Thursday, August 09, 2007

Argh. Bleh. This happened again last night.

I attended a meeting last night about getting Bristol (the center and largest town of my beat) involved in a certain federal health care program*. I recognized about half a dozen of the 20-30 people in the room. One of those half a dozen was a member of the largest school board in my beat, who also works at the same place as my mother and knows her pretty well. I don't think I've ever complained about that dual relationship because I don't think I've ever had to quote him; fine, I didn't have to here either. Afterwards, though, I went up to one of the women who had led the meeting, and when I introduced myself, she gushed about how great it was to finally meet me. At first I thought, "Someone reads the paper and notices my byline? Wow," but it turned out that she was happy to meet me because she has heard about me from my parents. She's the school board member's wife or something; they don't have the same last name and I didn't pry.

Sure, I know people and they know me. Wow, how horrible. And it's not like there's a genuine danger to professionalism here; it's almost always** a distant relationship. My parents' former co-worker, a kid whose guidance counselor is my mother — as the risk of conflicting loyalties go, compared to working with some bureaucrat or town official for years as a source, this is nothing. It's not like my job gets in the way of my parents talking candidly with me, either. They already took school confidentiality rules pretty seriously; two years ago they would talk to me about what caused the headache of the day at work, but they would be careful to leave out any names or sensitive details, and today the only real difference is that they add reminders that it's not for publication.

But it's damn annoying when I want to get a few simple facts out of someone for a news story and call it a night, but first I have to figure out how to respond to hearing that she already has heard so much about me, and my parents are so proud, and would I like to go to the party they're having on Saturday***?

* Treat this as an example of how idiosyncratic reporting can be: Sen. Bernie Sa/nders was at the meeting, is at least moderately involved with the federal program, and he did most of the talking that night, or at least, more than anyone else. He will probably be the news hook. But all that's worth blogging about is my mother's co-worker's wife.

** Looking back to write this post, though, I was surprised to see I never blogged about the one time I quoted my father in an article. There was a fire at his school, and the reporter who usually covers that region was on vacation that week so it fell into my lap. I got most of the story done by talking to other people, but I still had to quote him on one detail and refer to him on another. That wasn't fun.

*** I probably will, for what it's worth. My parents had invited me last weekend and I had been wavering, and this incident may have been annoying, but reminded me that it probably would be good for me and all that.

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