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Samantha Brick and a Tale of Shoddy Journalism

Samantha Brick

Samantha Brick, TV producer and journalist, writes a feature for the Daily Mail entitled ‘Why Do Women Hate Me For Being Beautiful? A headline ideally suited to the Daily Mail agenda. It’s easy journalism too – write about yourself and there’s no need to do any research for the story.

Some deemed it a journalistic success on the basis of the media coverage it delivered but the after effect obviously hit Samantha very hard on a personal level. Am I writing in her defence? Not really – you write such a headline to get a reaction and therefore you must be prepared to deal with the aftermath. And as I say it was a lazy piece of journalism.

Had Samantha bothered to research the subject in any depth she’d have found any number of interesting psychological studies to prove her point and provide a strong journalistic defence for her argument. But she didn’t.

Sam is not the only one to disappoint in this sorry saga.

 

The media also disappoints with their superficial coverage. Where was the attempt to find the real story behind this furore?  Presumably it was far easier to go with the social media flow – editors and reporters must rub their hands in satisfaction. Ah, the joy of the age of user-generated content. Let the public do the job for you. Round up the comments and print. Twitter, Facebook and the rest of the social media do the work for you.

No, it doesn’t.

Public opinion is only one aspect of the story and repeating it without consideration and balance is shoddy, sloppy, biased journalism. What happened to digging deeper? To research? To working on a story? Too much like hard work, eh?

Let me refer you to a previous post where we quoted from a recent Skillset survey on the skills required by employers of journalists:

One of the interesting parts of the survey included quotes from employers about what’s missing in many TV workers and journalists, including the tendency to take the easy option when getting a story – relying on PR handouts, for example. They want and need people who can ferret out new stories and then tell the story well.  One executive said:

“Reporters expect things to land in their laps and they don’t have to work for it. It’s a job and not a vocation [to them] and there’s lots of attitude when anyone is expected to go the extra mile. Initiative in getting stories is long gone and seems never to return.”

God knows I love ITV’s ‘This Morning’ and my admiration for the presenters knows no bounds but in my view they were let down. ‘This Morning’ gets Samantha Brick booked onto their sofa – what a great coup – and the nation is gagging to hear what the lady herself has to say. She gets to say her piece, no doubt the item got the ratings and everyone went away happy. But why did the editorial team, the producers not think to offer up an intelligent balanced feature with a woman who has single-handedly created a worldwide media storm? They missed a great opportunity to dig deeper into a fascinating subject – the role of personal attractiveness in social success (and why that leads to jealousy).

What happened to producing a feature? Are we lapsing into tick-box television journalism? Got the big guest booked – tick. Got an expert or commentator to offer an alternative point of view and create the conflict – tick. Gathered the Twitter, emails and other social comments – tick. And the research?

OK maybe that’s the way it works for tabloid content. Perhaps we should expect no more. No doubt the weekend broadsheets and supplements will follow up with more considered pieces.

And no doubt there are plenty of producers lining up to pitch a documentary on personal attractiveness and its role in the world’s perception of people. If not, I’m putting my hand up.

 

And the biggest disappointment?

Us. The public.

Like playground bullies we pounce on someone who makes the mistake of using herself to stir up controversy – and dares to suggest she is attractive (I’m not getting into that argument here but is it not better we think positively about ourselves than negatively? We spend forever trying to boost our children’s self esteem and get them to think of themselves as attractive and valuable and then shoot down the first person to say just that in public. And are a lot of women jealous of someone more attractive than them – of course they are!).

Once the ball was rolling it seems everyone decided it was OK to aim a kick. Did anyone suggest there may be an interesting topic here if everyone could just take a break from throwing bricks at Samantha long enough to consider it?

If Sam had been in a real playground she’d probably be smashed to a bloodied pulp by now. And would you have felt proud of your contribution?

Social media is fantastic. The age of the Internet is … well, beyond description in its incredible potential. Communication has never been so easy. Barriers and borders are irrelevant. Do we really want to use it to bully, threaten and beat up people who put a foot wrong or simply speak their mind? I do hope not.

Sam has hopefully leant a lesson about building her case with real research before throwing herself among the pigeons.

