If you’re not involved in the media, you might be surprised, at times, how civilised it all is. On many stories, I know the outline facts: so my job involves calling press offices to elicit comment. No edge: no personality since, after all, I and they are just doing our jobs.
I ring. I explain. I follow thru with e-mail. Sorted.
Of course, the answer I get won’t always be a STRAIGHT answer. Government and Police press officers are past masters at spin and obfuscation. But then, that’s their job, just as it is my job not to believe a word the lying wotsits tell me.
Then there are local government press offices. And corporate ones. I won’t even start on the latter, as they frequently drive me to contemplate serious violence. But local government suffer in several ways. First, they are used to dealing with micro-stories about drains and bins and other council stuff. They are also used to local press with weekly deadlines…so they don’t seem terribly well adapted to dealing with national stories or national press.
And they also seem, at times, to be little more than outposts of customer services.
Right now, I am following up on a national story involving several local councils. It is not helped by the fact that about half the councils took an extra day off yesterday and, unlike national government, did not see fit to make an out of hours number available for press queries. Strike one.
Today, however, I had to deal with a press office from Hell (the clue to the location is in the title…. sounds like…).
Anyway, first there was the switchboard, that wouldn’t put me through to the PRESS reception until I’d given enough detail. Then the press reception that wouldn’t put me thru to a press officer until I’d explained a bit more. And in the end they never did. So I am left sending an e-mail and hoping someone at that council unddrstands that filing copy today means, er, TODAY.
But worst of all was the rudery by reception. I am now used to conversations going: “Hi, my name is Jane Fae”.
The slower on the uptake then follow thru with a second “James?”, which feels wholly unnecessary. The first I understand and am OK with. I speak quietly and it is natural not to wish to start calling a bloke “Jane”. The second seems overkill.
Oh. But today’s receptionist wasn’t convinced with two: he tried again. Worse. Far worse was the note of incredulity in his voice, like: it just couldn’t possibly be possible that someone with a blokish and slightly husky voice could be called Jane.
All I can say is it’s a good thing it wasn’t yesterday. I think I am a bit more up…a bit less hormonal today.
Yesterday…he’d have known about it in no uncertain terms!