Media, Darling: Derick Chetty

Derick Chetty is the fashion reporter at the Toronto Star. Covering both Toronto and international shows, he also reports on the local society scene and compiles the Star’s annual Best Dressed List. He was formerly the fashion editor at Flare Magazine, has a weird obsession with Pride & Prejudice and never gets tired of watching 1980s sitcoms. 

Photo by Randy Risling.
Website: www.thestar.com 
Twitter: @DerickChetty

Did you always want to be in the media? If not, what other careers were on the horizon? 
No. When I was younger I had grandiose plans to be a designer. But the first year pattern drafting class at Ryerson pretty much steered me clear off that career path. I learned I have little patience for mathematical calculations. 

Where would you like to be five years from now?
I feel we are living at warp speed.

Any advice for people getting started in your industry?
The newspaper industry is at a crossroad now. You might be embarking on the most thrilling ride of your life or a death plunge off a cliff. 
But if I haven’t deterred you, start getting some experience by interning somewhere. It might not be paid but treat it like a real job that you absolutely love and where no job is too menial. I once cleaned an editor’s office.  

What are your favourite media outlets, not including your own?

Wall Street Journal and Financial Times – weekend print editions only. Love any newspaper that still consider art direction something to be treasured. And I have a lengthy list of guilty-pleasure blogs I love.
Best interview you’ve ever had?
Donna Karan. Even though I was plunged into a panic when I realized my tape recorder was not working. But looking at my notes at the end, I noticed she did not waste a single word – every answer was precise, measured and directly to the point. 
Worst?
Any when the subject wants to conduct the interview via email or the questions to be presented ahead of time. If you’re that busy, why bother agreeing to the interview?  

Best advice you’ve ever been given?

No one tells you the truth. 

What rule(s) do you live your life by?

Do the right thing.  

What’s the most important tip you can give PR pros?

I like a touch of professional formality. Perhaps social media has made us all too casual. I don’t respond well to people who reach out to me with Hiya, Hey dude, Happy Monday! How was your weekend?  

And my name is not Shinan Govani. He’s the shorter one.


Best experience you’ve had with a PR pro? We love to hear about #wins.
Any that operate without fuss or delay. 

I hate?
Depends on time and day. But that should tell you I don’t harbour hatred. 

I love?
Time to myself.

Reading?
Re-reading The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon.

Best place on earth?
Barcelona. My happy place. 

Dinner guest?

I’ll start with The Golden Girls and then move on to any other quartet of funny ladies – Designing Women and the Sex and the City girls.  

Hero?

Anyone that overcomes adversity in pursuit of their dreams. 

Favourite app (or whatever you are downloading these days)?

I got 20 apps when I first got my iPhone and I haven’t downloaded any since. That tells me I probably don’t have a need for more. 
Pool or ocean?
Ocean. 

Voicemail or email?

Email.

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Media, Darling: Kevin Naulls

Kevin Naulls attended the school of hard knocks at the University of Toronto (St. George Campus), where he studied English, History and Philosophy. His humble beginnings started with an internship with designer Pat McDonagh (which he did simultaneously with a night job at Sun Media), and sneaking into shows at “the tents.” Around that time, he began writing a blog that would eventually deal almost exclusively with contemporary menswear and dudes with beards named Dressed for Dinner, which led to more pictures of bearded men on the Internet.

After writing for Sharp, The Sharp Book for Men, Eye Weekly, the Toronto Sun, The Block, and more, and still working nights at Sun Media, he was offered a job as Associate Online Editor at Toronto Life, where he lives and breathes today (and sometimes allows him to sleep at a reasonable hour). He very much enjoys it. 


Did you always want to be in the media? If not, what other careers were on the horizon? 
Like any idealistic young lad, I wanted to be a cartoonist, an actor, a lawyer, a criminologist and a philosopher. I gave up on those dreams long ago, but I still aspire to be a television comedy writer, and I’m writing spec scripts on the side. No, you can’t read them (not yet anyway).

Where would you like to be five years from now?
In five years? Well, I like the experience of working at Toronto Life – I am allowed to have a voice that is my own, and I’m learning new skills every day that I wouldn’t have (at least not as quickly) as a freelancer.  But I’d love to be the next Mindy Kaling, because I like fashion shows, fashion shows at lunch.

