Do your research
Your teachers probably told you that there’s no such thing as a stupid question. However, in journalism, there is such a thing as a blatantly misinformed question. Don’t bother your source with questions you could easily find out from a quick Google search.
If your subject is a popular voice actor, don’t ask them questions like, “What are you most known for?” or “Can you name some of your recent projects?” It’s insulting to the guest, and it makes this press liaison cringe.
Don’t let your fandom blind you
I know what it’s like to be both a fan and a journalist. However, I know there’s a time to geek out as well as a time to be professional, and very rarely do those occasions intersect. I get that you’re a big fan, or you wouldn’t have asked to do an interview with one of Anime USA’s guests. However, “I love your work so much,” is not an appropriate interview question. Frankly, it’s not even a question.
Luckily, our special guests are troopers. They’re clearly used to dealing with sometimes socially awkward fans. But they shouldn’t have to deal with that sort of thing in a press conference.
Do keep your press liaison in the loop
When I corresponded with press groups before the convention, I asked them each a few questions about their plans. When do you plan to get here? What do you plan to cover? If there was a lack of reply in either of these areas, problems arose.
For instance, one press group asked me for four extra press badges (I only give a maximum of four to any group). Later, security found this group bringing people without badges into the convention center. They explained they were doing a project where they invited “con virgins” to Anime USA to gauge their reaction. I think that’s fascinating! If they had told me about this plan, I could have secured special permission. As it stood though, they were in violation of the convention and security stopped them immediately.
In another instance, one press group almost didn’t receive their badges. I asked each group to give me a general time they planned to arrive at the convention. When groups arrived at a radically different time than they’d told me (a group that emailed to say they were arriving Thursday evening showed up at noon on Sunday, for example), I wasn’t as easy to reach.
In both cases, these press groups experienced inconveniences that could’ve been avoided with a little communication.
Do NOT lie to me
You may have heard that press attendees get into the convention for free. Posing as a press member could save you some money in the short run. But if I find out, I will make sure the price you pay is steep. First, I’ll send security to remove you from the convention. If that doesn’t work, I’ll simply tell all my friends.
Here’s something you might not know: the press liaisons at Anime USA, MAGfest, Katsucon and Otakon are all pretty good friends. When somebody poses as a press member at one convention, word gets around. Pretty soon, you’re not only blacklisted from Anime USA, but every other local geek convention, too.
Hope you enjoyed that free press badge! It’s the last one you’ll ever get.
Do respect the convention policies
I don’t play favorites with press acceptance. When I was choosing whom to accept to Anime USA 2011’s press team, I checked for professionalism, quality work, a regularly updated publication, and respect for our organization. Unfortunately, I made a huge misjudgment about one press person when it came to that last attribute.
This press person did some interviews with some of our staff members, but unfortunately left behind her computer charger. She sent an email to me to ask if I, or one of my staff members, could deliver the charger to her on Sunday at her home in DC. I was appalled at her nerve for asking — it showed clear disrespect of our duties as convention staffers — but politely replied to let her know to pick up her lost item on Sunday at the convention.
This press person showed up at the hotel five hours after our convention was over. Our entire staff was at our annual post-con celebration party at a nearby restaurant. She called our convention’s hotel liaison, demanding he send somebody from the party to retrieve her charger from our locked equipment room. (Hotel staff wasn’t letting her in as per our agreement.) When the hotel liaison refused, she clamored for our convention chair to break the hotel policy for her and let her in. This request was once again refused. The liaison told her to wait until our ceremony was over.
Anime USA is still reeling from what happened next.
Somehow, this press person convinced the hotel’s security staff to let her into our locked equipment room. In the hour that followed, $4,000 of our equipment went missing. Thanks to this press person’s impatience and disrespect for our policies, our convention has been devastated.
I am certain Anime USA will recover from this setback. But we’ll do it without press attendees like her.
Don’t get me wrong; 99 percent of the press groups I invited this year were exemplary. But a few bad apples can spoil the whole bunch.
