The Tom Petty allusion should give a clue as to what I’m doing now. There’s a lot of waiting at times in this job, followed by moments of relentless activity. Some day’s it’s nothing but relentless, but oftentimes I find myself sitting and sitting and sitting, waiting for phone calls, waiting for emails, just … waiting.
I try to use the time well, of course. There’s always some little detail to handle at work, and there’s an endless array of things I *could* be doing. At times, though, it’s simply mind-numbing, and one tends to feel a bit helpless on certain days as time flows endlessly on.
All we do as journalists is largely based on the premise that other people will agree to cooperate with us, agreeing to meet with us or at least call or write us back. Sometimes you have to be aggressive and chase down people who don’t want to talk, but for the most part your day is spent tracking down people who may not necessarily like having part of their day taken up by a reporter but will still cooperate. Most people, I think, still understand that what we do is important work and believe there’s a mutual responsibility to get good information out to the public.
But the thing is: People call or write when it’s convenient for them. Sometimes that’s a few minutes after you get in touch with them. Sometimes that’s a few minutes before deadline. And sometimes, it’s days later. I always tell people when we plan to run something. Editors, of course, can change when a piece is slotted, so I’m not always correct. But I always give people a clear deadline to get in touch, and it amazes me how many times people will return a call days down the road, sometimes with an apology but often not. I always let them know that I appreciate the gesture, but … Well, too late is too late.
So I’m waiting, this time on people to call me about school lunch programs and changes the Obama administration plans to make to them. Not thrilling by my standards, but again — important information for those who want to know. A magic fast-forward button would be appreciated, but I’ll settle for a couple of phone calls before 4 p.m.