It’s tough being a reporter in today’s world
Readers of this newspaper — like many papers across this wonderful land — demand followups to big stories.
That’s perfectly understandable.
I’m here to say it isn’t always possible, and sometimes has little to do with the aggressive and/or nosey nature of the reporter of record.
I was recently reminded of how the real world doesn’t always match up to the real-time demands of casual readers. As an example, take the protracted, top secret investigation being done by the office of state Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli into goings-on at the Gloversville-Johnstown Joint Wastewater Treatment Facility.
Last time I remember, it was just your average local multi-million dollar operation treating residential and commercial.
But something really stinks here.
The late Johnstown Mayor Michael Julius began pursuing something along these lines with the state involving the sewer plant in mid-2014. This non-public investigation continues today, and it’s now 2017.
That’s more elapsed time than between the bugging of the Democratic National Committee offices at the Watergate Hotel in June 1972 and President Richard Nixon’s resignation in August 1974.
The Johnstown Police Department is also working with DiNapoli’s office on the sewer probe.
Johnstown police Lt. David Gilbo told The Leader-Herald both in mid-2015, and just last month in fact, his office is “actively” working with the state on this.
My probing question is why is this probe taking so long?
Could the state and local police be spending this much time on a wild goose chase? It’s entirely possible. Meanwhile, the state never acknowledges anything anyway, and sometimes not even after the investigation is over. Unfortunately, in this case, the names of at least two people associated with the sewer plant — former Manager George Bevington and current plant employee Scott Miller — hang out there until something is made public.
My empty ibuprofen bottle suggests I’m trying to find out.
The same goes with other big stories, like the Sept. 30, 2008 disappearance of Johnstown resident Kellisue M. Ackernecht, or the July 6, 2010 unsolved murder of Brian Morrison on Bleecker Street in Gloversville.
It would be revitalizing if once in awhile public authorities — state comptroller, state attorney general, local police, elected officials, etc. — voluntarily updated the media on some of these big stories. Or at least inform the media – the voice of the public — that they’ve gone as far as they can go and there’s nothing else to investigate.
How refreshing would that be, but very unlikely.
Most of the time, readers blame the evil media for not following up on big stories. Yeah, guilty as charged sometimes. We have a small staff and a lot happening. The problem is the media can’t keep reporting nothing new. Nothing, quite honestly, isn’t very interesting. It’s just a lot of nothing.
What I do think is interesting is how many cases get waylaid by officials with “no comments” and “nothing new to report.”
— Most local municipalities this past week conducted their organizational meetings after Jan. 1. Hurray, they have gotten smarter over the years. They have realized they the option of conducting them not just on New Year’s Day — like they have for over a century — or changing it to a few days later. We all like our holiday. and well, reporters are people too.
— During the recent holiday period, it was especially tough to be a reporter. Most people didn’t realize we were working while they were downing their fourth rum ball of the morning. Most public officials don’t want to be bothered to return phone calls, even if its a day after a holiday like Dec. 26 or Jan. 2. Actually, if it’s anywhere near the holiday, officials like to wait a few days. Rudeness is all part of the cat and mouse, cloak and dagger information-gathering process.
I learned this callback game a long time ago,. It still makes it hard to be a reporter.