The tabloid media has probably learnt nothing other than the ease with which a social media storm delivers a superficial story for mass consumption.

And us? I hope we learn that throwing stones at someone just because everyone else is could lead to one very ugly situation.

Good luck Samantha. Do your homework next time and it you want a producer to make that documentary – the one that does real research into personal attractiveness and proves that being attractive will bring you untold advantages (and quite a few disadvantages!) – then just give me a call!

 

What do you think? Am I talking rubbish? Am I being unfair? Do you agree? Let me know. Leave a comment. Don’t leave me hanging here all on my own!

And if you found this in any way interesting please do share it via the buttons below.

 

Happy Easter everyone – make it a positive, friendly holiday. Throw no stones!

20 comments

  • TYPE95 says:

    Your point about being positive about ourselves is perfectly valid, however, Samantha has crossed that line and has proven herself to be an extremely arrogant and self absorbed woman.
    I wouldn’t look twice at her, she’s frumpy and has a horrendously fake smile. But then again, I’m just a lad who’s barely into his 20’s.
    I think the point here is the public like nice people, attractive or unattractive, and the public dislike arrogant people, attractive or unattractive. Samantha falls into the worst part of that sum.

    • Shu says:

      Thank you for commenting and yes I do get that many people are ostensibly berating her for arrogance rather than her self belief, but why is it arrogant to say you get attention from men and jealously from some women for being attractive?
      Ok saying she was beautiful was asking for trouble. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and she is not quite Elle McPherson (but then again who is – apart from Elle McPherson?!).

  • Cate Conway says:

    I think Samantha has definitely hit on something in terms of how she is treated differently by different genders. I had a similar experience as an international student in the USA in the 90s. It took a couple of months before female students would befriend me but men were much more willing to do so. I don’t think it was anything to do with attractiveness but I was the only Irish student at the college ever apparently and a bit of a novelty.
    However Samantha has missed the opportunity to explore why. If I were her I’d have said ‘My experience is that men treat me differently than women. Here are some examples and some possible reasons why. What do you think?’
    I agree that This Morning have really missed a trick too. I’d have been dying to explore with her the issue of how people think its ok to call others all kinds of names and hurl abuse at people through social media. It’s not OK. I feel saddened by how our society uses shows like X Factor to hold up individuals to be ridiculed and encourages us to berate each other. It feed the current attitude that you need to be perfect or you deserve abuse. It stifles others from expressing themselves. We’re all just human beings doing our best and being separated by a screen shouldn’t make a difference.

    • Shu says:

      Good point Cate. I agree there are a number of really interesting valid angles to take on this story and to mangle the good book – let the person who is perfect throw the first stone!

  • Hello Shu,
    Well written and well observed and yes it is very British to pull people down who have high esteem and like themselves. I think good on her. I envy her confidence. She achieved what she set out to with minimal effort so more fool those who got worked up. Roll on the well researched doc and text me if you need a researcher or AP. M x

  • Sam-like Cate- was a novelty, as Sam talked about things that happened to her as an English woman abroad in France and that the men concerned were French. Also many of the things happened when she was a lot younger which may be when she was more attractive.
    The whole thing could be seen as a stroke of genius though as I -at first- thought it was a Gervais esque bit of Comedy writing -incidently would make for a great sitcom (remember) where you heard it first 😀 With a crazy self deluded female boss who is laughed at by her team.

    Anyway I still think good on her and though it would have been good to have some research I think we all know women can often be more critical of other women. Will we change our ways if it is proved to be true? I doubt it.

  • RAE RAE says:

    Fabulous article Shu. Thoroughly enjoyed reading it and 100% totally agree with you not enough time is dedicated to research.

    My recent experience is in factual features programmes where there’s an unofficial adage which is ‘the programme is made in the edit’. My take is that in pre-production the emphasis of course is to cast the best characters to tell a story, find and secure dramatic locations, but little time is allocated in the schedule to thoroughly research the content and shit loads of footage is shot because cards and disks are reusable and cheap, in the hope that quantity = quality. So the shows increasingly rely on being worked out and researched in the edit, once the research teams contracts have ended. It’s why there are so many programmes with whacking great graphics of stats with knocked back generic images of fat people/ thin people/ young people/ old people/ shopping people/ eating people *insert as appropriate, because the facts weren’t available to the PD at the time.

