How to Talk to Journalists

Pete Warden's blog


Photo by Jon S

Now I’m at Google I don’t get to talk to reporters, which is a shame because they’re a lot of fun. When I was doing startups I learned a lot from hanging out with them, because they’re generally very smart, curious people who have a lot wider perspective on what’s happening than anyone else. I even dabbled in writing articles myself at the old ReadWriteWeb site many years ago.

I was talking to a startup founder recently, and realized she didn’t actually understand the basics of what a journalist’s job is like. Knowing the day-to-day routines and constraints on reporters is essential if you’re going to do a good job helping them cover what you’re doing.  Here’s my advice, based on my personal experiences over the last few years. I’d love to hear more from other people too, since I think this is far from the final…

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Money, love, farming and family – what do they have in common?

More than three percent of Southland’s population is now of Asian descent and more than 2000 of these people are from the Philippines and part of the growing number of workers servicing Southland’s dairy Industry.  Hunter Calder talked to one Filipino man who has left his family and friends to travel 8200 kilometres to milk cows so his family will have a better life.



It is 4.30am. It’s pitch black and the cooling breeze can be felt down to the bone.  Most people are still fast asleep, tangled in their sheets.  But Filipino worker Philip Abrigo is not one of those sleeping beauties.  He is a long way from home, in Central Southland on a farm, but he is bright-eyed and eager ready to ride off into the creeping mist to get the cows for a 5am “cups on”.

Abrigo powers the motorbike into life – owl eye headlights light the rough track which he navigates at speed.  The crisp, clean air sweeps over, around, and through his body as he skirts the paddock rounding up the cows.  One by one they take to their feet and regroup for the morning walk to the shed.

Abrigo takes his right hand off the throttle and yawns.

“The only hard thing is to wake up early,” he said.

An hour before he had been skyping his three children; Micah-Emily, 12, Gia, 10, Sean, 6, and his wife, Millet who were getting ready for bed, at 10.30pm  in Los Banos, Laguna, in the Philippines.


Abrigo made the difficult decision to leave his family and move to New Zealand after talking with a friend who was already working on a Southland dairy farm.

He then packed his bags with a one-way ticket to New Zealand, desperate for a better wage.

Abrigo loved his family so much he wanted them to have a better life and his eldest daughter Micah-Emily needed an expensive operation for a cochlear implant because she was born deaf.

The one million pesos ($30,000 NZD) implant has enabled Micah-Emily to hear the birds sing and listen to her father when he calls on Skype.  He made the ultimate sacrifice to travel abroad to earn money to pay for his daughter’s life-changing operation.

“Now she’s talking good, she knows how to speak in English, she’s in school.”

20141007_101758Abrigo stepped onto Southland’s fresh soil in August 2009 slipping his hands into a pair of rubber gloves on a farm near Invercargill – with his first job organised through Greener Horizons.

In his first week in Southland he learned the craft of farming dairy cows in New Zealand.  He had worked on a buffalo farm in Laguna and it was very different – 120 bulky-horned buffalos were confined to a shed and Abrigo said he was responsible for the animals’ health and well-being when he worked there.

Work was a 10 minute walk from home and he saw his family every day – Abrigo misses the convenience of living and working close to his family even if there had been “too many neighbours”.

Despite similar hours and work-load to his New Zealand job, the pay was poor.

“Every day at 7 o’clock I regularly checked every buffalo in milking lines, checking it (the buffalo) during heat, checking their health, (I was) the one responsible for their  food, the water.  Making sure they are having enough.”

There was a lot of manual labour for the 12 staff on the buffalo farm.  A driver, harvester and others who would, cut collect, source and feed forage and others to do the milking in the shed, but Abrigo only milked sometimes.


20141007_121153In Southland on a farm a short drive from Dipton another row of large-black and white cows walk into the shed and “push up” into their bail for cupping.  Abrigo thinks about his children a 10 hour flight away, sitting on the floor in a morning class with another 30-40 wide-eyed students.

The money he earns is helping pay for their “expensive education” and other “extras”.

“I can give them much more than they need, sometimes what they want, sometimes, but we don’t teach our children like that.”

His tattered jacket drapes over his slim waist, splatters of brown dried faeces cover his woollen balaclava that masks his face and neck, his warm, dark, attentive eyes are focused on the cows but his mind is elsewhere.

His three children are growing up fast.  He last saw them in 2011 when he went home for two years – the same time Micah-Emily had her cochlear implant.

His youngest, Sean, loves playing with aeroplane toys and wants to be a pilot while Gia wants to be a dentist.  Micah-Emily is creative and loves to paint and draw.

“She is very good at painting.  She can paint you.  She will just look at you and then just paint it.  She’s very good.”