Any advice for people getting started in your industry?
I didn’t sleep before I got my job at Toronto Life. I ran my blog, worked nights and freelanced for multiple publications. I don’t want to recommend an unhealthy lifestyle, but everyone wants these jobs, and having a take-on-all-comers attitude is a clear sign to employers that you’re willing to push yourself to your limits. And stories don’t just fall into your lap every day, so it is important to get into the habit of fighting for a scoop.

What are your favourite media outlets, not including your own? 
What I read: Fantastic Man, V magazine, Interview, the New York Times, New York magazine, The Gentlewoman, Corduroy, The Awl, Gawker, Workwear magazine (when I can find it (send it to me! Or find me .PDFs!))

What I listen to: to ensure a person’s sexual issues are much more complicated than mine, I listen to the Savage Love podcast. To laugh out loud, I listen to Julie Klausner’s podcast How Was Your Week (I like to pretend she’s my girlfriend when I’m listening). I hate Slate’s Culture Gabfest—if I wanted to listen to lukewarm talk radio that is basically a roundtable of people with convoluted ideas about pop culture, I’d go to Trampoline Hall.

Best advice you’ve ever been given?
“Talk is cheap, motherfucker.” – DMX

DMX may not have said it to me personally, but it resonated. I have no patience for people who do not speak for themselves in a critical way. I work in an industry where the emphasis is on brand building, and I refuse to pretend to care about something for free drinks and VIP experiences. 

Everything should be broken down, illustrating positives and negatives, because no one will learn anything otherwise – you’d tell your children that some things are right, and some things are wrong, and while “right” and “wrong” are subjective, I’d rather someone speak openly and be slightly wrong than lie down and take it, spilling adjectives onto a page that do not rightly reflect the subject. 


What rule(s) do you live your life by?
A couple of good friends once said “there are no rules on girls weekend,” and I tend to live my life that way. I’m not a cat though, so it isn’t all fancy free – I am professional, and stick to deadlines, even when I’m writing jokey captions or living in sewers.  I promise to always love the people I love, even when they sing karaoke better than I do. And like Maestro, I always stick to my vision.

Best interview you’ve ever had?
I had the opportunity to interview Robert Geller, and what could have been a 15 minute interview turned into an hour and 15 minutes. Most of the time subjects are so media trained that they become resistant—there’s this wall that they hit, as if someone is tapping them on the shoulder (sometimes there is someone) telling them it is time to wrap it up. We chatted like old school chums, and his level of candidness helped me with my story immensely. I like when people aren’t in a rush. If it is going to be a media circus, it almost isn’t worth it. I don’t have 2 minute interviews and I feel as if no one really should.

Oh, and obviously chatting with Felicity Jones during TIFF. That was unforgettable, and I thank Alex Thompson from Joe Fresh for making that happen. It might mean nothing to everyone else, but I was a huge Worst Witch fan and we gabbed about it briefly, which made my night. I’m willing to fight for a story, but it is nice when meetings happen so easily, and the other party (celebrity or otherwise) is actually really nice about having a chat.

Worst interview you’ve ever had?
Interviewing Alicia Silverstone during TIFF. It lasted all of 30 seconds, and 20 seconds of it was her trying to sell me her book. It was incredibly disappointing to say the least.

What’s the most important tip you can give PR pros?
I love PR girls when they relax. So many are high strung, sporting impeccably bleached teeth and a perma-smile. Girls (and guys), I know it is your job to rep your clients (I know). Get off your game once in a while and have a bit of fun with the media you’re working with. Some of my best PR-media relationships are with those who know when to be professional, and know when it is cool to let loose a little bit. 

Also, this is such a small matter because I know a lower case ‘i’ can look like an ‘l’, but my last name is NAULLS, not NAULIS. And I am a Mr., not a Ms. (which, again, usually just makes me laugh). My biggest pet peeve though is when someone follows up on an email the day of sending it. Yes, your email is the most urgent email I’ve received all day.


