You may find being vegan or vegetarian has nothing to do with social justice, lifestyle, or religion
You should ask a vegetarian or vegan why they choose to forgo meat or animal products because the root of their choice may uncover a simple lack of understanding on your part. I'm your case in point.
After reading George Reynold's piece Why do people hate vegans, I felt the need to explain why I think it's possible for warring food ideologies to co-exist. My hope is this piece will moderate what appears to be a planetary war raging between the plant-based tendencies of vegetarians, vegans, and the rest of the world.
I'm a vegetarian. I've been a vegetarian for four years, and it's not for social justice reasons, not for religious, not for environmental purposes, and not even for my health, although all of those might be excellent and valid reasons. No, my wife and I are both vegetarians to keep the balance between the dietary needs and restrictions imposed on us by our two kids.
One girl is a carnivore, the other has a rare metabolic condition called phenylketonuria, or PKU for short.
I'll explain, but first, here's why I am uniquely qualified to talk about diet and nutrition.
I've tried a lot of diets. Keen to understand how to live my life best and get the most out of it I did Whole30, went vegan for a while, was a Paleo convert on my initial fitness journey, toyed but never committed to Keto, was a flexitarian, ovo vegetarian, pescatarian, played with intermittent fasting, weighing macros and a enjoyed 'seefood,' that's when you see food and eat it, doesn't matter what it is. That last one is my favorite and probably the most easily understood.
I've been hooked on diet trends for years, conjuring up the latest ideas to boost muscle growth, improve my brain's performance, and get fitter. I've aggressively slimmed down for fun, drank nothing but coffee with butter in the mornings for several weeks (Bulletproof coffees remember those?), and tried fasting for a day just to see what happens (turns out you get dizzy and the world moves in slow motion). I've had a warped sense of eating too much, not enough, and sometimes all the wrong stuff, because you know, even tomatoes can be toxic.
Not everyone is on a journey of discovering which food is their medicine, but I'm glad I went through all of this. I was having fun in the process until my second daughter was born with PKU four years ago. It's a hereditary disease that doesn't allow her body to break down protein properly. It's the only metabolic condition that is treated through diet alone (as far as I know)!
Her diet is low-protein, and she requires a specialized medical dietary supplement that she drinks four times a day to meet her nutritional needs. She'll never tuck into a steak, a piece of tofu, or anything high protein. She has no choice in the matter as eating these foods leads to a toxic build-up of the amino acid phenylalanine in the brain, causing irreparable damage.
If she sticks to the diet and supplements, she'll lead a normal life, but we need to weigh her food, keep track of it daily, take her blood twice and month, and she's regularly denied certain foods while my older daughter happily tucks in.
My older daughter, well, she loves meat and living in Germany means they offer it at school. The meat counters are stocked, and there's an abundance of choice. I've already said that going vegetarian or, even, vegan is a personal choice, and to keep my integrity intact, I've told my daughter it's her choice if she wishes to eat meat or join us in becoming vegetarian. Her going vegetarian would make our life a ton easier, believe me.
The current setup means our meals can be a complex mix of PKU-friendly foods, which are highly processed, a carnivore's delight on the side, and vegetarian. I've cooked three different meals on several occasions, and we stock a variety of foods most people will never hear about from companies like Mevalia and Loprofin. We live in a mini-cosmos of our own where food ideology has no place.
We have a wonderful friend who is vegan, and he'll come over and cook for us. The kids mostly get something else, but he doesn't chastise my daughter for having her ham sandwich. He can talk to her about his choices (and I'm glad he does), but it's still ultimately her choice.
Unfortunately, food ideologies do clash, and then warring tribes can either find a way to co-exist or fight.
A few years back, before the birth of my child with PKU, a close family member was part of a Hindu clan (we're all Christians, FYI) and became a vegetarian with a twist: she didn't eat onions or garlic (I still fail to understand the reasoning for that but religion doesn't always make sense, right?), or eggs.
Initially dumbstruck, we ignored her needs or haphazardly tried to accommodate her. We eventually started making cakes without eggs, had Thanksgiving without a turkey and Christmas without meat. We were all on the same, weird page for a while. What we learned was that the meal brought us together around the table, the contents of that meal didn't matter.
