Monday, March 03, 2008

It's Monday morning and I haven't blogged for over a week. Conditions at work for the last two weeks have been challenging and coming home and trying to come up something interesting for readers of this blog has been a task I've not taken.

However I'm home this week finishing the Springfield postcard book, so my goal is to blog each day.

I like writing about the media and what goes on because no one in this market does that. I know I question what I do and what my staff does all the time. The pressure of trying to put out newspaper products that are original, more complete and, hopefully, compelling is one that bears down on me all the time.

I just don't want to go through the paces and I see so many of our colleagues/competitors in this market do just that.

For instance, I hate the "man in the street" interviews that have become a staple of television news here. Take any topic, go to the Wal-Mart parking lot, find people who have the fewest teeth and ask them their opinion on a subject they don't know much about. Their answers don't provide any insight. They just fill time. And it's cheap.

That isn't news.

In fact, watching how the majority of television reporters work most of the time – there are exceptions – what people see as "news" on television barely qualifies as such. TV reporters are notorious for arriving late at a story staying for a short length of time and then leaving before the event concludes.

I wonder just what is the point other than providing an advertising vehicle.

Anyway, here's more behind the scenes stuff.

Here's another episode of backstage at the newspaper and why I'm grey and can't find a cure for my stress.

No one in journalism school ever tells young reporters about the need to acquire the ability to wait. Yes, interviewing, note taking and headline writing are all subjects one must master to make it in this business, but waiting is another.

Patience isn't just a virtue in this business, it's a requirement.

You have learn how to make a dozen calls to a dozen people for a dozen stories because writing stories is like trolling for fish. You have to cast your net wide. That's because sometimes the fish ain't biting.

You wait for those call backs, and wait and wait some more. The boss might think you're goofing off, but you're not.

It's always good to have a messy desk in this business to confuse the boss who might come snooping as well as having a couple of notebooks opened to scrawled pages. Rustle the papers, scowl at your notes, rinse and repeat until the supervisor has moved on to torture someone else.

Sincere disclaimer: Reminder Publications honcho Dan Buendo has never done this to me. Really. I've been in this business a long time and have worked for some true beauties. Dan is not among those.

Inevitably the person who calls you back first is the person you need the least. Because you're on the phone with that person you miss the call of the folks you really need. Now it's time for the second round of calls and staying a while in voicemail limbo.

It's rumored that reporters get some sort of karmic dispensation for all of the time we spend in voicemail. I certainly hope so.

A basic rule of thumb is the greatest demand to speak to an elected official about something is correlated with their lack of availability. Sometimes they're not ducking you, but sometimes they are.

And another real world rule is that elected officials basically only want to talk about things that benefit them. So you can't be surprised if they really don't want to comment about some screaming match they had with a city councilor. It's human nature, but as an elected official they are supposed to be accountable and candid about such matters.

That's right, this is "Zen and the Art of Reporting."

Today, I'm dashing out this column in sheer panic, thanks to the Finance Control Board in Springfield gotta make those deadlines, folks. I think I could easily gather up a tar and feather mob out of the reporters who were patiently waiting for the Thursday meeting to start.

Scheduled for 12:30 p.m. for the speak-out portion, the show didn't start until nearly 3 p.m. City Clerk Wayman Lee had the thankless task of conveying the periodic messages to the people waiting for the meeting that it would be conducted in another 30 minutes, 45 minutes, 15 minutes, etc.

Now Ray Hershel of ABC40, the acknowledged dean of the Springfield press corps although perhaps Sy Becker at TV22 could also have that title marshaled up all of his considerable influence and asked the minions if the FCB could give us a reasonable idea of when they would start and if they could talk about the juicy stuff first, such as School Superintendent Joe Burke and how the School Committee seems to think they are a force unto their own.

Even Ray couldn't move them. I thought sending in John "Binky" Baibak of WHYN for a second attempt would only irritate the beast. We would only use Binky in extreme cases.

So we chatted among ourselves, went to lunch and talked more with the folks waiting to speak.

Finally the FCB convened the meeting with a sincere apology from the chair, Christopher Gabrieli.

Now this isn't the first time the FCB has held up a meeting by having a closed-door executive session before the public meeting and I suspect it won't be the last. I just hope they appreciate the test they are giving us.

© 2008 by Gordon Michael Dobbs


dogboy443 said...

A Blog-A-Day keeps all of your worries away...unless it's got a big pussie eye staring at ya!

Tommy said...

I too lament V-Mag, and by the way, the Coolidge door has since been moved to the Coolidge Museum at the Forbes Library.