Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The story interview that … wasn’t

(Image by Stock.xchng vi)
A friend had asked if I would mind being interviewed by a reporter who was trying to put together a story about people who are unemployed or underemployed.

I have filled slots in both categories, of course. I was laid off nine months ago, although in June I left the unemployment rolls after I accumulated quite a handful of part-time/freelance positions. I’m a part-time reporter for a small news website in my hometown, and I’m a freelance copy editor for two different Patch.com regions west of Chicago. Finally, I’m doing some consulting work focused on press releases and basic social media marketing.

So I’d said OK, fully cognizant of the irony my friend’s question posed. But I love irony and I have a sense of humor — actually, my friends in the business would say an “alleged” sense of humor. But part of me also hoped that perhaps what I am doing might serve to encourage others in similar circumstance. That is one of the reasons I started writing this blog to begin with.

I told my friend, who’d recently become unemployed herself, that I’d be amenable to an interview, although I doubted a reporter from the organization from which I was laid off nine months ago would want to interview me. My friend was uncertain for which newspaper the reporter worked.

My friend passed on my email address, and I pretty much forgot about it until Aug. 26, when I received this email. I’m omitting the reporter’s name and the reference to my friend because neither is pertinent, and I’d just as soon not risk embarrassing or annoying either one.

Hi, Theodore,

My name is Xxxxx Xxxxxx and I am a writer with the Elgin Courier News. I received your name from Xxx Xxxxxxxxx and I am writing a story about persons who are underemployed or unemployed. I understand that you work four jobs and I would love to speak with you about your experience over the phone on Monday, Aug. 29, if possible.

I am looking to chat with you for 20-25 minutes over the phone. Could you please send me a few times that work in your schedule?

Thanks for your time!

Best regards,

I sent the reporter a one-line email just as a precaution — technically, I’d already consented to the interview when my friend asked about forwarding my email address. But now that I knew which publication the reporter represented, I wanted to give the individual an opportunity to beg out, just in case.

It’s not that I would say anything to embarrass the reporter or my former employer (although I have to confess that my inner imp was imagining the possibilities).

But I would hate for the individual to spend time writing up a story with quotes from me only to have my friends and former colleagues Marty, Paul and Nick going to edit the story and saying, “What the hell?” Besides, if that were to happen, I’d prefer to be there to see the expressions on their faces. I mean, fair is fair.

My response to the reporter:

You understand I was laid off by Sun-Times Media, right?

I guess I could just as well have sent a bomb or anthrax, because it's been nearly three weeks and I have yet to hear boo back from the reporter, not even an “Oops, I’m sorry” or an “Oh my gosh, I didn’t realize …”

It was an innocent enough, silly thing to happen. I won’t call it a mistake because the reporter is a freelancer with whom I’d never worked and had little reason to recognize my name. No mistake there at all.

I’m guessing the reporter was simply too embarrassed to write back, which is fine. And if that individual happens to come across this blog post: No harm, no foul, and please don’t be embarrassed because things like this happen. I may be one of the few people who actually can sit back and laugh about it — and I’m laughing at the circumstances, not at you. Write back and, if I can squeeze it in between all my work schedules, we can meet at Ravenheart for some coffee and share a laugh.

But please, do not be embarrassed on my account. Enjoy the irony. Laugh about it!