Friday, February 15, 2008

A little rant.

I usually try to stay focused on the positive aspects of gardening, but this morning I feel like a little rant on this blurb that showed up in my Home & Garden feed. The Bee is calling for 100-word reader submissions on the topic of nosy neighbors. As stated, all submissions become property of The Sacramento Bee.

I've been seeing a lot more of this lately; Newspapers and magazines which have slashed or outright decimated their gardening content to the point where you can barely line a birdcage with the stuff, are now asking us to write their articles for them... for no pay... and they get to keep all rights to our submissions.

I don't think so. We need to nip this nasty journalistic habit in the bud.

Call to Readers: Curious neighbors?

Got a nosy neighbor, a world-class buttinsky? Seen them peering through fence slats, focusing the binoculars, hiding behind the drapes? If so, we want to hear about your neighborhood busybody for an upcoming Home & Garden story. Are they good, bad or just annoying? Please e-mail your story of 100 words or less to All submissions become property of The Sacramento Bee.
Here's another...

A little help from readers, please

Do you take your love of gardening to work with you? Is your workspace overflowing with greenery? I'd love to know - and see - how you decorate your cubicle or desk with plants for a coming story. Send me an email telling me about the plants on your desk or in your cubicle. Send along a photo if you can. Send comments and pics to h& and put "cubicle plants" in the subject line.

I'm also interested in hearing from readers who grow houseplants that bloom, especially during winter. Tell me about your plants and send a pic to h&, and put "indoor plants" in the subject line.

Be sure to include your full name and the city and state where you live. And thanks for the help.

No, thank YOU! And can I make you a pot of coffee and bring you your slippers after I write that article for you?


  1. It gets better. I was just asked to "donate" an entire blog post to a for-profit magazine.

  2. Angela, you're SO much my hero for writing this! This alarming trend HAS been increasing and it's just sloppy, shoddy, greedy tactics on the part of publications. They seem to forget--quality is like oats, and you get what you pay for. If they want oats that have already been through the horse, they come much cheaper than fresh-from-the-field oats.
    This is a brilliant post on your part. One of the favourite tactics of newspapers, websites and others gunning to get free material out of people is to say to beginning writers, "you'll get great exposure"; to which I tell my students, "remember, people have been known to die of exposure..."
    I do call for reader input at times, usually about twice a year, in my column in the provincial newspaper--but usually people just write to my home email to talk gardening, and I have enough of a network of resources that I can contact people with specific experiences when I need an outside voice to better my article.
    My other beef is when local newspapers use wire feeds (no offense, but it makes me psycho when our provincial paper uses American wireservice info, which is often totally irrelevant for an Atlantic Canadian gardener.Again, it's sloppy, lazy editorial policy, but it's hard to fight, although people write complaining to our provincial newspaper regularly.
    Two trowels up for this!

  3. I hear you. This kind of thing is one more reason why I'm finding blogging so much more rewarding than trying to sell my writing to publications. They are just putting up too many hoops to jump through and trying to exert too much ownership over the written material that's submitted to them. On my blog I can write what I want when I want and now I'm actually making a little bit of money from advertising (which I'm hoping my readers find interesting rather than offensive). That's a lot easier than trying to please some editor who's got limited space to fill and little money to pay for filling it.

  4. I have watched the Bee turn the Home and Garden Section into the Home and "sometime garden section". I am afraid that its going to get worse before it gets better as newspapers in general are fighting for their lives.

  5. I agree, Trey. The "papers" that survive are probably going to be the ones that quickly adapt to, and keep up with, the changes.

    For Home & Garden sections, I have a hunch the survivors will be the ones that most quickly improve their online content, supply feeds to portable readers like Amazon Kindle, add real blogs, online video content, reader interaction, online purchasing, printable nursery coupons, etc.

    Some might argue that gardening is on the wane. Well, in some aspects that might be true, but I think it's safe to say people of all ages have never been more interested in organic gardening, sustainable landscaping, container gardening, and growing their own food. That's just a jumping off point for other aspects of gardening, both ornamental and practical.

  6. And I forgot to add... I still don't think newspaper readers should submit their writing to a paper, forfeit all rights to said writing, and not get paid.

