Mass Market Editors Fail To Recognise Sailing’s Great Stories. 7


You would think that two of the UK’s best known sailors attempting to break a record would make for a great story – wouldn’t you? Coming off the back of successful round the world campaigns in the Vendee Globe – Dee Caffari and Sam Davies teaming up to sail around the UK faster than anyone else has an angle for almost any editor. Whether it’s breaking stereotypes, or the day to day practicalities of being aboard a modern offshore race boat, or human achievement – it’s the kind of thing that most people would be happy to sit down on a Sunday and read about in a magazine.

Seems not. According to an article written by Jo Payton for Sailing Anarchy – Editors across the board couldn’t care less about such a feat. The full article reveals how Jo’s perceptions about sailing were turned around by Dee, Sam and the rest of the team that eventually broke the Round Britain Record, but sailing event promoters, rights holders and sailing PR people take note… the sport is failing to be interesting and relevant outside sailing-centric media.

Here is an excerpt from the story:

My editors unfortunately, did not concur. With six kit bags stacked in orderly piles in Dee’s office and weather forecasts being obsessively analysed, I had pestered and exhausted every contact in my little black book. Like Isabelle, who had to be available for the Quiberon Solo on June 14th, my place on the boat was already in jeopardy due to the uncertainty of the departure date. My cut off point was June 9th, at which point pesky issues such as paid work and childcare had to take precedent.

I also knew I couldn’t sail without a commission for my adventure. I had expected editors to bite my hand off. Surely any women’s magazine worth its salt would want to feature a bunch of sassy, seafaring record breakers? Sadly, I met with unbendable opposition. Either they’d featured Sam Davies previously (even two years ago constitutes sailing ‘overkill’ to consumer magazine editors), simply didn’t ‘do’ sailing, or deemed the feat too wimpy for print. One editor told me she only covered feats of endurance if, say, they involved taking seven years out to walk from the Horn of Africa to the furthest tip of South America!

It was with great regret that I waved the girls off on June 15th, but I felt that my life had been changed. In spite of missing the main event I’d been bitten by the sailing bug. I was determined to challenge the preconceptions and prejudices of the consumer media by badgering them until they’d let me write about this fun, addictive and exciting sport.

We are not really surprised that Jo found it hard to position the story. The experience says a lot about the ‘failing’ mass media and the perceptions of sailing. Luckily, as we constantly highlight, digital media and social networks are making ‘consumer magazines’ increasingly irrelevant as consumers build their own media channels from the stories that they want to read. This however changes the business model. For someone like Jo to cover the story – someone has to pay.

Sailing is not doing a good enough job of changing people’s perception about it, but this story does make you wonder about those making the decisions about what stories we read in various outlets. It’s a real shame that a reality tv star’s make up tips or diet secrets are more worthy of publication than a Round Britain Record.

Here is a challenge to any editor of substance to show that they can recognise a good story.

Jo tried every national, all the Sundays, every glossy…all to no avail, but she hasn’t given up on them or sailing:

I’m still trying, plugging away, hoping to find a chink in an editor’s armour so I can spread the word. In this small way, my own ‘girl power’ may make a difference. I’ve learnt that women’s sailing is about so much more than Dame Ellen’s Vendee Globe achievements almost a decade ago. Women’s sailing is alive and kicking, and if a landlubber like me can be converted, anything is possible.

  • This is a disgrace. I think I am going to stop buying the Sunday Times and other papers in the UK. I can't help bu think that if it was men, this story would get a better reception, which just makes it worse. Personally, I would pay a couple of pounds per article for something like this, but unfortunately this doesn't get the story out to a wider audience who would really benefit from knowing that there are female role models out there like Dee and Sam who are women of substance and not just caught up in the celebrity bullshit..

    Shame on the Editors of the UK. Let the papers die – they are dinosaurs that deserve to suffer the same fate as the monsterous lizards of old.

  • More journalists should let it be known just what the self-appointed news filters called editors are not letting through, but face it – the British public doesn't demand (or deserve?) good media. The fascination with reality tv stars and celebrity chefs and glamour models is a vicious circle.

    I for one think that Dee Caffari and Sam Davies are stars! I'm also really happy that Jo has been turned from a sceptic to an evangelist.

