Thursday, November 17, 2011

Trying to break into the Pentagon

There are a few things I miss about being a beat reporter.
While it's nice to be able to stay in my pajamas to do interviews when it's snowing or raining outside, I miss some of the perks.
For instance, when you announce to a source that you're a reporter for a major paper, they sit up and take notice. There's an inborn fear of real reporters.
You sometimes get the runaround but in the end you can usually convince the secretary, the assistant or the vice-president that you need to get through to a live person.
Sometimes the threat of using GRAMA is needed (that's the Government Records Access Management Act that tells sources they have to release information the public has a right to know).
Me interviewing magical kids
Working on my own I find I have a little less clout.
I can wheedle, whine and nag but in the end, people just have to decide to be nice or not based on how their day is going and whether they feel inclined to help me.
Right now, I'm trying to get information out of the Department of Commerce and the Pentagon.
Neither wants to be very forthcoming although the Pentagon people get more points than the Commerce folk.
I call up and ask for Public Affairs and they give me Human Resources which then passes me back to Public Affairs when I ask my questions. I spend a lot of wasted time in the loop.
And I'm not asking for anything big, just a couple of phone numbers for people involved with the recent renovations.
You'd think I was asking for classified stuff.
No one knows the answer to my question or can help or knows anyone who can help.
I've gone round and round for a couple of weeks here.
I'll keep trying because I also know that pestering usually works. People will call me back just to get me to stop leaving messages.
But I miss the good old days when I was scary.

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