Allow me again to express my gratitude to the people who work for our fine government and do their jobs well and efficiently and knowledgably and gracefully.
Now, let me address the other 99% of you.
These days, as part of my new role as a special assignment reporter, I have much more sustained and repeated contact with government officials in various offices at various levels. It has shaved at least 2.4 years off my life. But because it would be rude to YELL INTO THE PHONE and physically impossible to kick every one of these no good, incompetent, tax payer funded people in the shins, I have to funnel my frustration into politely crafted emails.
The stories we work on now require a lot more digging, pressing, un-earthing, fact-finding, clarifying, records reviewing, calling government offices and asking for public records, pointing out errors, asking pointed questions, probing, and almost daily conversations with multiple information gate-keepers.
Many are "public information officers" in name only. Their titles really ought to be "public information stoppers." Not only do a frightening number of them seem clueless about the organizations for which they are the mouthpiece, they have this attitude that screams, "I am busy pushing pencils around and twiddling my thumbs, how dare you call and ask me to actually do work for the public good?"
But what gets me all hot and bothered and RIGHTEOUS is the fact I'm a professional question asker with a responsibility to get answers and to explain the truth and to tell a balanced story with accurate details that will interest, engage, and educate my viewers. If I'm getting stonewalled day in and day out, what snowball's chance in a Phoenix summer does the regular Joe and Jane Q. Public have to get answers when they have questions? That's the part that PISSES me off and only makes me want to dig in further.
Oh, and the part when the PIO says, "This is really not a story." "You're being manipulated." "This is totally someone who's using you." "We're not interested in joining the media zoo on this issue."
First of all, it's a circus, not a zoo. Secondly, in the 15 minutes you spent trying to intimidate me and bully me into thinking this isn't a story is 15 minutes you could've spent finding the answers to my questions and dismissing the issue. Facts speak so much louder than verbose and emotional denials. And really, all your blustering just makes me think there's something more there that you're trying to hide. Like the fact you can't do math or find records or get the answers to even the simplest of questions.
I so wish I could teach a PIO course on how to be a smart and effective PIO. Don't get me wrong, I know there's a time and place to provide information and a time to keep certain things under wraps. And public entities have a much different standard to adhere to than private companies.
But the way so many public agency PIOs operate truly astounds me. How do these people maintain their jobs? Or sleep at night? Oh I know, it's because they're making 94K a year! Just for fun I consulted the public salary database to see how much some of these incompetent "exceptional" public information officers make, and 17 hairs immediately turned gray on my head. Yes. 6 figure salaries for public employees who know nothing about how to effectively manage and distribute information about the agencies they represent. I love you California, but this shiz has to stop.
I'm working on a new approach. Email and call, keep it simple, and frequent. And make it clear if the agency refuses to comment or doesn't offer any information. We're not glossing over it anymore. You will be called out.
My new mantra: what would Anna Werner do?