New York Times food writer Jeff Gordinier was at one of Georgia Pellegrini’s three-day, $2,300 Girl Hunter Weekends, working on a profile of the “Girl Hunter” author. Missoula Independent writer and self-described “true” hunter Erika Fredrickson was also there — and also hoping to get an interview with Pellegrini. She claims the Times reporter “[found] it unconscionable that a local reporter, woman or otherwise, dares infringe on his story.”
“Well, this isn’t good,” [Gordinier] says when meeting me.
“What’s not good?” I ask.
“I’m not trying to be gruff,” he says condescendingly, “but I thought we had an exclusive.”
“I thought we did,” I say, half joking, trying to get him to lighten up. “You know, we’re an alt-weekly in Montana. You’re The New York Times. I don’t think we’re in competition here.”
“We’ll figure something out,” he says before walking away.
“We’ll figure something out” turns out to mean threatening Georgia’s publicist with pulling his article if he doesn’t at least get an exclusive on two of the weekend’s events: pheasant hunting and falconry. The publicist apologizes profusely to me and says her hands are tied. I tell her this doesn’t come off well.
“So you’re telling me that you’re going to let a man from New York come into a hunting weekend for women and push out a local woman reporter and a local woman photographer, both of whom are actual girl hunters?” I ask.
The two reporters tell Romenesko readers…
Erika Fredrickson writes in an email: “I do want to say a few things in response to some confusion in the comments section.
“The publicist was in a tough spot and in my conversation with her she personally expressed support for me. I don’t think the decision to shortchange me on coverage was entirely up to her, though she was the brunt of the fallout. I don’t envy her position. I liked her.
“When I was on the phone with her she told me that The New York Times did NOT have an exclusive. I don’t know if she was misinformed and it actually did have an exclusive or if Gordinier was just making that assumption. In either case, we were both invited to cover Girl Hunter Weekend and we were writing very different stories for different audiences. We were both promised coverage of the entire weekend. And we were both expected to come back to our respective papers with a story.”
Jeff Gordinier writes: “I traveled to Montana with the great photographer Jennifer Livingston to cover the Georgia Pellegrini gathering. I thought I had an exclusive & I felt a bit duped and disappointed when another reporter showed up, as any professional would be. I dive very deeply into my reporting; it changes the dynamic to have another journalist present. Nevertheless I remained thoroughly polite (albeit at a distance) in my interactions with the competition. I never once demanded that the other reporter and photographer leave. I called my editor, Maura Egan at T magazine, and she sagely just said essentially, ‘You do your thing, and let them do their thing,’ and that was it. No games were played, at least none instigated by myself. I am sad to see that the Missoula reporter’s thing was to be petty and take the low road, but so it goes. I wish her the best. I did what I do: I wound up writing what I think is an engrossing, entertaining, accurate piece about the Girl Hunter weekend itself. Look for it in T soon.
“P.S. Would just add that if reporter Erika Fredrickson truly believes the publicist who “personally expressed support” for her, then she’s got a lot to learn about publicists. The publicist surely knew that this whole scenario wouldn’t go over well with either of us, but she pulled the trigger (so to speak) anyway. Hence my understandable & slightly world-weary vexation.
“Lastly, I sure wish that Erika Frederickson had simply called me for my side of the story, if she intended to write about me. Fairness & accuracy = our job. It’s always better to ask than to assume.”