Tuesday, October 24, 2006
"Hi, my name is Steve," the caller begins. "I got your number from Reporter Q."
At this point, I'm still thinking it may be the desk, though I wondered why they had to get my number from a reporter - I put my contact information at the top of every story I send in.
The caller continues: "I wanted to know when the follow-up of the Robert Boyer story was going to run - will it be in tomorrow's paper?"
I open my mouth but nothing comes out. Is this a reader calling my cell phone?
"I was looking for the story in today's paper, but I didn't see it. It'll be in Saturday, though, right?"
All of the air escapes my body as I realize this is, indeed, a reader calling my personal cell phone. I sit up straight and explain to the reader that the story ran in the West Bay section, not on the front page like the initial story. I tell him how to access the story online and he thanks me for my help.
I hang up and I look at the phone in disbelief. Did he really say a reporter gave my number to him?
In my mind, there are just some things you don't do in the newsroom. One is eat another person's lunch. Another is give out personal information to people outside of the company. I give my cell phone number sparingly to sources - I'd much rather take theirs - partly because I pay the bill and partly because once I leave the office, I want to leave my job there. I'm on call if the paper needs me, but every Tom, Dick, or Harry does not need 24 hour access to me.
On Monday, I shoot an e-mail to the reporter the caller told me gave him the number.
I got a phone call on my cell Friday night from a reader asking about a follow-up story to the Robert Boyer arrest. He told me you'd given him my phone number. I know you were bogged down with Station fire sentencing Friday and probably just gave him the first number you had for me. I try not to give out my cell phone to many people because it's a long distance call for them and because it's not a company phone. In the future, unless it's an emergency, please only provide my office number to anyone outside of the company.
Reporter Q responds:
I thought this was a pretty important phone call and that he should be able to reach you immediately. If you want your non-work numbers to be kept private from everyone, I think you need to make that known to (the Deputy Managing Editor) and she can make a note of that in our internal system. Most of us have listed phone numers so people can get a hold of us in case of emergency. The person who called you had no problem making a long-distance call.
Maybe I was overreacting, but it felt like the reporter trying to cyber punk me. I've made a concious effort to not be the stereotypical "angry black woman" in the newsroom. And this really wasn't that big of a deal to cause a big fuss. So I wrote back, saying that maybe the caller miscommunicated his purpose to her because what he wanted from me wasn't what I'd call "pretty important." I told her I'd speak to the proper people to make that notation about my phone number on the internal list.
I have no problem being accessible. I know that it's my job to be on call 24 hours a day. I've walked out of clubs, dipped out of dinner or otherwise stopped what I'm doing to take a call from the desk or from my editor. I don't mind that. I've even gotten a few evening calls from the police chief to tell me about something coming down the pipeline - giving me a heads up. Great, I appreciate it.
But this situation didn't fit in either of those categories; it was a reader wanting to know when a story ran.
The call couldn't have gone to my desk? Ya'll couldn't handle that in the office instead of sending him to call me at 8 p.m.? Am I wrong in thinking that it's not only journalistically uncouth, but just plain inconsiderate to give out unlisted reporter's numbers to readers?
What do you think? continue...