Cow after cow the, row after row.  Abrigo steps forward as if beginning a waltz.  He removes the cups from a cow and places them on another.  This pattern is so rehearsed he could do it with his eyes closed.  Six hours milking and three more attending to farm duties.  Abrigo likes keeping his mind occupied.

“Sometimes I really want to work so you will not think about your loneliness and your family back home.”

Abrigo works in a 40 –a-side herring-bone-shed on a no-exit road; this is the third farm Abrigo has worked on in Southland in five seasons.

Alabama Farm manager James English said it was “word of mouth” and Abrigo’s friendship with his other Filipino staff member, Wendell Wagan, which had supported Abrigo’s application.  English said the pair made a great team and worked well together.

As an employer English wanted reliable employees who always turned up on time and Abrigo fitted that description.  However, it was important his staff were happy because they were a long way from their home and families.

“I think the biggest thing is just to know that probably at some stage they are expecting to go home again and that they probably will need more than their normal holiday time to go back home for a longer time than two weeks.”


The morning milking is over now and Abrigo is filling the motorbike with oil.  His gentle fingers grasp an old drink bottle he is using as a funnel – ingenuity at its finest.  The thick, black gunge oozes slowly through the slim sipper nozzle.

His voice lowers and he mentions two farm accidents he had been involved in as “part of the job, part of the work”.

One of the heifers had its head stuck between two rails on a yard gate.  As she tried to pull her head out of the solid steel gate it was pulled from the hinges and swung round smashing into Abrigo’s head with great force.

He points to a long scar where he had seven stitches.

As the last of the oil dribbles and disappears into the bike, Abrigo takes to his feet and aims for the store shed.  His gumboots kick the loose shingle on the track.  The second accident happened when he was riding the motorbike and he fell off landing “wrong” causing a lower back injury.

Despite these setbacks Abrigo had recovered and said he still enjoyed working in New Zealand because it was peaceful and it’s the work that’s helped him financially support his family.


Federated Farmers’ Southland dairy chairperson Allan Baird said Filipino workers were the major migrant cultural group working on Southland farms.  He said Filipinos were keen to work and had the dairy experience, skills and animal-health knowledge that employers wanted.

“They’ve got to be able to pick up issues with cow health and be responsive to things that they see.”

Training on the job helped migrant workers adapt to New Zealand’s different dairying model which differed to indoor farming because most dairy cows in Southland graze food direct from the paddock.

“In Southland it’s all about growing grass and managing your pastures so certainly they are new skills they have had to learn,” Baird said.


After a brief break for breakfast Abrigo checks the “springers” for new calves.  He reverses the muddy bike into the trailer and puts the “safety pin” in the small hole – a twisted piece of trusty No8 wire does the job for now.

He has taken his balaclava off and you can see his untrimmed beard starting to form.  His 20141007_101747intense black hair is short, his lips are dry and his eyes are tired.  He usually gets six to seven hours sleep every night and this is his seventh day working on an eight-day roster.

He opens his mouth wide and yawns while riding the bike with two hands firmly placed on the frayed handles, the trailer bounces behind.

However, there are no new calves today.  Nineteen pregnant cows hover next to the electric fence, standing like impatient children.  Abrigo’s rubber boots brush against the luscious green grass as he walks and winds the reel, leaving a trampled path in his wake.


One day Abrigo wants to take his family on a holiday to visit his home away from home but for now they Skype regularly as he plans the future with his wife.

“If this is my last season I’ll try to go get her before I go home so I can show her this is New Zealand.  This is where I worked.  If I go home I will never come back again and at least she saw where I went.”

But Abrigo is unsure when he will next return home to his beloved family – he has thought about setting up an agricultural supplies business in the Philippines.

But one thing is certain, the dairy industry in Southland has helped him and his family in more ways words can explain.

“I will miss the cows, and of course the work. I will miss the work because it’s the one that’s helped me.”

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Wine at the end of the night

It was around 3am, the last call for the night was supposed to be The Last Word on New

wineRegent Street, a shady candle-lit whiskey and cocktail lounge I had been to once before.  A warming whiskey would have been a perfect ending to the evening my friend and I had just had.

To our dismay, The Last Word was closed.

But a small crowd dancing to urban hip-hop music outside Shop Eight on New Regent Street had us intrigued as we approached.

Although we initially felt like we were invading a private party we soon slipped in and felt as if we were on par with this ‘private morning gathering’.

The DJ was mixing on his Ipad in the small kitchenette.  Shop Eight offered a warming cosy atmosphere, dance worthy music, and a selection of wine.

An hour passed by, maybe more, maybe less, Shop Eight was the highlight of my evening – or morning to be purely accurate.

The hospitality of the barman was fantastic.  He served drinks, he danced and even came out under the veranda to interact and show us his moves.

The wooden steps led upstairs, but were barricaded for some reason.