I’m not perfect either. In my next post, How to be a model press liaison, I’ll take a look at the ways I could’ve improved in my role, too.
All I can really think of right now is WTF? I don’t understand how people who you’re doing a favor for cause they screwed up, can be so inconsiderate and expect you to accommodate them. I hope nothing too irreplaceable was lost.
As someone who works as an editor for an entertainment journalism company, I can totally understand your frustration on all these points. I’ve seen my boss interview hundreds of celebrities and the only time she might pull a lame generic question out would be on a red carpet when she can’t recognize someone. Which is really rare. And the only time I’ve ever really seen her “Fan Girl” was when she got to interview “Kermit The Frog” for the new Muppets movie. Even then she only kind of broke out into tears of joy a bit while they were setting up and pulled herself together for the actual interview.
I’m actually really interested in what you have to say on being a press attendee. I hope to do more media related things at conventions in some capacity sometime soon. In all honestly, I don’t want to do it for the free badge at all, but mostly cause I’m finding myself getting bored when I just attend conventions.
@Patrick, I was so mad I couldn’t sleep. But now that the positive feedback and praise is coming in from everyone, I feel so much more justified and far from as angry as I was. Thanks for that.
I’ll definitely be writing another post about running press at Anime USA. It’s different at every convention, but I hope this will shed light on my technique, honed from years of attending other cons as a member of the press!
First, I think the article is great just for showing people who attended this, as well as anyone who attends any kind of geeky convention, how much work the volunteers put in to make the convention a success. All done really just for a deep love of the subject matter. Oh, and the fact that you and other volunteers have to put in so much work long before the convention even occurs on top of the non-stop days of the actual con.
Second, just wow! I can’t believe how both unprofessional as well as even inconsiderate some of the journalists could be. I’d have expected the opposite.
It’s too bad that one press group didn’t communicate ahead of time. A piece on “con virgins” would have been interesting. Especially as someone who is into anime and tabletop RPGs but has yet to attend one single con.
Good point on the mixing fandom and journalism. Not journalism, but in a speculative fiction class I took the prof. had us write a few reviews of books that had come out that year for a publication she volunteered on. My first one she handed back to me after class and told me gushing about the author was *not* a review. At first I was annoyed. Then I thought about it and realized she was correct. Re-wrote that one with a critical eye and all the other ones I wrote.
You know it never would have occurred to me to even attempt a press pass just to simply walk in for free. It’s just, well, sleazy.
Unbelievable that you lost all that gear! Does the hotel have any insurance policy that you can make a claim against? Or, is it standard “if it wasn’t in the room safe we aren’t responsible”.
Finally, I give you a *Lot* of respect for not naming names. Classy!
@Rich, I agree that it would be out of line to name names here. After all, I only need to share the names with the other convention press liaisons to make an impact. Plus, it’s not like I’m completely without fault — I accepted these people to the convention because I deemed them professional. Now I have to deal with the consequences of a bad call.
I think for many journalists, there’s a turning point where we realize we can’t do something like ask for an autograph during an interview with somebody we admire. (Luckily, nobody did that, it’s just an example. ) What bothers me is when people never grow out of it.
As I’ve said in another comment, I don’t hold Anime USA press to the same standards as traditional media. I want to keep it open to students, individual bloggers, and teensy but enthusiastic press outlets. Getting the opportunity to cover Anime USA as a student was the event that shaped my career as a fandom reporter.
What I’m currently thinking: continue to let people in with loose qualifications, but make the consequences harsh for unprofessional behavior. Let people in for coverage, see what they can do, and if they severely misuse their press privileges, just make note of it and don’t invite them back — to Anime USA or any local convention.
Ugh. As an at-best amateur journalist, this story gave me the heebie jeebies. I will admit that I’ve begun a good number of interviews with praise and recognition of an artist/actor’s work (“I’m a huge fan of your work” or “The contributions you have made to the field of X are amazing”) in an attempt to build rapport and recognize their genuine talent. Hopefully I haven’t been committing a gaffe with these preambles! I’ve never once fangushed on an interviewee, but I see nothing wrong with paying them an honest compliment provided that you’re tactful and not in a public forum (all of my interviews have been one on one).
