Two days ago I wrote a very grumpy post about the quality of an article in the UK Metro newspaper. The article was bouncy, pleasant and very nice about our recently completed expedition, swimming down the Missouri.
I’ve had a few messages since saying I should be grateful for any media coverage, but I couldn’t disagree more.
The article in the Metro wasn’t in any way negative and I’m delighted that someone picked the story up and ran it, I’m just disappointed in how it was done. I understand that those who know me may have felt excitement or pride to see the coverage. I know that perhaps a few out there who I’ve never met will have thought, ‘good on him.’ Despite all of this, it simply wasn’t good enough.
I don’t do what I do for plaudits. Just because on occasion I’ve managed to achieve something original shouldn’t be construed as an attempt to gain respect or admiration. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
I’m as normal or as crazy as anyone, I do what I do because I love it. My adventures are a result of a number of life decisions, I’m able to sate most of the natural urges I have and compliment any creative abilities I’ve been given through adventure. This is why I do it, not to have an article now and then confirm why I should have a big head.
I know the value of what I do. I also know that because so far I’ve actively turned down opportunities that could have raised my profile and created celebrity or fame that I compromise the full potential of my actions. But I’m okay with that because I’m not compromising myself at the same time.
Perhaps one day I’ll be respected because I stuck to my guns, rather than swimming my way into a headline alliteration. Either way, I’ll not change my values. We need to raise the bar on everything; our choices, how we spend our time, our ambition, media content. Comfort kills ambition.
We have the power to make choices. I’m never going to agree with an article, news piece or tv programme being packaged in consumer-friendly bitesize chunks simply because we have no more faith in humans having a half-decent attention span. I will make no jokes here about my tiny package.
My adventures and my attitude have and continue to have the ingredients to pass on a mild eureka moment to others and the motivation (and tools) to take ones dreams and start living them. The expeditions themselves also serve as a lovely conduit to raise money for good causes. Recently these efforts I’ve been focused on CoppaFeel!, the breast cancer awareness charity set up by my friend Kris after she was diagnosed at the age of 23. In the face of seeing her own life drastically shortened she decided to prevent the same happening to others.
I enjoy raising money for charity. It’s not my bread and butter and it’s not the reason that I do what I do, but by default if I can raise some awareness and even funds for a cause I believe in, then I will.
If I were famous, if I had an article about me every single day in the Metro, I’d raise more money. As it is I have maybe one article a year, and if it’s written like the one that was published yesterday it is pretty close to worthless in terms of conveying any decent message.
So why don’t I pursue fame? Because I’d hate myself if I did.
Every decision I make in life comes from my heart. I will do something if I feel it develops me and will be fun at the same time. I want to be happy and that means honouring my own values and reducing stresses. I have turned down television companies who wanted to follow me paddling down a river because they thought it would only be interesting to the public if I wrestled an alligator or two. I laughed at them.
I’m not arguing that I’d make a great TV presenter, I just think a journey down the river over several months IS an interesting, educational story. I experience so much on my trips that they can’t fail to make good stories if they’re told well, but if they don’t involve an accident (even that doesn’t work sometimes), a huge struggle or a large set of teeth then it isn’t fit for public consumption.
What about the pure, relatable story of someone just choosing to live life to the full without being motivated by a sob story or god-given life challenge or near-death experience? What about living every moment? What about taking life by the scruff of the neck for no reason other than because we’re alive? What about grasping everything the world has to offer rather than living the same year 80 times and calling it life? Our society is incessantly missing the point.
I appreciate all the well wishes and congratulations. My team deserve them just as much as I (indeed, I wouldn’t have made it without them, period) and they didn’t get a mention. The accumulative effort put in by everyone involved in this project deserved more than £5000 in donations and this is partly down to the lack of journalism involved in mainstream journalism. Our PR campaign certainly was not weak and as self-critical as I am we could have done little more.
As begrudging as I am about being called a Daredevil I would have been content with the Metro article had it mentioned CoppaFeel! and my team, but it didn’t. Someone took a press release, removed everything important and copied and pasted the rest. As with everything, regardless of situation unless we take our work and do it to the best of our ability we’re wasting our time and lying to ourselves. Sub-standard gets us nowhere.
'That's just how it is,' I've heard time and time again in the last two days. Unquestionably, but I don't buy it, I expect more. We have become so accustomed to accepting less than what we deserve that we've stopped caring. As individuals. As communities. As nations. If we allow our primary news sources to administer fluff every day we slowly require nothing of substance and become lazily misinformed and happy with it. We shouldn't be afraid to demand more.
All I ask from journalists is that they employ a little more thought into what they share with the world. I understand that the Metro is a city paper designed to entertain more than educate, but it’s not The Sun either. They should strive to be better, intelligent people should be tested on a morning commute. A great deal of my frustration comes down to 1) that they missed the point of the story, which instantly means most of the readers do too, and 2) that this was the only coverage of the journey in the UK, where other publications are probably better placed to provide a bit more meat to their news
I have no right to expect coverage of my actions, but if it comes I’d rather some effort was put into it. Those with a voice in our world have a responsibility to do their job well. Let’s not accept our education in the form of punchlines, life is not a gimmick.
Other reading material on this matter: