Thought my multifarious (and possibly nefarious) blogging and outreach activities I have built up a pretty good archive of dinosaur and associated taxon based stuff on the web. This is accompanied by what appears to be a fair following of readers who clearly like this stuff (and, dare I say it a bit of credibility as a researcher and communicator). I work hard at this stuff because I enjoy it and I think it is important, and I am a strong supporter of good scientific outreach.
It is then kinda troubling that twice in the last couple of years I have been approached by media people and effectively asked to promote their upcoming wares sight unseen. In both cases this pretty much consisted of them saying something like “We think the people who like your blog will like our stuff so please blog about it for us”. That, plus a bit about the show in question was pretty much it. (I should say that actually one was rather better than this in tone at least).
Now I can see why they are doing this – they want to reach their target audience and I am already reaching it. And it’s far easier for them to identify a few people like me and get me to do their work for free than it is for them to spend time and effort (and money) trying to advertise their wares. But while it is sort of flattering to get this kind of attention, it also shows a profound lack of respect on their part. They are basically asking me to all but shill myself to my readership about their product (without me knowing what it is) based on my years of graft and effort to get said readership in exchange for errr, well, nothing. What a deal! I really can’t wait to tell my readers about something that may not be any good on behalf of a media company (and in one case an advertising firm hired by the media company!) for no reason other than they asked.
Errr, no. Not playing. I think most science communication is good and I promote what I know and like where I can. But I am not doing this to save you the trouble of doing it yourself, and certainly not when you can afford it, and certainly not when I don’t know what it is, and absolutely not when it could be terrible or I fundamentally disagree with the premise or approach. And not for free either.
(And to qualify that, I’m not looking for money, but there is quid pro quo and if I’m in a position to get something which will help my projects and am under no obligation to say nice things about said venture, and when I am fully aware of the facts / content, then I’d at least consider it – I’m otherwise being asked to give up potentially quite a lot for absolutely nothing at all. If you want an exchange or partnership then by all means ask, but doing so when the entire thing is done and set to run gives me no input, not time to make a real decision, or know if the people I’m speaking to can be trusted etc.).
So yeah, I didn’t do either, and I was also rather insulted to even be asked in the manner in which I was. For some strange reason I sort of get the feeling that the media don’t quite get how to handle science and / or scientists. Now who would have thought that?