    Who or what do I blame? Call me a Luddite, but I blame the internet. It’s a fabulous, wondrous creation of bountiful information and I am impressed at the speed research teams can lay their hands on info. But it’s too often used instead of a good old phone chin wag with an expert, who can not only point you in the direction of a reliable source of info, but widen the story.

    On Sam-Bri – the poor woman has been utterly trashed, harangued and blasted but by titling her article ‘Why Do Women Hate Me For Being Beautiful?’ was a bit of an invite for people to do just that and that they did. I found it fascinating that she still chose defend her personal position rather than open it out to a wider issue. Kind of proved the point that it was a piece of whinge bag journalism rather than issue lead and much as I love team TM and imagine that it was an 11th hour booking so an almighty K.B scramble to get the show together, they missed a trick by not throwing sociological evidence back at her, like Exeter Uni’s study on babies’ responses to attractive people. It makes them smile. We are programmed to like attractive people.

    http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn6355-babies-prefer-to-gaze-upon-beautiful-faces.html

    Or negative responses to unattractiveness, in particular obesity. This link highlights fat people less likely to get a job.

    http://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=employers%20attitudes%20to%20fat&source=web&cd=1&sqi=2&ved=0CCsQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.genderbias.net%2Fdocs%2Fresources%2Fguideline%2FBody%2520image%2520and%2520explicit%2520and%2520implicit%2520anti-fat%2520attitudesThe%2520mediating%2520role%2520of%2520physical%2520appearance%2520comparisons.pdf&ei=RgZ_T-2JGYKg8gPqh5SABg&usg=AFQjCNEniP-jkUuB0l7myycPjjgs6wfmVw&cad=rja

    So Shu, if you do get the gig to make a doco, count me, my lap top and my phone in.

    x

    • Shu says:

      Now that’s the kind of response I expect from an excellent member of a production team! Thanks Rae. And yes you are definitely hired! Just need Samantha Brick now and we’re ready to go make some proper telly with real content…!

      • RAE RAE says:

        Thanks bozz.
        On your t’internet point re cyber bullying of Sam-Bri. Think this is fascinating too. My step daughter (she calls me step silly btw) has been telling me that loads of her friends use FB to reignite arguments. I guess it’s a kind of way of outpouring ‘if only I’d said that’ in hindsight. It gets quite vitriolic – things are written that would never be spoken face to face and it then plays out in the play ground. I think this is the case with Sam-Bri. Social media has dehumanised her.

        • Shu says:

          Ah yes – being far more vitriolic than you would if face to face with someone is a real issue. Kids sure have a lot more to deal with in that regard.

  • Mark says:

    If you do want to make that programme, I know the perfect production company to do it through. It’s called Sam Brick Entertainment.

    Oh, hold on…

  • Trish B says:

    Excellent piece Shu. My thoughts exactly. The mail behaved like the worst kind of CyberTroll and threw Samantha Brick to the media and baying internet crowds.
    This Morning was indeed disappointing. Instead of probing on a psychological level what was actually going on it just feebly joined in with the chorus of ‘what makes you think you are so attractive’.
    I wonder if it is a typically British trait that was raising its head here. We don’t like ‘show offs’, we don’t like people who appear to have too much self confidence. We knock down anyone who appears to get ‘too big for their boots’. Samantha committed all thse ‘crimes’and the backlash ensued.

    • Shu says:

      Thank you Trish – had me cross and our chat made me write it! Trying to espouse proper journalism on this site and the ‘experts’ let us down!

