I imagine that many of you will have heard of or may even know Helen and Simon Berriman.
The Berrimans are a U.K. couple who actively promote naturism and have appeared in numerous print publications, on the radio and on television discussing and demystifying the naturist lifestyle.
I recently read an article in the Substack blog The Naturism Community by Jillian Page, called Do we still need to shout it from the rooftops? In which the author noted an article about the Berrimans and made the following comments.
So, my first question: How did the original source get this story? Did the couple approach them and say, “Hey, look at us!”?
Because there is a certain “flaunting it” feel to the report. OK, I’ll just come right out and say it: I felt there was an element of exhibitionism with the report.
But more important for any serious editor, I think, is: Why are we running this story? As Helen herself says: no one pays much attention to their nakedness. So, why should readers care?
Now I like a lot of what Jillian writes and the blog does make a valid point. For many readers there may be a “So What” element in response to the story.
I suspect it is the same for naturists/nudists, too — even if the liberating news is met with yawns. The latter is a good thing. Those yawns and “so whats” should be seen as a measure of acceptance by society.
And that’s really what naturists/nudists want of society: to be accepted to the point where it is a non-issue.
Having said all that, part of me was uncomfortable with the suggestion that the Berrimans had sought out the publicity. Emma and I met Simon and Helen on our recent trip to the U.K. and the idea that they were attention-seeking or even exhibitionists didn’t sit well with me.
To put my mind at rest, I emailed Simon and asked about the article, and his response was as I had anticipated.
Helen was approached by a journalist from a news agency, who interviewed her and asked if we had supporting images. This article was then made available for media outlets to pick up and run. What we didn't appreciate was just how many outlets would pick it up! In the UK, the Metro, Mirror, Mail, and Sun all ran the same article as was picked up by the NYP.
The original news article missed the opportunity to mention the naturism advocacy work that Simon and Helen do, a context that may have changed the tone of the piece to be less salacious.
Simon mentioned that the wide distribution and the largely negative responses to the article have had an impact on the couple and their family, and he might be writing a reply.
While Jillian writes that there may be an attitude of “So what” in society about frequent articles on nudity, and asks do we still need to shout it from the rooftops. I feel that it is important that we do. It may be a non-issue in countries like Canada, but given the hostile and frankly ignorant responses to the article from readers just across the border in the U.S., there are still many countries that are yet to treat simply nudity with indifference. The response in many parts of the world is indignation and in some cases hostility.
It is a fair criticism that the news article was poorly written, inadequately researched and an example of lazy clickbait writing that seems to permeate the media these days. We must be careful not to allow poor journalism to taint the tireless work that the Berrimans and many others do to promote healthy naturism.
It is also critical that we call out examples of poor representation of the naturist philosophy in the media. Many people reading such articles may form inaccurate impressions of naturism, or it may reinforce already held flawed beliefs.
Several reports in recent months would suggest that naturism is on the rise, thanks perhaps to lockdowns and working from home. There are reports that naturist clubs are struggling and seem unable to recruit new members, but this may be due to other factors than the popularity of naturism generally.
If the interest in naturism is on the rise, then naturists should do everything we can to support those who promote the philosophy and help hold to account the media articles that misrepresent or damage the brand.
We also need to own up, when opportunities arise, to following the naturist philosophy. The more people that keep their naturist interests a secret, the harder it is for people considering naturism to get involved.
“If you believe in a cause, be willing to stand up for that cause with a million people or by yourself.” (Otis S. Johnson)
Thank you for reading, have a comfortable day.
These two paragraphs are spot on. :)
"It is a fair criticism that the news article was poorly written, inadequately researched and an example of lazy clickbait writing that seems to permeate the media these days. We must be careful not to allow poor journalism to taint the tireless work that the Berrimans and many others do to promote healthy naturism."
"It is also critical that we call out examples of poor representation of the naturist philosophy in the media. Many people reading such articles may form inaccurate impressions of naturism, or it may reinforce already held flawed beliefs."
You make a good point about not letting sub-standard journalism taint the story it is telling. It is a sad fact - in the UK at least - that newspapers generally and local papers in particular have been in free fall for years. Changes in society loosened the bonds of “locality” in forming communities; smaller circulations meant less advertising so less revenue (ad revenue has always funded the press); and the internet administered the coup de grace. Local journalists are too often unworthy of the title, getting little or no training in writing or understanding what is news and how to gather it.
Sorry, got into rant mode there. My former profession is not what it used to be.
Anyway, the result is bad writing badly presented, but as readers we need to see through that to the real story underneath. Sadly, while we can do that on subjects about which we have an understanding it is harder to achieve when the story is new to us; thus we have to accept that people who don’t know about naturism will, indeed, get distorted ideas about us from sloppy journalism, and we have to be ready to call it out and put things straight.