As for the rest of what you reported… it gives the rest of us not-quite-journalists a bad name. With any luck, the super-talented Press Liaison from Anime USA was able to do some damage control :)
Also, Magfest has really become something huge! Are you going this year? I think SEMO is sending me cover The Earthbound Papas (and a good number of other acts).
@Matt, I will definitely be at Magfest! They really blew everyone out of the water with their lineup this year. We’ll have to meet up! It is (or at least WAS) smaller than Otakon, so it might be easier for us to find each other.
I’m very torn when it comes to Anime USA press. I don’t think members of the press at anime conventions should be held up to the same journalistic standards as, say, the Washington Post. On the other hand, I definitely need to be a bit stricter next year. It’s tough, because Anime USA let me come cover it as a student with no (anime-related) writing samples. I definitely want to keep AUSA as an opportunity for students and smaller outlets cutting their teeth.
I gotta agree with Matt here. This sent chills up my spine in each part.
If you want to be in this field covering Geek / anime related events, more power to you, welcome. If you’re going to be a jerk, the community will come down on you. Hard.
I hope the hotel is willing to compensate some of those losses, since they let the individual in in the first place. If not, I hope you all figure something out. Let me know if I can help. That’s ridiculous.
@Scooter, thanks for commenting. I don’t know what’s going to happen with the hotel and compensation, but right now they are assisting with the investigation. Mistakes happen, but you can imagine just how guilty I feel about this situation occurring — after all, I was the one who greenlit this unprofessional member of the press. We’ve always had a great relationship with the hotel though.
Holy crap! Do you think she stole all that, or other people got in because it was unlocked, or what? I’d think the hotel would be held responsible for that because they were told not to let anyone in, and they did it anyway.
@Rinny, I don’t want to speculate. I just stated the facts I know for sure. Currently, the hotel is assisting in the investigation, so I’ll let you know if there are any updates.
A few things:
Excellently written, being specific enough to highlight the negatives without calling anyone out specifically. Even having dealt with most of the Press folks while working in Main Events, I could begin to guess who you are talking about.
Regarding research, demonstrating you know what someone has done is a good thing. Being sincere in your praise is also a good thing, so Matt, I wouldn’t worry about it too much, you’ve problem been fine, but now you can think about it and mix it up a little. I know several artists having expressed excitement over being asked variations on standard/trope questions, like “What would you *like* to be know for?”
All in all, Lauren, the press that came down to Main did a great job of working with us and abiding by the policies especially as they changed for the concerts. Keep up the good work!
@Nathan, your input means a lot to me. Thank you for your comment.
I’m so glad to hear that the press in Main Events was nothing but professional. Given the quality of most of my press selection this year, I wouldn’t have expected any less!
You made my weekend alot easier in Guests. That’s saying something. I think it will help me in a year of possibly massive change for Guests next year having a steady press policy.
Totally unacceptable that the rudeness and nerve of some people to consider that rules can be broken for seemingly no reason at all. I actually was witness to the “con virgins” incident and I’m very glad that the con has a good and attentive public safety staff. Perhaps it is time to consider adopting a stricter entry for “Press” attendees ala something like NYCC did this past year or go as far for the sci-fi con and have them consider paying for general memberships instead (cf. Gallifrey One which only allows free passes to established news journalists from major broadcast and outlets–CBS, NPR, Slate.com). Independent bloggers and podcasters need not apply.)
First off, I am attempting to memorize all of this information. For future reference. I think I’ll have to bookmark this though.
Second off, I am amazed. And confused. I thought No was supposed to be No. Did she threaten them or paid the guards off or something? And she must have really needed her charger. No really, she must have REALLY needed it.
Well, I’m sorry that you had to deal with someone like that. Sorry Anime USA had to deal with that. I definitely know (and hope) we don’t hear from her again.