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Quiche tale goes national after agency intervenes

A local paper’s exclusive on a young woman being asked for ID to buy quiche made national headlines after a local news agency intervened.

The Leamington Observer story about 24-year-old Christine Cuddihy being forced to show her driving licence to staff at her local Tesco languished almost unnoticed on its website for almost a week.

However after an agency repackaged the story after tracking down the woman involved, it quickly became national headline news.

The Daily Mail made it top story on its website on Tuesday with most of the rest of the national media swiftly folllowing suit.

By yesterday morning it had become a top talking-point in BBC radio phone-ins while the Mail’s online story had attracted more than 800 reader comments.

Here, the Observer’s deputy editor Kevin Unitt, who wrote the original story, charts its bizarre progress through the media.

I knew it was a good story, and hoped it would be picked up by the national press, but none seemed particularly interested at first.

The Sun ran just three lines on it on page 25 last week and the Daily Mail rejected it altogether because The Sun had already covered it, a bizarre decision given they would lead their own website with the story just a few days later.

How our story – which had been printed for almost a week and for all that time had been visible to all on our website – finally grew legs nationally was the introduction of a press agency, who tracked down the woman involved, slightly re-packaged the story, and sold it on to their national newspaper contacts.

On Tuesday, almost a week after we’d ran the piece, the Daily Mail finally screamed it from their website, making it the top story as it generated more than 600 comments from readers across the world in just 12 hours.

Some treated it for what it was – a funny story. One person in New Zealand said she ‘lived in fear of quiche-wielding hoodies’, while another reader suggested quiche was a ‘gateway to harder stuff like Cornish pasties and pork pies’.

But others began to de-construct and take the fun out, blaming it on everything from New Labour and the ‘PC Brigade’ to big corporations mentally preparing us for the introduction of national identity cards.

Meanwhile among comments from people in Russia, America, Italy, France, Thailand, Jordan, Spain and Mexico, a Julia from Norfolk even suggested: “I feel I must point out why I think this happened. Quiche is a very high fat food and young people aren’t always the best judge of what is and isn’t good for them.”

Eventually the rest of the national press followed suit by running slightly tweaked versions of the story, while obscure websites across the world also mentioned it.

By yesterday morning BBC radio, both local and national, was in on the action.

And then it returned home with the Coventry Telegraph reporting the story, and BBC Coventry and Warwickshire reporting their report of it.

But Christine, who has had to change her name on internet social networking sites due to random friend requests and seedy messages, says she’d now be quite happy for the quiche incident to be forgotten.

She told the Observer: “I really want all this to stop now. It’s quite scary when you read all the comments about you. It was supposed to just be a funny story!”


Miss Cynical (04/02/2010 09:18:21)
Shame the hard-working reporters who found the story couldn’t re-package it and sell it on. After all, it had already been printed in the Observer so there shouldn’t have been any issues about sharing it.
As it is, the news agency (which did relatively little) will have got paid hundreds of pounds for the story. I find that pretty irritating…
Great story anwyway!

samthecameraman (04/02/2010 09:54:00)
Totally agree with Miss Cynical. Agencies leech on to the local press, trawl through their websites and do little work and get great rewards. A certain Agency in the North has an agreement with Johnston Press whereby they get to sell their stories. Apparently they pay JP a percentage of what they earn from the story!!! What does the original reporter or photographer get for all their hard work….zilch.

Paul (04/02/2010 10:09:39)
Alternatively the reporters could pass various details on themselves to sell the story. You know, initiative.

Mr Cynical (04/02/2010 10:20:57)
Paul, like they tried to do to the Daily Mail in this case you mean?
Only for it to be rejected, yet picked up a week later from an agency?

Old regional press hand (04/02/2010 10:22:18)
To be fair to the reporters, selling stories to the nationals is banned at many local and regional papers, which is why agencies are often able to nip-in first. One paper I used to work for managed to find a happy medium. The editor and his deputy used to do all the selling on themselves, and the proceeds went into a pot which paid for all the booze at the Christmas Party.

cynical hack (04/02/2010 10:26:43)
was it actually a story though? google the name of the woman involved and you find she is on saatchi’s graduate scheme. one of the criteria to win a place on saatchi is to get extensive media coverage. i smell a rat.

sporthack (04/02/2010 10:39:40)
Surely the writer of the story should have tracked down the woman involved to start with..looks like the paper only had half the story

Paul (04/02/2010 10:53:11)
And now the Leamington Observer have a story about how their story got picked up by the nationals. Slow news day in Leamington?

samthecameraman (04/02/2010 10:53:52)
Mr Cynical has hit the nail on the head. If you try most of the nationals with a story they just fob you off, or in the case of the Daily Mail say its too parochial….then lo and behold a few days later there is the story in the nationals. Is there a conspiracy going on?

Kevin Unitt (04/02/2010 10:54:26)
Of course we tracked her down – that’s how we got the story:
And Mr Cynical, that’s way too cynical!
We spotted this story as it was Christine’s Facebook status update, and after much prompting on our part – and through gritted teeth on hers – she finally agreed to do a little story in her local paper.
She had made no attempt to come to us with the story, let alone court the national media, only speaking to an agency briefly when one had tracked her down.
Since then she’s turned down every single TV and radio interview request (and incredibly there have been a lot) while hoping the whole thing just goes away.

Kevin Unitt (04/02/2010 11:00:24)
..and Paul, it’s never a slow news day here. In fact right now there’s lots of other stuff the agencies could probably ‘leech’ off us should they wish.
Anyway, time for me to get back to writing quality stories that the nationals will sleep on for a week – take care.

The Bard (04/02/2010 13:44:37)
Yes, quality stories as long as you are interested in the RSC?!

davy gravy (04/02/2010 15:12:10)
But is the story true? The comment from Tesco was a bit non-committal. Kevin – did they confirm that it actually happened?

John (04/02/2010 17:15:18)
In response to samthecamerman…Having worked at an agency it is common practise for them to have deals with local papers to pay a percentage for stories they sell. So while the agency makes money and the publishing group, (ie Johnston Press) the paper and agency journalists make nothing extra, other than their salary (albeit probably meagre!) and the satisfaction of a job well done (albeit probably more so the local journalists!) Surely seeing your story make headlines around the world gives you something to be proud of.

John Stone (05/02/2010 09:53:25)
In the old days, reporters
would sell the stories to the nationals and put the money they got from that into a pot, which was used at the Christmas do.
But JP decided that wasn’t quite right – or that they weren’t seeing any of the money for what is essentially their property – so they introduced a system where the Ross Parry agency take the best stories, sell them on and give JP a cut, which is distributed to all centres equally. Of course, until my departure from JP in 2007, I don’t recall one penny coming back into the paper.

samthecameraman (05/02/2010 12:24:50)
In response to John, yes I do know how agencies work. You have missed the point that while the original writer and photographer do all the work the agencies then filch the picture and words and e-mail it out to all and sundry with their name on it. Nice easy work for the Agency…so watch out John you will be out of a job if it carries on! Who will be laughing then?

john (05/02/2010 13:11:00)
No need to get like that Sam. For a start I no longer work at an agency, so you can hold back on the laughing. I think the ways things are journalists need to stick together, not hope for sackings.
It is a shame thats the way it is at some newspaper groups, but short of going freelance, moving jobs, or risking trying to sell your story behind your bosses back theres not much you can do….or carry on the hard work and bitterly look on when your bosses and an agencies make some money off it. No one does this job for the money.