Last week I had a much anticipated informational interview with the head of a nonprofit organization that had been a source of mine when I was a journalist with the Oakland Tribune.
She and I were not on the same page. I wanted to find new clients, as I explained to her — either serving her association or any of its members as a writer. Meanwhile, she wanted me to exploit the subject matter of my series of stories published at the Oakland Tribune on reentry of ex-offenders into Oakland.
Noting that Oakland had just had a rash of armed robberies, she said, “This is Oakland’s most critical problem.”
She said she would introduce me to a couple of people in the Oakland government to promote more stories on the subject. When I pointed out that I didn’t have a publisher for them because I’m no longer working at the Tribune, this didn’t seem to to be an issue to her.
She of course is absolutely right that this is Oakland’s biggest problem. But getting the city of Oakland to publish my stories is not going to work. I’m always amazed how people who are not in journalism are ignorant of the process.
Furthermore, I have myself considered calling my sources in the city government — not to promote the series of stories but for work and for informational interviews — and decided against it. Now is simply not the time to align myself with the mayor’s office since it has lost so much credibility.
Clearly, my source at the nonprofit association was steering the away from mining her for contacts about her members. And I let that happen.