    I'd also join a boycott of papers. I can't actually remember the last time I read something in a Sunday glossy pullout that I cared less about – well maybe A.A. Gill's restaurant reviews in Style. We want names though – who are these faceless 'editors' who think they know what we would like to read?

  • Simon

    Or… she's just a bad writer. I mean, just googling shows me that this story was picked up by almost EVERY major media outlet in the UK. This woman couldn't get an advance because she has no experience… google her name and you'll see.

    Being bitter isn't going to impress an Editor, and if her only hook was that these are women, well no wonder she couldn't sell the story. Who in the Vendee Globe got more coverage than Davies and Caffari? Sour grapes, and a real disservice to professional sailing.

    Just a small sample of proof that the media liked the story, just not this writer:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/othersports/sa

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/hamp

    http://www.thisishampshire.net/news/4439334.All

    http://yachtpals.com/round-britain-record-4161

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/jun/22/women-

    http://www.independent.co.uk/sport/general/sail

    http://www.cnn.com/2009/SPORT/06/15/how.sailors

    http://www.dailyecho.co.uk/news/4439334.All_gir

  • This is a pretty unfair comment. Irrespective of the writer, there is a larger issue here. It goes to the fundamental business models that various media are faced with in 2009. Almost all these links are 'lazy' journalism. A phone call to a publicist or a straight reprint of a press-release.

    The feature is a dying art. Not only is it expensive to produce, consumers it seems have a shorter attention span than they used to. In a world where people try to reduce the most complicated news stories to 140 characters, what hope is there for articles of 2000 or 5000 words?

    There are still some exceptions. Magazines like the Economist's Intelligent Life, The Atlantic Monthly and occasionally the broadsheet Sunday magazines still publish stories that go underneath the press-release.

    It's great that the story was covered at all, but having read Jo's insights on her Twitter account in the weeks leading up to the record attempt, one has to imagine that a story developed from being on-board the boat during the attempt would have been a better story.

  • I so understand the frustrations here having just failed in a concerted effort to secure a decent national newspaper feature focusing on Exercise TRANSGLOBE which set off yesterday and enjoyed the attention of BBC Radio Solent and the Portsmouth News. THAT WAS IT. I made sure the event had everything to help attract more mainstream media attention (or so I thought). Celebrity, high ranking personnel, a chaplain, fabulous crew members (all with back stories about flying Tornados or Hercules into war torn countries, servicemen and women who risk their lives daily for us.

    We supplied broadcast quality footage; we did everything we could. We held a successful press day back in May (and which David attended) to alert the media to this wonderful story. We were told that it was SO packed with human interest that we'd get features in one particular national broadsheet AND probably off the sports feature pages AND even perhaps in the magazine. Nowt has come out. It's a great shame.

  • This is a pretty unfair comment. Irrespective of the writer, there is a larger issue here. It goes to the fundamental business models that various media are faced with in 2009. Almost all these links are 'lazy' journalism. A phone call to a publicist or a straight reprint of a press-release.

    The feature is a dying art. Not only is it expensive to produce, consumers it seems have a shorter attention span than they used to. In a world where people try to reduce the most complicated news stories to 140 characters, what hope is there for articles of 2000 or 5000 words?

    There are still some exceptions. Magazines like the Economist's Intelligent Life, The Atlantic Monthly and occasionally the broadsheet Sunday magazines still publish stories that go underneath the press-release.

    It's great that the story was covered at all, but having read Jo's insights on her Twitter account in the weeks leading up to the record attempt, one has to imagine that a story developed from being on-board the boat during the attempt would have been a better story.

  • I so understand the frustrations here having just failed in a concerted effort to secure a decent national newspaper feature focusing on Exercise TRANSGLOBE which set off yesterday and enjoyed the attention of BBC Radio Solent and the Portsmouth News. THAT WAS IT. I made sure the event had everything to help attract more mainstream media attention (or so I thought). Celebrity, high ranking personnel, a chaplain, fabulous crew members (all with back stories about flying Tornados or Hercules into war torn countries, servicemen and women who risk their lives daily for us.

    We supplied broadcast quality footage; we did everything we could. We held a successful press day back in May (and which David attended) to alert the media to this wonderful story. We were told that it was SO packed with human interest that we'd get features in one particular national broadsheet AND probably off the sports feature pages AND even perhaps in the magazine. Nowt has come out. It's a great shame.