Best experience you’ve had with a PR pro? We love to hear about #wins
My favourite PR person in the world is Steve Sane from Sane PR in the UK, but that has a lot to do with who he represents and how awesome everything is—not to mention his entire staff must work around the clock, because every single time I’ve asked for photos or information, it gets to me in mere moments. I’ve waited days in Toronto. The girls and guys in Toronto know who they are, because they continue to make my life easier by getting things to me on time, and not harassing me by phone. Not everything a PR person represents fits in at Toronto Life, and I’m sorry your job requires you to pitch me toilets, but please learn that I do what I can with what is given—sometimes a turd is just a turd (to be crass).

I hate?
Everything. But really, I don’t care for people who insert French words into sentences because they’ve been to Paris once (or twenty times). I find that I read this a lot in fashion journalism, but a good editor will strike that out and recast it using the English word (or equivalent). I hate walking to the streetcar on a cold damp day, and I hate when I forget to pack my lunch in the morning. I also don’t like when people talk about their jobs all the time, but in this industry, there is so much one-upmanship, that someone is always doing something fabulous (well, guess what, sometimes I eat dinner in my underwear while I watch television on my laptop).

I love?
Brassy women and hilarious men (my friends), beards (hilarious beardos go to the top of the class), meta-jokes, plaid shirts, Happy Socks, Mark McNairy shoes, fried spaghetti sandwiches, Cruel Intentions, Home Movies (cartoon series), Archer, American Dad, Life and Times of Tim, ice water, dark denim, scotch on the rocks, a good IPA, 13 Going on 30 and Aaron Spelling, 

Reading?
I bet you think I’m reading Jonathan Franzen, but I’m not. I’m re-reading Tyler’s Cape by Darren Greer in hopes that my book club Literection (this is real) will re-emerge.

Best place on earth?
Any hotel with a gigantic king-size bed, and a mattress you can just sink in enough (while still being firm). The important part of this scenario is that I have zero obligations while I am there, so I can come and go as I please. This one time I was in New York, my phone died on the first night and I forgot my charger, and it was the best trip ever.

Dinner guest?
Dead: River Phoenix; alive: Brenda Strong.
These require no explanation.

Hero?
Other than Cara Pifko, Tina Fey? Is this as obvious as Rory writing an entrance-to-Harvard essay on Hilary Clinton? Because I don’t care. She has the best comic timing, and everything she does is relatable, no matter who you are or what circle of friends you claim to be part of. I’d also have dinner with her, but with Tina Fey we’d also drink bourbon and shoot pellet guns at stop signs.  

Favourite app (or whatever you are downloading these days)?
I was playing Words With Friends pretty regularly with my colleague Fraser Abe (but we are both pretty good and just started to annoy each other—we kept the games going for a long time by only placing two letter words). Now I play Family Feud and Friends and Instagram pictures of my shoes and socks.

Pool or ocean?
Give me a lap pool to myself and I’m a kid in a candy store. I love just swimming and swimming without people bothering me (or fish, or sharks, or octopi). But really, I’ll swim anywhere, especially at night.

Voicemail or email? 
Always email me, unless the matter is urgent (or be like me and annoy your friends by leaving not-so-urgent messages on a Saturday afternoon). But seriously, I prefer emails unless we’re close enough to have each others phone number for not-work shenanigans. 

Media, Darling: Barry Hertz

Barry Hertz is the National Post’s Arts & Life editor. Prior to dreaming up pun-happy headlines and planning stories on summer blockbusters, he was conjuring straightlaced display and copy editing pieces on Middle East strife as a member of the Post’s night news desk. He is currently trying to co-ordinate TIFF coverage, and can be found breaking into panic sweats in the office foyer. 


Twitter: @HertzBarry, @nparts

Did you always want to be in the media? If not, what other careers were on the horizon?

I’ve always wanted to make a living writing, so journalism seemed a natural fit when deciding what to study in university. (This was about two years before everyone decided to collectively wring their hands over the future of print. Timing is everything.) While I always considered the media as a backup to my real plan (screenwriting, another easy-to-enter industry), it wasn’t until midway through my four years at Ryerson that I began to give journalism some serious, this-could-be-a-career consideration.