  • terry walsh says:

    i find myself ‘not defending the beautiful sam brick, and as a male she is the perfect ten for me..its all about the scale of shallow minds copying each other and there are many.i cant get the fact that so many males who probably would stand not a chance of settling down with a woman of sam bricks looks..and i would say a good percent of the younger males havent been on a night bus! its one thing disagreeing with her views but what of the ‘ugly this’ ‘monster that’ and from males! these people are the ones i guess would plan their saturday nights arround “britains got no talent” and wear their ‘grey slacks’ up to arm pit level like the enormous headed father of this bastard offspring ‘simple simon’ they wear pink for the 5 minutes its ‘in’ say hey instead of ‘hya’ and ‘oh my god’ when they are atheists, these are the bald headed macho males who took the p out of punk hairstyles and the ‘lights out’ followers of fashoins who would not dare ‘choosing’ their own..they wear ‘ramones’ tshirts? sometimes ‘explaining it is tv show’ you gotta see! i dont analyse people,they throw out the stats and they are allways in the majority..samantha brick, how dare you tell me what i allready know’!

  • I must say I agree with Trish, I loved the article! 🙂 Thanks for posting!

  • Gema Ensenat says:

    Hi Shu,

    I really enjoyed reading your thoughts on the whole Samantha Brick ‘stunt’… and, indeed, everyone else’s comments that have followed…
    From a journalistic point of view, would it not also prove very interesting to hear what the other ‘leading characters’ in her stories had to say about it all..?

    To clarify-
    *the husband who defends her, and constantly tells her she is beautiful (are we to read from that she has moments of self doubt, where he has to bolster her confidence?)…
    *the women at the garden party who told her not to take centre-stage in the group photo (is she finding it hard to be accepted into a new clique?)
    *the female boss who bit Samantha’s head off for flirting with her husband (a bit more background information on the fragility of the aforementioned couple’s relationship would prove interesting… And was Samantha trying to score points, but failing miserably in her attempts?)

    I think what I’m trying to say is that hearing one woman’s account of her life, and the people in it, is so utterly subjective; I can’t help but wonder why anyone would call it ‘journalism’ in the first place. Was it not a rant better suited to an agony aunt’s page?

    And – one final point that REALLY annoyed me about the entire fuss surrounding the Samantha Brick debate – is the notion that we, as women, are not good at supporting each other as we feel threatened by other woman’s beauty. Don’t drag me down onto your level, Samantha! I am surrounded by good looking women (working in TV, it comes with the territory I think!) – and I love to ‘support’ that; women being intelligent but also beautiful and confident within themselves. Without wanting to sound patronizing, I feel women have a harder time in general ‘making it’ (for various reasons which would take my off this point entirely!) – and if they can do that, and wear a pair of heels, flawless make-up and bring their own charisma to the table – then all the better!!
    I’m always a little wary of women who say they don’t get on with women, preferring men’s company… I believe it’s because a) they are uncomfortable with themselves on some level, and a man won’t probe, b) they know they can’t pull the wool over another woman’s eyes (we will see right through the conniving/flirting), and c) we can’t provide them with anything… apart from possible unwanted competition.

    I hope this all makes sense..? SB made out that the furor surrounding her piece just served to prove her point; that we are jealous of her. How utterly frustrating!

    If you are reading this Samantha – I believe in life you reap the seeds you sow – and this has NOTHING to do with the way you look and EVERYTHING to do with the way you are. You could yet prove to be beautiful inside and outside… besides which, isn’t beauty in the eye of the beholder..? (e.g. for a man who has a penchant for Asian or Hispanic ladies, you don’t fit the bill)
    In other words, you are blessed to have a husband you finds you beautiful. Finding a female friend who will hold your hand when you’re ill, listen to your gripes – and also be utterly happy when things go well for you – that is your new challenge… And before I forget, good luck with your new book on beauty, hope it’s a best seller. If you make your millions, maybe you’ll give something back – a more meaningful legacy.

    Oh dear… whatever happened there..? I seem to have written a letter to Samantha Brick! Weird…

    • Shu says:

      Thank you, Gema – that’s an article in its own right! The whole thing raised so many interesting issues – none of which the original or follow piece managed to cover convincingly. Having the attention and approbation of men is great but having the friendship and loyalty of your fellow women (and come to think of it men) is so much better, don’t you think?!

  • Darren says:

    Her face has a bit of a lopsided look crkeood nose, eyes not level. Her figure is nothing spectacular not bad, but no SI Swimsuit model.I’d say that she might be considered beautiful by dint of her personality but off-putting preening rules that out.a0 No woman (or man for that matter) that thinks so much of herself is ever beautiful.

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