Friday, March 6, 2009

Reporter Gives 'Thanks'

The overall aptitude of sources and their willingness to help should never go unnoticed by a reporter.

If they are experts in their own field, sources should be able to realize the major difference they could make in helping a reporter express the point of his or her story. At that point, it’s up to them whether they want to actually do that or give monotone and short-sighted answers. They could also just blow a reporter off altogether.

Thankfully, Tammy O’Neil-Gayer, of the Kevin P. Clinton Wildlife Center at Lake Metroparks’ Penitentiary Glen Reservation, and veterinarian Dr. David Hammond chose to take a few moments out of their day to provide me with some key comments that really helped me create my article about exotic animals this week.

Hope Brustein, executive director of the Geauga Humane Society’s Rescue Village, can’t be forgotten either. Even though her story about Wilbur the potbellied pig didn’t make the final copy, it helped drive home the point that some people enjoy the novelty of making pets out of animals that shouldn’t be domesticated, only to see that joy quickly turn into panic, fear and frustration.

Nancy Niehus of the Lake County General Health District and Ken Fitz at the state’s Department of Natural Resource’s Division of Wildlife also helped me understand the laws surrounding chimps, venomous snakes and other wild animals who make desirable pets for a select few of us. Scott Heasley and Heather Phillips of the Cleveland Clinic’s public relations department kept me updated on the unfortunate condition of Charla Nash, the Stamford, Conn. women who got mauled by Travis the chimp.

This post isn’t about name-dropping, despite what you might be thinking to this point. It’s just a way to thank everyone who played a part in helping me do my job. Their aid was needed for a topic that I knew only the basics about. It’s not unlike the times when others brought me up to speed at hair salons, dental offices and machine shops. Back then, of course, there was no “Behind The News-Herald” blog available for me to thank those individuals.

It’s also not solely about information sharing. It’s about being the true professionals these people were when I approached them. They seemed genuinely glad that someone respected their opinions enough to publish them. I think most readers would be surprised at the amount of potential sources who don’t do this, and instead make reporters feel like they’re a burden, who should have never called, e-mailed or visited.

That brings me to the ridiculous behavior of one potential source that COULD HAVE added a lot to this story and received some free publicity in the process. I’m talking about a pet shop within The News-Herald’s coverage area that’s known to have a few exotic pets, including small sharks and snakes.

I suppose I shouldn’t mention the shop by name since they “probably wouldn’t want to be involved in that kind of thing.”


In this economy, you don’t want me to mention you in an article as my sole pet-shop source? You don’t want people seeing your name at no cost?

Surprisingly, that’s what the shop manager told me. I wonder if the owner found that declination as ludicrous as I did. Probably not, since he didn’t return the calls I made to him for about a week prior to the story’s run date. I guess business is just THAT good for them.

But hey, everyone’s not always going to be willing to help. That said, the best thing to do is appreciate the ones who are. They certainly constitute the majority of sources my colleagues and I attempt to contact.

Thanks again.

-- Brandon C. Baker

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