Learning responsiblity is hard

Published 6:54 am Monday, August 20, 2007

By Staff
I read an interesting bit of information on Thursday that really got me to thinking about responsibility.
I like to think that I am a responsible, and trustworthy, news reporter. I do my best to get the information right when working on a story. If an official person asks me not to print something, I try to avoid printing the information or the tid-bit they've revealed.
I realize that I sometimes work my mouth when I should be working my brain. I've said things I didn't mean to say in many conversations. I'm not known for keeping secrets very well. If I am guilty of these indiscretions, I realize other people may be as well.
I have mentioned to many people that I have interviewed that I want to be on their side if at all possible. You can bet if the item makes a good story, I'll opt for being their enemy if necessary. Luckily, I haven't had that happen - yet.
I do my best to report the news like it happens. Getting information concerning a story is sometimes difficult and even sometimes impossible.
The little story I mentioned reading on Thursday had to do with a man who served as a public relations person with some firm. He mentioned that a story he wanted to have reported was blown out of the water by a mistake of his own making. He did an interview with a reporter about an important event that was to be published two days following the interview. He created a press release and provided the release to other media sources in his area. Well, for some reason, the reporter's story didn't make the edition as he planned and had been pushed back a day. With the press release hitting the news wires a day before the story published, the interview became useless to the reporter and the story never appeared in print. The release had damaged the story beyond repair and the company lost a good piece of free publicity.
Too many times I have seen that very thing happen. There have been times I have had a story die because I was unable to get the information from an official because I wasn't able to find them or get in touch with them at all.
I have, on many occasions, left messages for officials only to have the call unanswered. I never know why the calls aren't returned. It is possible that someone failed to relay the message or the official simply didn't check their voice mail. Either way, many stories I have tried to report on have died because I couldn't get information confirmed.
In this line of business, there is a need to get the information straight from the horse's mouth, so to speak. I have the information many times because of what I have seen or heard from pretty reliable sources. However, without confirmation from officials to back up the information, the story dies.
In a perfect world, policeman, sheriffs, lawyers and business officials would be sitting by their phone just waiting for me to call. I know we don't live in a perfect world, but it's nice to dream.
At the very least, it would be nice if someone, somewhere would let me know when, or even if, I can expect a return call from officials I try to reach. I have a deadline to make and it's impossible to wait forever for a phone call to confirm a story.
I appreciate the cooperation that I currently receive from area officials, but sometimes it leaves a little to be desired. I realize they are busy and can't make a phone call to me just because I need that call. I know that when there is a prison break, a drug bust or an indictment handed down, I'm not the first one on their &#8220to call” list.
I hope the officials in this area will remember that I am here and notice the flashing red light on their message machine. I will continue to do my best to report a story fairly and accurately. However, my ability to do that rests in their hands.
Lisa Tindell is a news reporter for The Brewto Standard. She can be reached by email at lisa.tindell@brewtonstandard.com.