Shop Eight is elegant, classy and stylish, but simple and chic.  It gave off a modern feeling with a recycled-looking feel, the wooden floors, and wooden tables are shiny and smooth. Shop Eight definitely caters to a niche market of wine lovers and those who are crowd-shy.

A pair of vintage glasses were being passed around and I, like those before me chose to pose for the classic selfie.

Shop Eight is a place like no other that I have been before, socialising, dancing and indulging with strangers from near and far.

After my speciality dessert wine and several bottles of water I decided it was time to depart this warm, welcoming venue.

Shop Eight is an intimate experience, whether it’s a glass of wine or a meal you opt for the warm welcoming ambiance will make you feel right at home.

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Who said no more bar-hopping in Christchurch?

It was Friday evening about 10pm and my friend and I were looking for a light meal to fill our petite appetite.  Curly fries and burgers were served promptly from the late menu at Orleans at the newly-opened Strange’s Lane.

Before my friend or I and even knew the name of this particular restaurant he remarked on the “New Orleans vibe” – the bits and pieces of décor that lined the walls and shelves.  Orleans have certainly succeeded reflecting their name through their finer styling touches.

The atmosphere was brilliant; loud, up-beat, toe-tapping music set the background tones as we were directed up the steps that wrapped behind the bar to a bar table where we enjoyed our meal which was served moments later alongside a glass of wine.

We downed our delightfully tasteful meals quickly. Thankfully- the water was close-by as the curly fries had a burning spice which was slightly overwhelming.

Before long we to move onward to see what else Strange’s Lane had to offer.

The crisp Friday-night air was chilling as we stepped outside and searched for our next stop; the Lower 9th Diner appealed.

The selection of delicious cocktails on the wall was vast.  The excellent, fast-talking knowledge of barman, Charles Gillet, helped us settle on a Hurricane – my knowledge of alcohol was and still is very limited.  – A note to other bars and clubs; a drinks menu would be great for those of us who have limited alcohol knowledge.

You could see Gillet’s passion as he danced in time to the music and jumped from corner to corner.  A little bit of this a little bit of that, into the blender and finally one swift pour and we watched the neon-red liquid glide into a movie-style plastic cup.

Outside the tone of the lane was just perfect – boisterous chatter.  I found myself an overhead heater and grabbed a perch.

My Hurricane was delicious.  The rich, sweet fruit juices were cooling on the tongue.  But perhaps the sugar-sweet taste was too much of a good thing.  It was a push to down the last of it before moving on to Strange and Co.

The line to the bar was long; this was the place to be.  We enjoyed the split level atmosphere – upstairs for couples, downstairs a kicking atmosphere.  And it didn’t take long for my partner-in-crime and I to burst onto the dance floor and have our own mini-rave.  The music was deafening, but that was expected.

Strange’s Lane is a place of its own, there are options and a selection of bars to satisfy everyone’s needs.  Or even the option of bar-hopping – minus the walking that Christchurch nightlife often has associated with it.

Strange’s Lane has that good-feeling-vibe that makes you want to rush back for more.


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Pasteurised vs Raw

It’s breakfast time, the coffee machine is purring in the corner, the strong smell of crushed beans wafts through the kitchen then up the hall way.  A pot of porridge s bubbling furiously on the stove-top.

A regular routine, coffee and porridge, but there is the debate between pasteurised and raw milk.

Which is better for you?

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According to Food Smart most raw milk products raw milk products “are unlikely to present any food safety concerns for most healthy New Zealanders.”

However  vulnerable groups including children, pregnant woman and people with low immune systems are at risk from bacterial infections which may be present in raw milk.

Pasteurised milk however has been treated to lower the risk of diseases and germs and also stops milk from souring.  But according to Real Milk this can also take 20 percent of iodine out of raw milk.

While there has always been arguments for and against Raw or pasteurised milk, the consumption on processed milk is greater because it is more commonly sold and produced by companies such as Fonterra and made  accessible in supermarkets and dairy’s.

Raw milk is harder for consumers to get there hands on.   Some raw milk products can be sold in New Zealand but Ministry of Primary Industries has a framework to ensure all consumable milk products are safe.

Consumer preference is however variable, those who preferred raw milk were usually from farms and had been “raised on it”.  But for most Kiwis, processed milk was more accessible and “tasted better”.

But the bigger question, what do you prefer?

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Preserve our land, rubbish matter

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New Zealand, is home, Aotearoa is our beautiful country with open green pastures, and lush clean landscape and paddocks and rolling hills that turn into snow-capped mountains and dry tussock-lands eventually falling to the wave slapping ocean.  With crisp blue … Continue reading

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Christchurch woman film finalist

A young Christchurch film-maker is a finalist in a National Inspiring Stories competition for the second year in a row.