Kids adjust more readily to the reality they are confronted with. We can learn so much from them in that regard, and when I do manage to dish up a meal that we can all share, it feels special, and my younger daughter's eyes light up. There are more vegetables on the table, which is good. Our mantra is to try to eat real, non-processed food, but even that is hard when your child with PKU requires calories. We have to push French fries instead of fresh veg.
If anything, we've grown to learn and accept that being tolerant of someone's food choice is more important than ideology. This was especially important during the Hindu-clan foray, as not accommodating the person would have driven them even further away. None of us wanted that. The family member in question has since left the clan and once again eats meat. Nothing is black and white, people change.
At home with my two kids, there is no room for tolerance in my youngest daughter's diet, so as parents, we have to lead by example and made a small sacrifice. Going vegetarian was was not just about accommodating her needs and feeling the pinch of a dietary restriction; it was a practical choice. There is usually at least one element on the table we can all share. On a deeper level, it allows us, as parents, to be the balancing force between planet PKU and planet omnivore.
The root of our vegetarianism is building a harmonious family. It's also about breeding openness and tolerance about dietary restrictions and personal choice. You may want to call that social justice, but it's not religious and not environmental activism, or we might require our older daughter to be vegetarian.
Sure, movies like Forks Over Knives and Cowspiracy helped strengthen our resolve to stay vegetarian, but faced with the complexities of dietary restrictions in our family has given us a greater capacity for tolerating warring food-ideologies.
Quirky eaters are always welcome at our table. You know who you are.
Email subtext and system, it's all in here.
As a journalist, I've sent thousands of interview requests over the years and wasted countless hours struggling over how to structure them, what to say, and how to say it.
Fashioning these requests used to be time-consuming and frustrating because I wasn't getting any responses. I spent a lot of time writing and sending them out. If you are sending these email requests out cold, you need to start sending more.
As I've said before if you want more interviews send out more request.
I'm going to answer all of that here right after this short disclaimer.
This system is no guarantee that you'll land the interview you want. You can and should develop your approach, but my hope is this will be enough to get you started.
This type of request is suited for when you have time and need to send out a high volume of personalized requests, say, ahead of a conference. If you need a quote for a news story, you'll need to pick up the phone or hit the street.
Actually, pick up the phone and call the person or company you want to speak to first. Don't just write an email to the email@example.com address, and please don't use the 'contact us' form on the website unless you absolutely have to.
But you know what? I like emails, they are lazy and make you feel like you've done a lot. It also means this hermit can avoid speaking to anyone.
If you want to address the email to someone real, you need a real name. The fastest results always happen by finding a real person to message. You can research that on the web or use something like Hunter.io and figure out the person's email. Or if you really want to you can pick up the phone to find out.
Having that someone on the phone will also give you the chance to just set things up on the spot. No need to waste time fashioning that perfect email.
In some cases, because people are busy and like to have a written record of your request, they'll ask you to file something via email. Fine.
So, here's the basic format of your email. It should include these elements:
Dear / Hi [FORMAL OR CASUAL]
Thanks for taking my call earlier. [SCRATCH THIS, IF SENDING OUT COLD]
I'm a journalist writing for [PUBLICATION], [ONE LINE ABOUT PUBLICATION]. Find out more about me in the links below. [INCLUDE LINKS TO PUBLICATION / LINKEDIN / WEBSITE IN YOUR SIGNATURE]
I've been tasked with researching/writing about [SOMETHING BELIEVABLE ABOUT WHY YOU NEED TO SPEAK TO THEM] and seen that [COMPANY/ PERSONS NAME] has [RELEVANT NEWS ITEM]. I'd be interested in speaking with you about [REFER BACK TO THAT GREAT NEWS!].
[WHY THIS IS INTERESTING TO OUR READERS]
[WHY YOU SHOULD CARE]
[INTERVIEW DETAILS / WHEN / HOW MUCH TIME / DEADLINE]. I'll do my best to work around your schedule.
Let me know if that interests you.
Let me start at the end. I usually sign off with my first name. Sometimes I write "best," but I question why the heck I do that, as it doesn't mean anything.
[FORMAL OR CASUAL?]
