Say what you like about made-up stories in tabloids but when it comes to creative writing at the hands of a hack, nothing – and we mean nothing- beats the the skill deployed when a journo comes to writing up their ‘ecces’.
Senior hacks will tell you that ‘eccies/exes’ – expenses – are the lifeblood of their profession.
And by ‘lifeblood’ they mean ‘booze’.
No news editor worth their salt will look too closely at the weekly expenses that land on their desk. It is bad form. Financial directors and the accounts department loathe them as a hack’s expenses, often like their stories, bear no resemblance to any reality or category found in SAGE.
Hacks will tell you they need them to lubricate contacts (get pissed on Friday with other reporters), stake out jobs (stake out the bar on Friday) and incidental expenses to help nail the last fact on a yarn to copper-bottom it (Pringles and other snacks from the bar).
Most are clearly made up and Editors know this – but even they stop their natural suspicion get the better of them lest their own Lunch With Contact For Splash receipts tell their own story.
With very few exceptions print journalists are terribly paid. Aside from national newspapers, most limp on surviving on pitiful wages. And any news editor asking a doorknocker to stay on at a murder victim’s house to grab more interviews for the final edition knows this will only happen if their hotel bar bill will go through unsullied by questions.
And rightly so.
Because there IS merit in the saying: When the beer is in the man, the wit is in the can.
Just like a London cabbie with an overdeveloped hippocampus that allows him or her to remember every street in the capital, journos – even while six sheets to the wind – have a part of their brain that permanently hoovers and stores snippets, nuggets and downright splash-worthy leads, in their noggin. And when they are cornered in a bar and plied with drink, this super spidey-sense is at its very best. Combined with a contact (even a rival hack) with a few drinks sloshing about loosening their tongue and you have a genuine chance of a real story being obtained.
And you just don’t get that from a press release.
If it’s your first day in a newsroom and you feel you lack the creativity to put together a bullet-proof expenses claim, then the following Golden Rules will help.
Found some receipts in your pocket from 3.19am Sunday morning? You’re in luck.
Bongos Night Club: Drinking myself into oblivion after I got dumped
That’s a nope. Instead try..
Drink With Contact
Less is more.
Two For The Price Of One
Let’s face it, you’re going to be a lot more convincing if each receipt has two drinks instead of one. How else can you convince accounts you are with Deepthroat working on your next big scoop?
Buy your drinks in pairs. If you really want to gild the lily, make one a sparkling water to show your committment to lucidity while nailing the big story.
Get into the habit of pocketing every receipt you ever see unattended. No amount is too small and, in fact, your accounting department will appreciate your attention to detail. They ARE accountants,after all. Taxi receipts (or better still, a pad of taxi receipts from a cabbie), bar receipts, fast-food receipts, stationary shops (your voice recorder EATS batteries with all those interviews you’re doing).
As the crow flies
Crows may fly straight but you don’t. Google your mileage from the office to the job and triple it.
How can you convince your newsdesk you’ve knocked every door for miles around pursuing the story if you don’t have the mileage to prove it.
Too hot to handle
Crime and Security corrs will usually have a work mobile, a personal mobile and a couple of burn phones. Unlike you, they probably ARE getting monitored and if they are doing their job they WILL be speaking to either a) cops (which will get the cop fired) and b) criminals (making your call log the new MUST HAVE accessory) for your local detective
So pay-as-you-no-questions-asked phones are a must so they can keep their conversations off-grid.
This however is a goldmine. No reason why you shouldn’t have one, too This works if you HAVE landed a big story, so implement when you have a stripe or two in the newsroom.
Internet of things
Get the best phone package you can afford and claim for your allowance. Streaming press conferences for quotes on your phone eats data. So, too, does Netflix.
Taxman Is Your Friend
Believe it or not there are many claimable items that the taxman will let your Company claim on your behalf. Subsistence, meals, overnight expenses, clothing, the list goes on. It is no skin off a company’s noise to honour these claims as the Revenue will write it down. Learn what you can claim – and claim it.
Say It With Flowers
Considered as a bit gamey even by tabloid standards but sending flowers to victims and so forth is still done by some news organisations. If you have a close bond with a victim who’ve you’ve written about and the anniversary of the death/birth of quads/dog winning Crufts is close to your partner’s birthday or anniversary……yep, you know what you have to do.
Nothing adds authenticity more than a tea or coffee stain. Don’t be shy. Scrumple, tear, make it look realistic. anything to discourage close inspection.
Don’t Get Caught
Rule number one: Don’t Get Caught NOT Doing Them. If accounts get wind of you living off salary alone, there’ll be hell to pay.
And your own drinks.
Categories: Journalese, A User's Guide