Suspicious Package: Slow News Day

2:44 PM, Feb 13, 2011   |    comments
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You probably already know this, but this point is worth restating:  TV reporters aren't necessarily welcomed wherever they go.  Here's an example from an encounter I had last month at the state capitol.  It's complete with a video re-enactment, embedded at the bottom of this post.

First, let's set the scene.  I'm producing a story that we in the news business call a "followup," or an "update."  It's a story first reported days or weeks or months ago, revisited by your friendly neighborhood TV news professional.

Now a lot of folks may think my staff sets up this stuff while I apply makeup and hairspray.   I ain't got no staff. I gotta make it happen.

I go to the office of a member of the Georgia General Assembly, a behind the scenes player I'd never met  before.  I'm in his office because he hasn't returned my phone calls.

He's standing in his office.  I introduce myself, and he greets me with a look that can only be described as a sneer.

"How can I help you?" he says with sneering contempt.

I explain to him that I'm pursuing a story updating a situation that made a lot of news in his district several months ago.  My pitch is persuasive.  My logic is flawless.

He retorts with the following:

"Why you wanna dredge up that mess again?  We ain't interested in that no more.  That's in the past."

Then he follows with this classic.

"Why, it must be a sloooow news day."  And then he chuckles heartily.

Why does he chuckle?  Because that line "it must be a slow news day" is widely regarded as the cleverest and most dismissive thing you can say when a persuasive and flawlessly logical newsman comes a-calling to pursue a story.

I left that guy's office without even asking him for an interview.  Instead, I did the story without his input.  And I left his office with every bit of the respect I had when I walked in.

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