The Timewaster

The Timewaster likes to use firms, particularly large ones, as a free research department as he hunts for ideas, information and, particularly, statistics. Sadly you are most unlikely to appear in the article he claims to be writing for the Financial Times - he has still yet to be commissioned.

The article may appear if you are really lucky, with your firm’s hard work securing a small accreditation at the end of an accompanying chart (in a font no more than nine points in size). The many other firms he contacted and sent on fools errands will have fared less well, and have gained no coverage, although one of the Timewaster’s mates is quoted throughout.

"We have secured a great contact for the future" you guiltily tell the poor solicitor who had to do all the work late one evening on top of an overfull caseload. In fact this is the sort of contact you can do without, and a bankruptcy-sized invoice for your firm’s wasted time would be the appropriate response and a public service.

Timewasters are particularly found amongst TV researchers and newer freelancer journalists, although there are plenty of Timewasters on the tabloids too who will take your ideas and work, leaving scant credit once they and the sub-editors have hacked the copy.

The best way to avoid the Timewaster is to be clear from the start with journalists what they want, why they want it, specifically what they are going to give you in return.... and do they have the power to deliver their promises. Double-check that freelancers claiming to be writing for a publication have genuinely been commissioned.

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