Where would you like to be five years from now?

On a beach in Thailand, flush with riches from the gutsiest Casino Rama heist of all time. Or, you know, editing while working on a book or TV show on the side.

Any advice for people getting started in your industry?
Never burn any bridges and always, always, always be sure to spell people’s names correctly. Plus, it never hurts to be open to criticism and know your way around a press conference.

What are your favourite media outlets, not including your own?

Every morning before heading up to the Far North (a.k.a. Don Mills), and throughout the day, I check out New York Magazine‘s Vulture website, New York TimesArts Beat blog, The AV Club, Hollywood Elsewhere (run by the cranky yet lovable Jeffrey Wells) and The Hollywood Reporter.

Best interview you’ve ever had?
Director Terry Gilliam is one of my idols, and getting the chance to speak with him for almost an hour (up from our scheduled 15 minutes) was one of those clichéd dream-come-true journalism moments. 

Worst?
Well, a certain sci-fi icon who shall go nameless once gave me one-word answers for the better part of 10 minutes. In short, I’ll never wear that franchise’s pajamas again.

Best advice you’ve ever been given?
Proofread your story twice before filing. Then proof it again.

What rule(s) do you live your life by?

Never check email after 10 p.m. But, it’s always 10 p.m. somewhere…

What’s the most important tip you can give PR pros?

I think this point has been echoed by my Post colleagues, but please make sure you’ve actually read the publication you’re pitching to. I’ve yet to publish anything in the Post’s Arts & Life section on dog food, RV shows or how to pick up women at a chicken wing bar. It’s unlikely I ever will.

Best experience you’ve had with a PR pro? We love to hear about #wins.

I’ve dealt with a large number of PR reps who go above and beyond — rushing to get last-minute photo requests filled, sneaking me in a few minutes early for extra interview time, etc. PR reps and the media are both here to make everyone’s lives easier, and for the most part, Toronto’s PR community gets that.

I hate?
15MB emails. And commuting. Two usually unrelated things.

I love?
Quiet nights filled with Breaking Bad and breakfast burritos.

Reading?

Too many magazines. Maybe I’ll get around to Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom, which is gathering dust on my nightstand. Or maybe not.

Best place on earth?

Trinity Bellwoods Park with a greasy bag of Chippy’s and mushy peas.

Dinner guest?
The New Yorker‘s David Grann.

Hero?
Batman. You meant comic book hero, right?

Favourite app?

Rdio.

Pool or ocean?
Pool. I like to see what’s lurking underneath.

Voicemail or email?

Email. Always.

Media, Darling: Linda Barnard

Linda Barnard has worked as a cocktail waitress, bartender and camp counsellor (not in that order) but she liked journalism best. The London, Ont. native started her career at The Campbellford Herald and Cobourg Star, then spent 18 years at the Toronto Sun, covering beats from city hall to medicine to being the paper’s humour columnist. She joined the Toronto Star in 2002 and is the Star‘s movie writer, where she does interviews and reviews for Canada’s largest newspaper and the website thestar.com. She lives in Cabbagetown with her boyfriend and their cat, Lance.


Did you always want to be in the media? If not, what other careers were on the horizon?
I wanted to be a translator at the United Nations when I was a kid, then decided to go to law school, but I dropped out of Western in second year of my undergrad because I fell for a bass player and he was a lot more fun than reading Chaucer. My childhood pal Carol Off (now co-host at CBC’s As It Happens) came up with the idea over a bottle of wine: “You love to write, you love news and you’re nosey. Why not journalism school?” I started at Ryerson that fall and truly found my niche. I was happy from the first day and have never regretted it. Thanks, Carol.


Where would you like to be five years from now?
Still working in daily newspapers. I believe print will survive and thrive; we just need to find new and continuously evolving ways to engage readers with electronic publishing and citizen journalism as well. I may change beats, but love journalism too much to do anything else.


Any advice for people getting started in your industry?
Work hard, ask questions and trust your instincts, but don’t think you know everything. Too many newcomers confuse confidence with arrogance.


