September 5th, 2007
Yesterday I blogged about how journalists frequently want psychologists to comment on celebrities (and why this isn’t okay).
Since I’m on a roll I thought I’d also share with you a cracking recent example of how futile it can be convincing the media about good practice for psychologists.
A journalist got in touch about a feature that was about a topical relationships issue. I agreed to give them a quote to go with it and during the course of our conversation it became apparent the story was pegged on a celebrity example. I explained I could only talk about the relationships issue, not the celebrity angle, and that appeared to be fine.
However, a couple of days later things started to go a bit pear shaped. The features editor rang me and said they’d read what the journalist had written and wanted more information. That’s not unusual so I asked what they needed. ‘Well’ they responded ‘we were hoping for a more personal touch’.
It turned out the ‘personal touch’ meant a quote about celebrities. ‘Didn’t the journalist who talked to you ask for this?’ the features editor barked, seemingly outraged that one of their freelancers clearly hadn’t done as they’d been told. ‘Yes’ I explained ‘they did their job and they did ask me, but I told them what I’ll tell you, I can’t talk about celebrities’.
And yet again I went through why I couldn’t talk about celebs, and as usual they responded this was news to them and that nobody else had ever refused to talk about celebrities before. I agreed that often journalists didn’t seem to be aware of our ethical codes of practice, and told them to contact the British Psychological Society if they were in any doubt.
‘So why won’t you talk about celebrities?’ they asked (again)
‘Because I try to work in an ethical way’ I replied
‘Oh that’s a shame’ they responded ‘but we really need a proper quote to finish off our story. Can you tell me where to find an unethical psychologist?’