-holder is, technically, whoever took the picture. If the picture is of you, ask whoever took it to write to you confirming that they ‘assign the copyright of the photograph’ to you. There’s your proof. And let’s hope it makes you richer.
Charlie Jacoby from Fieldports Channel says: “If you can, be like Adrian: tell your story with dignity and accuracy. That’s what’s going to do the most good for hunting in the long-term. Sad to say that, with the media in the state it’s in, it’s all we can do.
“If they cut up rough, why not make some money on the side, like Diggory?”
As for how to treat an approach from a journalist, Charlie says: “Remember: you have done nothing wrong. The hunters who suffer from these articles are the ones who are worried that they have made a mistake or broken a local law. It is people who are on the back foot who lose their jobs and, in one case, their marriage. Be on the front foot.”
Thanks to SCI LHAS for supporting this article