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Lily Allen vs. The New York Times

February 27, 2009

I have a soft spot for Lily Allen. I like her music. I like her attitude. She says what’s on her mind without much of a barrier. It’s refreshing for someone to be real in a world where ‘media training’ has rock stars, athletes and actors always saying the polite and safe thing.
The New York Times recently ran a profile piece on Lily which ran the day after her latest album was released. While the New York Times is generally considered one of the classiest news organizations in the world, some of the unused photos that they took for the profile in her apartment, ended up in trash mag OK!. The detailed account of what happened was revealed by Lily in her latest blog post, which is posted after the jump. Is the Times turning classless to make a buck in a down economy?

February 27, 2009 – Friday 
The New York Time are cheap skanks


So, something has been really bugging me and I have to get it off my chest. A few months ago Ambrosia my press agent and friend called me very excited saying the New York Times asked if they could do a piece about me for the cover of their Arts section. It goes without saying The New York Times is an incredibly prestigious publication , so of course we were all very excited at the prospect. The plan was that a NYT reporter would fly in from New York, hang out at my house for a little while do the bulk of the interview there, to make it feel more relaxed and then we’d go out for dinner after. The reporter could not have been more lovely, she was called Milena and she did indeed come over to the house, I showed her round, she helped me pick out my outfit ( an ISSA patterned all in one, louboutins, hoop earrings just in case you were wondering) . Then she got out her Dictaphone, we did an interview for an hour, hour and a half and then went out for dinner. We went to this restaurant called the Wolsley and ordered a bottle of wine Iwasn’t really drinking at the time , but I was having so much fun with Milena and I felt so relaxed and chilled I decided to let my barriers down a little. Anyway, we ate diner, I had Wiener Schnitzel she had Duck and we shared a pickled cucumber salad thing , some friends dropped by for a drink at the end of the meal , it was a lovely evening. I actually left Milena with my friend Louis in the end, as I had to go and meet someone else for another previously arranged dinner, I knew she was in London alone and she and Louis seemed to get along so I felt happy leaving her in his care. I gave Milena my email address and contact details and said if she thought of anything else she needed for her article all she need do is ask, and I bid them both farewell . Thinking back , I did feel a little awkward about her paying for dinner, but she insisted. 

Earlier on in the day a photographer whose name escapes me came round to the house to take a picture to accompany the NYT piece, they wanted one picture of me in my home setting. Seeing as the piece was so intimate and the biggest part of the interview had been conducted at my house. It is unusual for me to allow photographers into my home but these seemed like special circumstances and after all TNYT is one of the most respected news publications in the world. 

The article came out little over a month ago and it was great, a really nice piece with a picture of me sat on my sofa, on the cover of the arts section.

The next time I saw Milena was in New York a couple of weeks ago, I played a gig at the Bowery Ballroom and had an after party at the Spotted Pig, we had a drink and I thanked her for the article as it was very complimentary ,it’s not often people write nice things about me. 
Now I want to be clear, this has nothing to do with Milena she is a reporter and that is all. The reason what I’m about to tell you is so hurtful is because I had a really nice time with her and I feel that I will only ever feel badly about that day in London from now on . 

When you read magazines such as NOW, People ,US weekly, Heat, More etc they print pictures that they buy from other magazines for instance, I’ll do a shoot and an interview with SPIN magazine or Observer Music Monthly and they might syndicate those pictures or sell them to other magazines. These magazines will then print those pictures alongside a whole bunch of quotes lifeted from previous interviews. This can be incredibly misleading and tedious as I would never sit down and do an interview with most of the tabloidy magazines. I’ve been trying t clamp down on this more recently, and now, when I do a photo shoot , I get the magazine to sign a contract saying they wont syndicate the photographs without my consent. I don’t do this because im a snob, it’s more because the more credible magazines are unlikely to take me seriously and work with me if it looks like I’ve been doing interviews with whoever will listen. 

Now, last week, when I was in LA I got this email from Murray Chalmers , who does my press in the UK
“this is exactly why i want everyone to use photo contracts! i dont know who these at home pics were done for but they have been sold to OK which is a pain in the arse as it looks like we have done OK…”

there was then a link to OK’s website with the tagline “ World Exclusive, At home with Lily Allen”. Needless to say I was mortified, in fact I was in tears, 6 photos of inside my home for everyone to see, and a made up interview that was very misleading. All this because I’d let the NYT photographer into my home. I was furious and got on the phone immediately.

I assumed we had one of these contracts in place, but the American PR agency assured me the NYT have an unwritten agreement with the PR’s and nothing like this has ever happened before, they were as upset and angry as I am. 

In the end I got an apology from OK,but the NYT refuse to accept what they have done is morally wrong. Everybody assures me this is completely unheard of for the NYT to act in such a cheap and disgusting way.

I found this on an email trail, its an explanation from the NYT

I am sorry to say that we have no record or recollection of your client
or her representatives ever requesting any restriction on our
exploitation of the photographs. Indeed, it is not our general policy
to accede to such restrictions, so it is certainly not something we
would have agreed to without a written agreement confirming such

As the copyright owner of thousands of photographs, a significant part
of our business, like most news organizations, is the syndication of
photos to third parties. This is very standard in the news business and
I’m sorry that it comes as a surprise to your client. Under the
circumstances, we are unable to provide you with the assurances you have

I do hope, however, that our correspondence sheds some light on this
issue for your client’s future arrangements.

Uuuuurrggh , so patronizing, and gross. The world has become a dark place when The New York Times considers OK magazine to be “the news business”. Sorry if that made for tedious reading but, I think the NYT have behaved really badly and I wanted to vent . It’s one thing posing for a picture fro TNYT and wholly another letting OK into your house, and I didn’t even get paid ☹

Lil x 

I asked a publicist that I work with regularly for his take on this situation.  His response was as follows…

Saw that and wasn’t totally surprised. While I wouldn’t have asked the nytimes to sign anything either, generally, you should. We certainly would never have expected them to sell to OK. I’ve never had them sell anything they’ve taken for me to anyone… 

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