Back to the beginning. You'll start off with 'Dear so-and-so.' Duh! No, wait. It's not that easy. If I'm writing to Americans I'll usually go for "Dear Jack," so, I'll use the first name.
I could also go for Dear Mr. Dorsey if I want to create distance to the person. Which one is it? It depends on what you want to achieve, and remember that phone call you just made? That'll give you an insight into whether you need to be formal or not. I want to achieve a relaxed atmosphere, so I'll roll on a first-name-basis, even with CEOs and other high-flyers (mostyl).
If I'm writing to someone in public relations, I'll go with first names. I consider us on the same level. I'll be formal with most Germans as its a cultural thing, but even here, things are loosening up.
Now, I'm confident enough to point you to my LinkedIn profile, MuckRack, or website to show you my work. I don't need to spell it out, they'll have the publication your writing for, and once they're done reading the email, they can do their checks. The main thing is, I'm controlling where to send them by providing the links.
In the next section, I pull one little fact about the company from a press release or from somewhere else to show that I've at least looked at the material or researched the topic. This is not some just cookie-cutter email (well, actually it is), but I've just made it far more personal. You need to mention the company name or the exact name of the person you want to talk to. Don't skip that.
[REFER BACK TO THAT GREAT NEWS!]
I also tend to take a recent news item that is positive. People remember you by how you make them feel. Make them feel good and that will put them in the right mood, you'll be non-threatening and they are more likely to respond. Don't flatter, that's a cheap trick. All we're doing here is referring to the positive news they've already communicated. No false flattery here.
Next, tell them about why your readers care to hear from them and then hammer that home by saying exactly why they should care. If you are writing to public relations people, they always want to know what's in it for them.
Public relations specialists get tons of requests and are thinking about malicious media inquiries and how to protect their clients, as PR professional Curtis Sparrer writes. (Dubious Media Inquiries: How Agencies Can Protect Clients)
Tell people in public relations, hey, you're going to reach these 10,000 specialists if your client is mentioned in an article. (If you're at a significant publication everybody knows, you probably don't need this line, but it's good to remind the email recipient how darn important it is to get their name in front of your audience).
Finally, leave them with an option to respond. I tend to use something that, again, speaks to them. "Let me know if that interests you." I'm intentional about not making them commit. A lot of people will ask a question, or be brazen and ask for a timeslot to speak. It's best to leave more detailed planning for the next exchange, that's my thought.
This is a request, not a demand, so being soft here also shows that you are not desperate. Imagine I would have written: "So when would be a great time for an interview?" Sounds like please, please, please find time for me.
Leave the door open just enough so that they feel like they have to commit. People write back to me and say this is not interesting, which then allows me to open up a conversation about what is interesting to them and find a way in.
There is no guarantee that you'll land the interview with this email formula, but taking the time to think about the purpose of each line in your email in this way, will show that you care and may undoubtedly increase your odds of an answer, even if they politely decline.
What this is, is a template. You can tweak and use this email and send out ten requests, and then you'll get a few responses to work with. That's pretty got for 30 minutes of work.
If there is no response in a week, resend the email and say: "Hey, I know things get busy, and your inbox is flooded, so I'm just pushing this email up in the queue. Have you had a chance to think about my request?"
I sometimes have running tabs on people I've been trying to speak to and will send them the same email with a similar update three or four times until someone answers. I'll take no for an answer, but I won't accept silence. Use a tool like Boomerang for Gmail to be intentional about those reminders.
Before I head to a conference or trade fair, I don't always have time to call each person or company, and then I plug in what I need into the template.
The opener and lead-in will stay the same. Al you have to do is substitute the name of the person at the top and the company or person's name in the second line once you've worked out a few other details.
The main thing is you've put a minimum amount of thought into your approach, personalized it just enough in this way and then just run with it. Don't beat yourself up if nothing comes back. If you really want a response just remember most people are just a phone call away.
If you like what you read and got something out of it sign-up for my newsletter with more content to help you improve your career, hone your journalism skills and keep up-to-date with what’s going on in the journalism field. You’ll also get access to The Journalist., an exclusive platform links you with other professional journalists, tailor-made live content, training and a chance to deepen your network. Sign-up here.