    All that does is devalue the writer's contribution, and somebody's still getting paid for collecting your writing. Several people are, in fact. Don't do it for the glory, folks. If what you write is good enough to get published, then you deserve adequate compensation. Newspapers are not non-profit organizations. They're in business to make money.

    Let's not get sucked into thinking, "Aw, poor shrinking Home & Garden section... I'd better tell them about my nosy neighbor." They'll probably want your photos as well! Unless the exposure will help promote your book or business, why do it?

    If you are feeling charitable, help the SPCA or something. ;-)

    Incidentally, I've noticed that several H&G sections are being renamed Living and are incorporating a broader mix of content into the mix. I like it. Gardens, people, food, art, birding, the environment, opinions, entertaining, travel, shopping, etc... It is all about living!

  7. Personally I don't think the Bee is worth the paper it's written on. This continues to confirm my theory.

  8. One more time...Blogger has it in for me. If you got my comment already, my apologies for reposting, but I got an error message and couldn't get back. I've been trying to tell you--Excellent post, well written and well needed!

  9. Very enjoyable blog. Thank you.

    Copyright laws protect writers, if they take time to study them, so there should be no problem about genuine newspaper work.

    Hello from Dublin, Ireland.

  10. Angela,

    Excelent post! The latest manifestation of the H & G section is very dissapointing. Like has been mentioned, it barely qualifies to even use the term "garden."


  11. When the Bee merged the Home/Garden section with the Scene, DH said to me, "Why did they do that?" I said, "To cover up the fact that they shrank them both."

    And newspapers are still plenty profitable, although not as profitable as they used to be. Most industries, however, would be perfectly happy with the 15-17% return most papers are getting.

  12. Katie, the Bee's Home & Garden section, AKA "Cal Life", used to offer more to look forward to... like Dan Vierria and Steve Zien's organic gardening column. If they had kept those writers and continuted expanding instead of contracting, then I think there wouldn't be so much local grumbling.

    Jodi,Thanks, and Blogger comments have been a little possessed lately. It's not just you. I'm sure it'll pass. Empty your cache... reboot... bla bla bla. ;-)

    Hello, Dublin, Ireland! I worship your beautiful land. Spent two glorious weeks in the West of Ireland long ago and would love to go back someday. I've never been to Dublin! I know it's based on a fictional town, but I love, love, love Ballykissangel. I also recently watched the Dublin-filmed movie, Once, with my son. He loved it so much that he didn't want to send back the Netflix DVD. He also bought the soundtrack.

    Mad Man, Isn't it bizarre that our garden-riffic region doesn't devote more newspaper space to gardening?

    PeonInChief, Ok, now I don't feel so bad about ranting a little. Bee editors should remember, though, that without their writers and photographers, the paper doesn't go out. And syndicated garbage doesn't count. Uh oh, I'm ranting again.

  13. Anonymous12:23 PM

    As a former writer for the home and garden section of the Oakland Tribune, I'm sympathetic to the Bee's calls to readers. Well, one of them. The latter one.

    Asking your readers to volunteer to be featured in the newspaper is okay in my book. In fact, calls to readers are one of the best ways to get your most loyal readers into the paper.

    People wonder all the time how journalists find the "real people" to be in their stories -- why not ask your own readers to volunteer themselves?

    Asking them to write for you, on the other hand -- that can get sketchy. I don't write for free, and I wouldn't ask readers to do it either.

    (Plus, readers aren't necessarily great writers.)

    Love the blog! And thanks for the link to Sunset's One-Block Diet!

  14. Anonymous10:54 AM

    If you think what the Bee is doing us awful, you should see what Gold Country Media has done with all of their newspapers. (Auburn Journal, Loomis News, Roseville Press Tribune, etc.) They discarded a perfectly wonderful website format for something they are calling Placeropolis. The coverage does not appear to be nearly as good. In that, they have something called Myopolis, where the public is supposed to post items and photos. To post, you must also forfeit all rights, etc. I guess this a new trend for newspapers. What a shame!

    -- Annie

  15. Couldn't agree more. Excellent rant.

  16. Amen! I worked long and hard for my professional credentials, and unless I get compensated in some fashion, I don't give away my work. Feh.