Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Planning and dealing with reporters

One other yarn I had last week was about the residents of Creighton Street in Dublin agreeing to withdraw a planning objection for the tidy sum of 1.6m euro.

Understandably a lot of people don't like reporters calling them up. In this case one resident who I asked about the deal to withdraw the appeal from An Bord Pleanala was particularly belligerent on the phone. "I'm not talking to a person who claims to be a journalist," he warned me.

Fair enough point I thought so I offered to meet him in person and show my credentials. But this was met with a "I'm not helping you find out anything," before he hung up.

Despite the hostility from the residents I got the details about the settlement from another source in time to do the story. So I don't know what is the best tactic for a normal Joe Public who comes on to a hack's radar for some reason or another to do with a story.

I suppose it depends on how much information the journalist has as to whether the ostrich approach works when Joe Public's preference is not to be the centre of a newspaper story. For the Creighton St story I think the residents I called might have helped themselves if they'd explained why they'd done the deal. It would have given more balance to the story anyway. A journalist would say that though.

The refusal to talk option does work sometimes. There is one story I'm working which is dynamite stuff but the guy at the centre of it, who I'd need to talk to to confirm the details, has told me there is no way he'll talk. I'm not sure how to proceed on that one because after two abruptly terminated phone calls and one email I think any more contact could reasonably be considered harassment.

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