What are your favourite media outlets, not including your own?
For websites: Nikki Finke’s Deadline: Hollywood, Twichfilm, RopeofSilicone, Torontoist, Hollywood Reporter and Variety, plus the L.A. Times and all its film and entertainment blogs, The New York Times (especially Sunday) and its film and entertainment blogs, The Globe and Mail, The Grid, NOW and occasionally The National Post, The (London) Guardian, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair.  I am a Coronation Street addict and am counting the days until Mad Men returns.


Best interview you’ve ever had?
It’s impossible to pick the best because they’re all good in their own way. I did really dig Helen Mirren, though. She was amazing. 

Worst?
Ditto the worst – I’ve had some people be downright mean to me, but it often turns out they were having a lousy day. TIFF tends to drain you of your will to live, so when Philip Seymour Hoffman made me feel like a moron, it wasn’t really his fault.


Best advice you’ve ever been given?
Shut up and pay attention.


What rule(s) do you live your life by?
An oldie but a goodie – the do unto others one. Works every time. And I like to think it keeps my karma insurance balance in the black. The thing is it only takes one bitchy comment or rude remark to stain the reputation you’ve worked so hard to build. Why risk it?


What’s the most important tip you can give PR pros?
Don’t carpet bomb. If we say “no,” there’s a good reason. And please don’t call the person I work next to in order to pitch the same thing. That’s so lame.


Best experience you’ve had with a PR pro? We love to hear about #wins.
The film publicists in Toronto are all very good and we’re very lucky in this town to have such a cadre of clever people. They’re pros. They work hard, they know the market and tend to play fair while working with a very competitive media. They return calls and emails right away and they do their best to deliver. They occasionally need reminding that I’m working for the readers, not the studios, but I get that’s because of the external pressures they face.


I hate?
Liars.


I love?
Kittens and dry martinis, straight up with olives.


Reading?
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout . A terrific book of short stories. I also am thumbing through a book on western movie shoot locations in the American southwest –  especially Monument Valley because we were just there. Standing on John Ford Point was a real life highlight.


Best place on earth?
Muri Beach, Rarotonga, Cook Islands, or anyplace my partner Hans happens to be.


Dinner guest?
Family and friends who make me laugh, which is all of them.


Hero?
Pierre Trudeau.


Favourite app (or whatever you are downloading these days)?
I spend a bit too much time with those Angry Birds.


Pool or ocean?
Ocean.


Voicemail or email?
Email.

Media, Darling: Edward Keenan

Edward Keenan is a Toronto writer who works as a senior editor of Eye Weekly (shortly to become The Grid), where he writes a weekly column about politics. He is also a contributing editor at Spacing magazine and a contributor to Yonge Street. He also contributed essays to two books in the Toronto Book Award-nominated uTOpia series from Coach House books.

Although he often writes about municipal politics, Keenan’s interests as a writer have been widespread: he has written frequently about the arts, sports, sex and sexuality, and business, and for a time he wrote a blog about manliness for The Walrus. A four-time National Magazine Award nominee, Keenan is a lifelong Toronto resident who has lived in Riverdale, Scarborough, The Annex, Harbord Village, Greektown and Bloorcourt Village. He has now settled down in The Junction, where he lives with his wife Rebecca and their two children.

What was your favourite class in high school? Why?
My favourite class in all of high school was a senior level history course called “Modern Western Civilizations.” I loved it for many reasons: because it was primarily a class about ideas, because it used a university-style seminar format that allowed for small-group discussion and debate, because there was a lot of reading and thinking involved and very little tedious memorization.

But what really made Mod WestCiv the best class I ever took at any level of schooling was the teacher: George Wrobel treated his students as peers, he was funny, a great storyteller, and many of his stories involved how he put himself through grad school in Cold-War Poland by trading US currency on the black market. He encouraged me to be a writer when no other teacher thought that was a good career path, and helped form my analytical approach to big essential questions. Plus, he gave me a grade of 100 per cent on a 22-page term paper once, which made me like him even more.