Greta Yeoman said she was “pretty stoked” to find out her film “A Potent Heroine” was a finalist in two sections –tertiary and social enterprise.

Yeoman’s film tells the story of Kiwi musician Kerry Coulshed’s song about change for women and this is being made into a music video in Afghanistan.

“My video tells the story of the project.”20141021_104103

However, the 18-year-old admitted the topic had been difficult to get her head around.  Christchurch musician Kerry Coulshed had written the song ‘A Beautiful Beast’ after reading a book about Afghanistan women entrepreneur Kamila Siqidi – who had set up an underground dress-making shop during the Taliban regime.  This song is now being made into a music video called ‘The Beautiful Beast Project”.

Yeoman said telling the story on film had been interesting as Sidikqi and film-maker Roya Sadat were in Afghanistan – so she interviewed and filmed through Skype.

Inspiring Stories Competition challenges up-and-coming film makers to produce a mini movie that reflects the theme of “young Kiwis making a difference”.

The Aorki Polytechnic media communication student said she had only tried her hand at filming in her final two years of media studies at secondary school.

She has now filmed and published several videos on her blog Streets of Colombo, including her recent film documentary about the music scene in Christchurch after the earthquakes.

Yeoman feels more comfortable behind the camera rather than in front of it but is unsure where her future lies.


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Four years on

In February 2011 Christchurch in New Zealand was shaken by a magnitude magnitude earthquake.  Four years on the city is a mixture of empty sites, broken buildings, colorful art, and construction.  The images below reflect the journey as Christchurch Rebuilds  

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Discussing Sexual Health

A Christchurch man is helping to make the conversation about sexual health easier for the lesbian gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

New Zealand Aids Foundation (NZAF) community engagement co-ordinator Akira Le Fevre said health awareness in the LGBT community was a big issue and providing condoms and lubricant was a part of promoting the condom culture in New Zealand.

“It’s about building a condom culture where condoms are just the norm.”

Le Fevre said the safe-sex messages were about protecting people – especially men who have sex with men and are susceptible to getting the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) or sexually-transmitted infections.

Today medicines and drugs are preventing some deaths caused by the immune-killing virus.  However, this increased the risk of HIV being spread when people did not use protection.

“With any kind of issue the only way to get around it is to actually talk about it.  To be seen promoting it positively,” Le Fevre said.

The Love Your Condom (LYC) campaign had become something that men who have sex with men “want to be a part of,” and people are getting involved to pack condoms and lube.

“We’ve made safe sex cool.”



Education to change a culture of thinking

Despite condoms being distributed free to some venues in New Zealand they can be hard for younger people to get their hands on.

Christchurch Pride co-ordinator Jill Stevens said the LYC campaign was fantastic as it promoted safe sex and made condoms available for everyone.

However, she believed condoms were “pretty pricey” for young people and should be funded more by the Government.

Stevens said safe-sex could be better promoted in schools and the Love Your Condom campaign was appealing, ‘bright-coloured’ and ‘hip’ which would get youth interested in sexual health.

Promoting condoms in a positive way taught young people the “in’s and outs” of why protection should be used and the risks involved when precautions were not taken.

A condom culture was not just about free condoms and lubricant, it was about protecting people from sexually-transmitted diseases, aids and ensuring people were safe during sex.

Packing Volunteer Corey Kingsbury said condom packing was a fun social event that helped keep people safe.

He said being open with friends and talking about safe-sex made it more acceptable for everyone to “just wear a condom”.

“It means you’re just taking your health seriously and just looking after yourself.”

Pharmac funded the purchase of more than 600,000 condoms each year.

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No smartphone, ‘no life’


So it actually is possible, to survive without smartphone technology!

This week I spent an entire seven days without my beloved Samsung Galaxy S5.  It was great to do some reading, catch up on some ‘procrastinated’ study, hit the gym and the running track without the headphones or tracking device and well… simply just ‘relax’.

Being without my phone for that week made me realise how todays society is very reliant on internet, connectivity, social media and the convenience that smartphones bring.

So there I was, no distractions, no emails, no notifications, no pointless selfie or food images to look at, no breaking news, no stalkers, and no, not even a text message – am I not missed, what about an invite for dinner Friday night…

Being without a smartphone has simply showed me the way I communicate – and perhaps the way that you communicate too – through a data or wifi connection on applications such as Viber, Facebook, Snapchat or iMessage and the many more that are out there.

We are so reliable on our data and internet connection, but this too brings potential privacy risks that we are all so much aware of, but does that stop us?

“Pop” – a new notification.

As I log back online – struggling to recall the usernames and passwords, I cringe – as notifications, event invites, and shameless selfies and comments begin rolling in  And there, my lost invitation for dinner – sent using snapchat – if only text messages were more frequently used.

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