Timing is everything… Or why Doctor Who press day lacked something unique

Western Mail Week End magazine, November 16 2013
Western Mail Week End magazine, November 16 2013

This weekend sees the unleashing of a piece that’s been while in the making.

The Western Mail Week End magazine is carrying my piece on the 50th anniversary episode of Doctor Who, The Day of the Doctor.

Amongst Whovians, the event has been one of note for many months, and it was pretty high on my calendar as well, as in April I got to go on a press call to the Roath Lock studios on Cardiff.

Although not a Who fan, I appreciated the chance to speak to some of the team behind one of BBC Wales’ biggest successes to date, and it was definitely educational.

Numerous teams of eager journalists – around eight to 12 in each group – were taken round some parts  of the set and then into interview rooms by patient press officers.

We met with Steven Moffat – the series writer and executive producer – as well as current Doctor Matt Smith, his predecessor David Tennant, Jenna-Louise Coleman, who plays Smith’s companion Clara, and Joanna Page, the Mumbles actress famous for Gavin and Stacey, who pops up here as Elizabeth I.

Anyway, more of all that in the feature, which is here. But you understand from the preamble that the whole thing is therefore of some vintage.

The issue for a journalist is that the material is embargoed. Not unusual in and of itself, but the ban on broadcast lapsed on November 12, and, thanks to the publication dates of the magazine, we have sat on the material for four extra days, for our print and online versions to run it concurrently on November 16.

Couple with that the fact that some of the other publications and sites which were party to the set visit appear to have jumped the gun slightly in terms of their release dates and you have a piece by me which is slightly less than exclusive.

Is there any way to get added value out of press days? It always strikes me as strange – we file into the same room and record the same interviews from the same people, so there is bound to be crossover.

Where I have pulled together interviews with those mentioned above into a 3,000 word piece about the phenomenon of Doctor Who after 50 years, some other sites have put up straightforward transcripts of the interviews in questions.

OK, so they’re not adding editorial value, but is that what fans want would rather have, just the words of their heroes?

I have just had a concern that the format isn’t offering the best in terms of content.

For the production company or channel, of course they’re a big bonus – screeds of material appearing across different platforms which is almost pre-vetted en masse as press folk have been in on the chats. But I’m not convinced that best serves the readers.

Any thoughts?

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