How did you get your start as an editor/producer/host?
I went to journalism school and had a false start early on as a trade magazine editor, but then wandered away into the restaurant business and fiction writing for a while. I really got the start that led me to my current career by interning at Eye Weekly and treating it as a chance to learn how to do every element of journalism and prove I was capable. I worked harder as an intern than I did for several years after that, and I suppose my efforts paid off: I got hired at the end of my term as a Staff Writer, which a little later led me into editing.

As a side note, I still consider myself primarily a writer, but I got into the editing side for two reasons. The obvious one is that editing tends to pay better. The less obvious one is that in magazines and especially in newspapers, editors are really the driving creative force behind the publication. Good writers provide the stuff a publication is made of, but editors are the ones who compose the way a reader experiences the publication – choosing the subjects, selecting the right writers to pair those subjects up with, arranging the mixture of stories and other items, working with the art department to manage how things feel on the page. Like a director in film, the editor uses the efforts of other talented people to build something greater out of them, crafting an experience for readers. That control-freak aspect appealed to me.

If you weren’t a Media, Darling, what would you be doing right now?
What would I want to be doing, or what would I likely be doing? Either way, I’m not sure. I considered going into law at one point, but I’m not sure I’d have had the passion for contract parsing required to see it through. I also dipped my toe into entrepreneurship, and I may have pursued more small business ideas… I may still.

And then there’s my love-hate relationship with the prospect of going into politics, which comes up now and again. The thing I’ve most enjoyed as a side project is being a DJ – a couple friends and I had a pretty successful dance night at a local bar for a while. I have no turntable skills or anything, I just love composing a party. Pressing play on a song and having a packed dance floor jump up and down cheering is a powerful rush.

Pitching or follow up: Phone or email?
The truth is that you’re unlikely to hear back from me either way unless I’m interested in what you’re pitching (see: 200+ press releases by email PER DAY, in addition to the other 100 or so assorted bits of other business in my inbox). But email, please, unless it’s urgent and you feel lucky about the prospects of finding me at my desk.

We know irrelevant pitches, calling you the wrong name and eight follow-ups are no-no’s; what else should publicists avoid doing?
Sending me three copies of the same release, assuming that a good cause is equal to a good story, feeling upset that I did not call or write back…

Sunrise or sunset?
Sunset. Just because I’m actually awake when it happens most of the time.

Scent?
Eau du Tobacco (for a few more weeks, at least, until I finally quit).

Cookie?
Why yes, please.

Flower?
I like them, but I’m afraid I cannot be bothered to plant them or buy them (special occasions excepted) or take notice much of which is which. Orchid-looking interesting, brightly coloured ones are nice.

Ticklish?
Not particularly. I think I got all tickled out as a kid.

Shower or bath?
Not sure anybody wants that mental picture conjured up. But: showers for cleaning, waking up, focusing; baths for relaxing and reading.

Film?
I have a few, but they’re the same as everyone else’s favourites: The Godfather and The Godfather II, Glengarry Glenn Ross, Eternal Sunshine on the Spotless Mind, Annie Hall, Pulp Fiction – off the beaten track slightly, Down By Law is probably my favourite of all time.

Crush?
Orange, definitely. But I tend to prefer Root Beer.

First job?
Flyer delivery. The best week was when we delivered chicken soup samples rather than flyers. I wound up with a year’s supply of overstock that I used to make myself snacks after school every day.

Inspiration?
I have a surplus of inspiration, and I don’t find it or the sources of it particularly remarkable (I’m inspired by almost everything and everyone – the world is fascinating and the people in it more so). What I have a shortage of is the time to see all my ideas and ambitions through. If anyone with a science background needs inspiration for a new invention: how about the 48-hour day?

