Friday, June 01, 2007

The wait: a true reporter's complaint

Man I was tired last night -- not unlike many other hard workers out there. But I think the weariness was a little different from usual, and it certainly was not because of running all over town to track down shootings and stabbings.

It's because I had to sit and wait. And reporter's just don't like to do that.

Big news of the day: Mayor Cedric Glover named Col. Henry Whitehorn as his choice for Shreveport's next police chief. But the announcement was delayed for longer than we (The Times and other local media practitioners) had imagined.

Reporters and photographers from most of the local TV and radio stations and no less than three Times staffers showed up at a 3 p.m. press conference at the mayor's office where the city's 14 summer interns were introduced. I felt a little sorry for these college students because it became pretty evident that most of us weren't there to hype them up. Only two reporters (including myself) asked any questions about their internships.

The third reporter's question asked when the day's major announcement would come. Glover kept it vague with "today."

It happened about five hours later. The majority of us camped outside the mayor's office until about 6 p.m., when they advised us of the nighttime press conference.

There, the same reporter mentioned earlier asked about the lag. The mayor, ever the wordsmith, slyly shot back: "We work very long hours here at the Glover administration."

I held my gripe for the most part until I pulled the mayor off to the side. I'm sure Glover wasn't thinking I'd come to this conclusion from our conversation, but here goes: We humans (and sometimes journalists particularly) can be seriously self-centered. It seemed our focus was on how inconvenient it was for us to have to wait on information to present to the public.

What we may have overlooked was that the mayor was calling the 17 chief applicants who didn't make the final cut.

"I wanted them to hear it from me... and not somebody else," Glover told me.

Now I'm in this business that prides itself on being a bastion of free speech, so I love being the vehicle for important information. But I think I probably would have appreciated that call from the boss that was turning me down.

Of course the mayor also had to wait for Whitehorn to drive up from Baton Rouge, where he was sitting through the Legislature's tedious appropriations process. I guess he could've walked out of the Capitol, but then we reporters would've complained about that, too.

We weren't the only folks waiting and asking. I know Caddo Sheriff Steve Prator bugged the mayor's staffers, too. He said he told them he had "a vested interest" in the person who was chose, but apparently that didn't work either.

Couldn't they have just set a time later in the day and told us to show up? The Legislature's schedule can be unpredictable, I know, but they wouldn't have had to told us why it was so late. We would've asked why, of course.

I suppose the lesson to us all, sheriffs and reporters alike, is that sometimes you just have to wait for it.

But I think we'll probably still complain. How else would we come up with stories to tell?


Anonymous said...

I dont think asking someone for a more definite time for the press conference is complaining...for an administration that has waited so long for this announcement to begin with, it seems you would want to be sure you get it right on the day of. Five hours is WAY too long. Doesnt The Times have hungry interns to sit and wait and make a call down the street when the time comes?

Kathryn Usher said...

I know what you mean. Was it air conditioned where you had to wait? Because the last big wait I had was outside of Barksdale Air Force Base on September 11, 2001 for President Bush... that guy took forever to get here... and then the nerve, they wouldn't even let the media on the base.

Anonymous said...

the media eh Kathryn?

Adam Kealoha Causey said...

Oh, anonymous, don't be so tough on the interns! Their work and experience is important.

And, hey, Kathryn. We were at Government Plaza, so it was air conditioned. But what do you mean about an Air Force base not being media friendly? ;)