Why are you here?
I’ve been writing a sporadic series of stories about unemployment during the recession, and to continue that I headed to Albany Thursday to write about a new job-training program.
One of the state Labor Department PR folks greeted me warmly, by name, as soon as I stepped out of my car. (And you know how I am with names.) Then she said, trying for a casual tone, “So ... why are you here?”
I have never before been asked that question at a news conference. Usually, people are simply happy to get print coverage, or unhappy to see that a hundred of us have shown up.
So I sort of stared at her, and kind of waved my notebook as if to say, “Um, because I’m a reporter. You do know I get paid to do this, right?”
Being a semi-tactful person, I did not actually voice any of this, but my quizzical look encouraged her to elaborate.
“You guys never come to our events,” she said. “So ... what’s the angle, here?”
I’m not sure what she was imagining, but I instantly had the disconcerting thought that she probably had a much better story idea than I did. I hate it when people seem reluctant to talk about what I considered to be cut-and-dried stories. I always assume it means there’s something else going on that I don’t know about. Misspent funds? Corruption? Perhaps some DOL disaster had recently occurred and they thought I was there because it was my only chance to ambush the labor commissioner with a pointed question on camera?
Sadly, I explained my presence: the continuation of the unemployment series. Everyone present nodded in relief and wandered off to spread the news that the big bad newspaper wasn’t here for any exciting reason.
Probably the PR folks were just paranoid. But I can’t help but wonder what I might have missed ...