Calling people at home for a story? You heathen!
A public relations person at a well known company told one of my reporter colleagues here that he was stalking board members of a company that he covers. Why? Because he called them at home, and had not told her before what story he was working on. He was supposed to obey company policy and go through her, not call people at home. She suggested that this was not only wrong, it was unethical.
It has come to my attention that you are now calling our Board of Directors at home. As I have said before, our process is that you need to submit your request for an interview through this office. I have never had an issue before with a Reuters reporter – they have all shown a great level of professional courtesy while at the same time doing their jobs.
I cannot assist you with your story unless you let me know what it is about. Please submit that as soon as possible.
Trouble is, he tried already to tell her. He left a message on her voicemail. Maybe she didn’t get the message. In any case, a reporter who asks only for the company’s comment, gets told that there won’t be one, and then stops reporting isn’t doing his job.
What struck me was her comment about never before having “issues” (problems) with a Reuters reporter. That must mean that we were not trying hard enough to break news. Well, we are now.
I understand that reporters often break big stories thanks to leaks that come to them, and through companies that decide that a certain reporter will get an exclusive. That’s fine. But trying to confirm a tip means knocking on doors, or calling telephones. And a standard part of that means calling people at home. If you can’t get them at work, and you don’t have a mobile phone number handy, home is the next best place to try.
People have screamed at me for daring to call them at home, but nobody until today has ever suggested to me or one of my colleagues that we are unethical because we try. If someone tells you to stop calling, perhaps you should consider not calling anymore. At least for a little while. But to say that calling people at home is unethical is something that would stop only the most timid reporter — and they are not the people I work with.