Readers’ corner 7/27/07
Listening to our police reporter on the phone on a recent afternoon, I was reminded how hard it sometimes is to get information.
I can imagine that people who have never worked in a newsroom think the job of reporter is a cushy one. They look into something, write about it and it gets in the paper. How hard can it be, right?
But getting information is not always an easy task.
Earlier this week our public safety reporter, Robyn Moormeister, was trying to find out if Placer County murder suspect Paul Kovacich had been released on bail, and if so, what the bail amount was.
The problem: A gag order on the case.
As I edited stories next to Robyn, I heard her call the Placer County Sheriff’s public information officer. Her voicemail said she was on a two-week vacation. No replacement person or number was given. Robyn called back to the Sheriff’s Department, asking who she could talk to since the PIO was gone.
“Her cell phone number is on her voicemail,” a clerk said. “No, it isn’t, I just listened,” Robyn said. “Yes, it is, I’ll give you her voicemail,” the clerk said.
No cell phone number was given. It may have been there before, but the PIO had wisely decided to leave it off her vacation message.
Next she called the jail and was told he was not in jail. No other information was given.
Robyn called the court clerk. She is in court all day, unavailable.
She called Kovacich’s parents, who live in Auburn. An elderly woman said, “I don’t have anything to do with it. Don’t call me on these matters.” Click.
Kovacich’s attorney’s office would not put Robyn through to the attorney and had whomever answered the phone confirm that Kovacich was out on bail. “Was the bail
$1.5 million?” Robyn asked. “I can’t tell you that,” the woman said.
This wasn’t a quick exercise, either.
I could feel Robyn’s frustration as she made call after call, determined to get this small bit of information for her story. Unwilling to give up, Robyn just kept making phone calls.
Did Robyn find out eventually? Yes, after a relentless pursuit. Are all reporters that tenacious? Probably not.
This is how it works. A reporter calls, say, a city, wanting to do a personality profile of a city worker. They are quickly connected to the person they’re looking for.
But when a reporter calls a city and wants to do a story on something unflattering or controversial, forget it. It can mean lots of voicemail, calls not returned, roadblocks thrown up. Everyone’s “in a meeting.”
That happens in the community, too. Our city editor, Trina Kleist, has been calling one local Realtor often, wanting information on a story about the lack of housing sales. No return phone call.
After weeks of that, she receives a call from said Realtor. Was she finally returning her weeks of phone calls? No, she wanted to “suggest” a story on a great new housing development.
Dixie Redfearn can be reached at 477-4238 or by e-mail at email@example.com, or by fax at 477-4292.
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