Media, Darling: Deirdre Kelly

Deirdre Kelly has been a staff writer with The Globe and Mail since 1985. Her first book, Paris Times Eight (Greystone Books/Douglas & McIntyre), a memoir using eight trips to Paris over a 30-year period to map a coming-of-age story, was published last year and is now a national best-seller. More info about the book can be found on her website.
How can someone grab your attention with a pitch?
That’s an obvious question, but I’m afraid I will give something of a slippery response: I often come up with my own ideas. That’s the nature of my job; I have to be aware of trends, what’s being talked and written about, and generally follow my gut. I have good instincts after more than 25 years at The Globe and Mail (yes, I am that old) and can spot a story 10 miles off, if not a year before it really becomes news elsewhere, and well before a publicist tells me that they have something new to tell me.
PRs don’t tend to pitch trend stories, which, by necessity, would involve a variety of sources and points of view beyond their own client. I have always striven to think and write outside a press release. I dislike very much the idea that a journalist is merely an adjunct to someone’s publicity or marketing department.
That said, I have some regular features that need to be filed weekly, and am open to enterprising publicists who are reading those features. These include two new columns I write for the Saturday Style section: In the Mix and My Favourite Room. There have been a few instances where a PR has sent an email with the subject heading “In the Mix”, and then suggested a drink and/or bar for me to profile. Do I open this email as soon as I see it? Hell, yes! Said PR, by showing such winning initiative, instantly has my attention! I am THRILLED beyond words that they’ve taken notice of the column and have come up with a candidate that might suit my purposes. The same goes for My Favourite Room, though I must say sometimes the candidates aren’t hugely noteworthy, or worse, they ain’t got style. These are pitches based on having a client they want to push my way, and it’s not always the right fit. But, hey, I’ll never fault anyone for trying.
So, to answer your question: the ideal pitch would be conceived as a story with a unique angle and broad reach, an idea ultimately promoting the creation of an article saying something not said before.
What do you find most useful when dealing with public relations professionals?
Speed and a certain degree of intelligence go a long way in my books. I work for a daily newspaper. The deadlines come screaming at me, every day. If I need something, I usually needed it yesterday, and it really helps when a PR basically drops everything and hustles to get me what I ask for. I am completely aware of how tyrannical that sounds, and believe me, I do apologize whenever the demand appears brusque and last minute. But I can’t help it. I really can’t. The newspaper is a ferociously hungry beast; it devours copy by the second.
As for the requirement of intelligence, what I mean is the ability to think while running ragged on your feet trying to confirm a fact, find a source or a quote for my story. I’ve had instances when a seasoned PR has known to refuse a quote if it doesn’t fit the needs of the story, and cajoled the subject to come up with something better. That’s the sign of a pro, and after the dust has settled, boy, do I remember that person. Next time, if they’re the ones pleading for me to do something for them, I will do everything in my power to repay the favour.

What is the biggest mistake PR professionals make?
Getting way too personal over a story. I’ve had this happen to me more times than I care to remember. This happened even recently over a style story I wrote, where the PR sent me a poison pen email, chastising me for not putting her client, whom I gave lots of ink, in the top graph. Wow. Talk about burning your bridges. Blatant hostility from PR people is more common than you might think. But I tended to experience it more often during my 15 years as The Globe and Mail’s dance critic. I was basically licensed to state my opinion in print, and sometimes that opinion wasn’t always complimentary about the production at hand.
Some publicists would hate me for stating my mind and punish me by making it difficult for me to access talent for future stories and deny me access to their events. I was once even refused review tickets to a show, and had to buy them on my credit card. Did the PR really think I wouldn’t review them, anyway? I’d love to name names. Unfortunately, there are quite a few. 
I guess my message is to develop a thick skin, and know that the world is made more interesting by having difference of opinion in it (or just differences, period).

My pet peeve
Besides having my name continually misspelled and mispronounced, (for the record I say my name DEAR-DREE, but I’ve had every variation, including Derrière, my all-time favourite). My biggest pet peeve is when publicists haven’t done their research and haven’t a clue as to what I do or have done at the paper. When I became a fashion reporter in 2000, after being an award-winning critic in the arts department for over a decade, I had a number of rather callow PR’s call and congratulate me on my recent hire. They would ask me where I was before, and when I said, “Here all along you dork,” (no, I didn’t, but I wanted to), there would be a strained silence on the other end. But beside having fun with them, those PRs taught me humility.
In this business, you really are as good as your last byline, and if people didn’t read the arts pages and were only fixated on dresses, then, really, who was I to call them on it? Journalists can be too often full of themselves, and I think it’s good to be reminded that you aren’t the queen bee when deadline rolls around. At the end of the day, it’s about teamwork and being respectful while getting the job done well.
What also bothers me is a PR who carpet-bombs the newspaper with the same request for a story/interview, and not let all of us know that more than one of us is poised to show up at the same event. That’s just bad form.

