Maybe he was just having a really bad day. This is what I wanted to think after a very brief and abrupt conversation I had with a producer from a local news radio station.
I contacted the station as part of an effort to help a local Catholic ministry obtain some secular media coverage for a Lenten event. I have known this producer for years, as we would bump into each other on story assignments and I even had him on my radio show when his book about Detroit was first released. I thought we had at least a cordial working relationship, so the cold-shoulder routine took me by surprise.
Right out of the gate, he sounded agitated to the point of almost being out of breath. He then proceeded to ask me why I had the apparent audacity to ask for coverage when I so readily criticize the secular media. He mentioned he had been listening to my program and reading my blogs and made it very clear that he had no use for me, because, according to his assessment, “I had no use for his employer or any other non-Christian media outlet.”
Silly me. Here I thought someone in the press would be open to free speech and diversity of opinion. Aren’t those who dish it out and those so quick to point the microphone, camera and pen at everyone else willing to at least listen to what their audience has to say? When I reminded him of this and of the media’s over-all responsibility to fairness and balance, he responded, “Yeah, right.” He muttered something about someone maybe following up on the story later in the week. Then he hung up.
Being that I am always encouraging my listeners to engage the press, I called him right back. He wouldn’t take the call, but I did leave my contact information in a message that outlined my concerns for his apparent loss of objectivity.
Instead of returning my call, he decided to send me a message through an email via a mutual media contact. This was the first hint that he had no intention of discussing anything and only wanted to vent. When I read his comments, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Not too much causes my jaw to drop these days, but his contradictions and his oblivion to his staunch bias were appalling and in some ways even comical. This “veteran” journalist went on in the email about his “40 plus years” of print and broadcast experience and yet this same producer told my colleague he “didn’t have my contact information” and this was why he was asking her to forward the message.
Second, he was shocked that I actually discuss media issues on my show. According to him, I am only to be discussing matters of “spirituality.” How can someone who works in the media not realize how important the culture, as well as its impact, is to all people? Talk about your short-sightedness. The icing on the cake was his repeating in writing the same statement he made to me on the phone — people who criticize the media shouldn’t turn around and ask for coverage.
I followed up with a phone message and an email with specific questions about whether this approach was actually part of his story-vetting process. If so, doesn’t that knock an awful lot of people from the potential lineup? I also explained that he if listened to my show with an open mind, he would realize I encourage interaction and engagement with the media, not condemnation. No response.
Despite all of the shenanigans, there are some glimmers of hope. A story on the Catholic ministry did hit the airwaves. Yes his rudeness and denial were probably the result of a lot more than a bad day. Maybe somewhere along the line I hit a nerve. You never know. That’s why we have to keep trying.
Teresa Tomeo is the host of “Catholic Connection,” produced by Ave Maria Radio and heard daily on EWTN Global Catholic Radio and Sirius Channel 130.