The world is a big, strange and mad-as-a-bottle-of-chips place, and it’s a journalist’s job to immerse themselves in it in the name of entertaining and informing. As these journalists will attest, this can throw you into some outright odd situations…
Francine Lawrence, art director and former editor of Country Living
Years ago, I had to go to Billingsgate Fish Market and get 10 lobsters for a food shoot. I got a taxi and put the boxes safely on the floor. I didn’t know that the lobsters were still alive and they began to break out of the boxes. I completely panicked and the cab driver had to scoop them all up and help me carry them up three flights of stairs to the photographer’s studio.
I also once had to hire a very large American flag when I was in New York for a fashion shoot for a UK magazine. It was really busy and I couldn’t get a cab so I got on the bus to go down Fifth Avenue. I only had a $10 bill and the driver would only accept coins. Finally, an irate passenger paid my fare. I got on the bus with the flag rolled up under my arm – only to get a right telling off from all the bus passengers for letting it trail on the floor. They don’t like that in the US, but when they heard me speak and realised I was English, all was forgiven.
Moya Crockett, digital writer at Stylist
I once got asked if I would be up for attending a food course called “Cooking with Semen”. That feature idea was scrapped when it transpired I would have to provide my own cooking materials – which, being a woman, was slightly problematic. I did ask my boyfriend if he wanted to come along/provide the ingredients, but weirdly, he wasn’t up for it.
Sarah Warwick, editor of N by Norwegian
My editor at easyJet Traveller asked me to try and set a world record, so I visited the highest number of capital cities by public transport – a record that got my name in the Guinness World Records book for six months, until it got toppled. Another one was a drag queen dance class, where I was given a full drag queen makeover and a new name – Mitsy. The piece was for Dance Today and to my horror, a pic of me and three other drag queens was afforded a full double-page spread. Cringe.
Ian Baker, cartoonist
I was asked to create a cartoon to promote a special “sex enhancer soap” in America. The cartoon was to be used on packaging and promotional advertising. I took the job on and it went through a number of editorial meeting changes – they were being very picky. I’m not sure if the product has been successful in the States, but there were going to be further products in the series which haven’t materialised yet.
Another was for a sordid beach event in America. The brief included all kinds of debauchery including drunkenness, nudity and dangerous driving. It was a fun one to work on, but I thought the client and organisers were very dodgy. Luckily, as they were in the States and I in the UK, I didn’t have to actually meet them.
Tristan O’Hana, group editor of Pub & Bar magazine and Casual Dining magazine
I was once asked to go to Cardiff to interview Captain Birdseye. I didn’t have a contact number for him, so had to spot “the guy that looked like Captain Birdseye” in a hotel lobby. After chatting to him for a while, it turned out that he was occasionally an actor in Hollyoaks and also played a stormtrooper in one of the Star Wars films. It was a very strange morning.
Chris Humphris, radio producer at LBC
I once had to walk down to the corner shop on Charing Cross Road at 1am on a Saturday morning over the Christmas period because the entire building had run out of milk. I was then sent out again at 6am by the following presenter, as the first presenter had paid for his own milk and took what was left of his pint home with him. Charing Cross Road isn’t the nicest of places at 1am on a Saturday.
Sam Rider, editor at Dirt & Glory Media and freelance health and fitness journalist
While I was fitness editor at Men’s Fitness, I was asked to try out a new class that used electric pulses zapped into your muscles while you worked out to stimulate muscle growth. It hurt all over. A colleague ended up writing the piece. I took the shot, he got the byline.
Tom Howells, deputy Food & Drink editor at Time Out and senior online sub and writer at Wallpaper*
Having your editor apologise to you before handing over work is always a tad ominous. Such was the case when interning on The Guardian’s The Guide supplement. I was tasked with transcribing over two hours of interview with arch postmodern documentarian – and low-level conspiracy theorist – Adam Curtis. He’s a fascinating guy, but good god, does he talk fast. And relentlessly. Transcribing is intern-baiting grunt work at the best of times, but I think it took me three solid days. There’s a reason I pay for transcription when freelancing these days – budget be damned.
Chris Grierson, TV presenter and producer at Crystal Palace F.C.
I have been asked to do a variety of odd things for Crystal Palace. Seeing how many grapes footballer Christian Benteke can fit in his mouth in eight seconds, then sifting through his saliva to count how many he spat into a mug branded with then-manager Alan Pardew’s face, stands out more than most. I can’t remember how many he got, but we still haven’t got around to cleaning the mug.
Having a go in a cryotherapy chamber at minus 135 degrees was a bit much. Parts of my body have still not returned to their prior size. I also had to try the fitness drills that footballers do everyday in training. I was nearly sick – after 45 seconds.
Alexey Kovalev, head of news desk at The Moscow Times
“What do you mean he’s dead? Get a psychic if you need to, but we need a front page quote!”