Any other thoughts you’d like to add?
Some of my best friends are publicists. Really. I say this in case I’ve come across as too holier-than-thou. But it’s true. I feel I owe much of my career to hard-working, self-sacrificing, smart, funny, endearing, one-of-a-kind (I’m thinking here of the incomparable Gino Empry, rest his soul) publicists who have helped me develop my stories done well, and deliver them on time. I love you all!
Here’s a story to share:
As a fledgling journo, a true wannabe penning weekly dance reviews for The Varsity, the student newspaper at the University of Toronto where I was an undergraduate, I arrived one evening to Toronto Dance Theatre to review a program showcasing the choreography of company founders, Patricia Beatty, David Earle and Peter Randazzo (ah, those were the days). At the entrance were three clippings of reviews of the previous week’s performances. 
One was from The Toronto Star, one from The Globe and Mail and the other was from The Varsity, with my byline on it. I stopped dead in my tracks. This was the first time I was receiving public validation for my efforts as an aspiring arts critic, which showed me I truly was on the right career path and that the community I was writing about cared about what I had to say. It was because of a publicist who was willing to give me my due despite my tender years. His name is Stephen Johnson, and he has my everlasting gratitude.

Media, Darling: Sarah Nicole Prickett

I’m 25, I was born in London, Ontario (ew), and I’m an unbalanced Libra. Also, I’m the style columnist for Eye Weekly, a regular contributor to FASHION Magazine and DazedDigital, and I’ve written for The Toronto Star, The National Post, Torontoist, Dossier Journal, Nico Magazine, and probably more.


Twitter: @xoxSNP

How can someone grab your attention with a pitch?
Say my name, first of all, and say it right. “Sara Nichole” is on vacation with limited access to email and will get back to you when she returns, in two-thousand-and-never. Little jokes go a long way; I’m a sucker for puns, especially in the subject line. Try asking how I’m doing. Above all, know what it is I write/blog/tweet about. It’s not difficult; I’m on the internet like red on M&Ms. I’m really rather “out there”. And yet! I get all these emails about vegan baby toys and ugly tech gadgetry and gross “VIP lounges” on King. Still, those are easy to ignore, so whatevs. 

It’s the pitches that are completely antithetical to my personal philosophies that make me want to throw things. Once, a beer company’s rep emailed me with a guide comparing the shapes of beer glasses to the shapes of womens’ bodies, then offered tips on how men should “help” women shop for bathing suits, with tips like “go for the most expensive one” and “don’t say anything, just grunt and whistle.” Would this be something I’d consider for Eye Weekly‘s (non-existent) swimsuit issue? My reply was the most sarcastic I’ve ever sent to a PR, and I’m not sorry.

What do you find most useful when dealing with public relations professionals?

Their obsessive communicative disorder. It never stops amazing me. Good PRs will always reply right away, even if they don’t have the answer. They’re always “working on it” and “getting images from the photographer this afternoon” and “thinking about which of our clients’ products would best fit your gift guide” and so on. They send reminder emails (without insinuating that I’ve forgotten, which… I usually have). They follow up. PRs are everything I’m not: organized, cheerful, on time, “with it.” I guess I could do my job without them, but I’d probably want to quit or throw myself under a streetcar.

What is the biggest mistake PR professionals make?

Not having a personality. I get that fashion publicists have to wear all black, all the time, but do they have to be so colourless? It kills me to see them, and so many of them, always smiling and never laughing. I know you know when the product or client you’re repping is ridiculous; just wink and admit it. I won’t tell on you. I won’t quote you. But I will like you. Just give me anything at all to like. My favourite PRs are the ones who say, listen, you won’t be into this thing/place/person; don’t waste your time. Then, when they say I’ll be totally into something, I’m a thousand times more likely to believe it.
 
Your pet peeve:
PITCHES, EMAILS OR SUBJECT LINES IN ALL-CAPS TO DEMONSTRATE URGENCY. ARE YOU KANYE WEST? NO? THEN STOP IT.