Last week I signed an NDA (non-disclosure agreement; all these things must be TLAs – three letter acronyms, yes?) so that I could get some more information about something that was happening so I could judge whether it would be worth going along to the press conference.
The NDA contained all sorts of terrifying warnings about how I could be sued for zillions of pounds and so on if I were to breathe a word about what I had discovered.
Waste of time that was. The news came out anyway, through other channels, leaving me wondering whether it was worth the effort of reading through the small print of the NDA to see whether I was now allowed to write it up, or not.
And today, I’ve been asked by another company to go with an NDA for a piece of news that I cut into my day for, to learn something that probably isn’t going to make the paper; and to top it all, this is being asked retrospective to the interview. I’m only not refusing point-blank because I think it would bring many buckets of poo down on the head of the PR person involved, whose fault I don’t really think it is.
But to be honest, I really can’t be bothered with all this. I’ve had it with NDAs. I’ve signed them and then found that they tied my hands over where I could write things; and also that they held me back from writing things that then came out in the public domain anyway, and which I might have found out through doing a bit of journalism, rather than being spoon-fed (from a spoon with a padlock on.. as that’s the best metaphor I can think of). And what’s more is that these days, with the web and blogs and everything else, any piece of news will come out, on time – which means you can reuse it pretty much immediately – or ahead of time. NDAs just don’t serve any useful purpose for me as a journalist any more.
Not saying that this applies to every journalist, but I’ve tried them, and it’s not been a good experience. So in future, I’ll just say No. It may not have worked in the war on drugs, but as I was discussing with James Woudhuysen today, it’s only the Wars on Abstract Nouns (Cancer, Drugs, Terror) that have failed so far. Wars on NDAs should be much simpler.