Necessary Rudeness

One day I’ll have time to induklge my interest in the sociology of journalism, which I think explains a lot about the lens through which we get to see our world, but under an incredible time crunch today, let me simply inject an example from my mass media experience into this mini media forum. I call this exercise in professional navel-gazing “necessary rudeness.”

So yesterday I’m at my day job as an ill-tempered reporter for a middling metropolitan daily when I get the assignment that reporters fear — the quick turnaround story on a topic of which I am virtually ignorant and frankly not terribly interested as it is remote from my own life and “beat.” But that’s why I get the big bucks and so, with the help of a colleague, I throw myself into the task with all the gusto I can muster.

There is a professional thrill to such an assignment, as the clock ticks while the pieces of a puzzle begin to fall into place. After 14 years in the biz, I have to say the pieces tend to fall together late and all at the same time, as the calls and emails that you put out earlier take time to tield results.

So there I am at one of these critical junctures yesterday — I’ve got one critical source on my desk line when a must-take call come in on my cell. What to do? Well, as quickly and politely as possible I shift caller one to my colleague on the story and get ready to schmooze caller number two. In the course of apologizing to caller number one I invent what is, at least for me, a new term. I’m sorry, I say, for this necessary rudeness.

But wait. There’s more.

My editors are patient as I blow past deadline because I got the story late and they’re reading over my shoulder and realize that while I ain’t done, I’m on the path to what they had wanted. Then the phone rings again and caller ID says it’s my wife. A family emergency. One of the kids. All right now but in trouble and heading home to arrive much later. The clock is ticking. Nothing I can do and no time to break my concentration. So I thank her for calling and tell her I have to run, and the click I hear tells me I’ve perpetrated another necessary rudeness, although experience tells me she’d put an “un” in front of my new pet phrase.

Oh, well. The paper lands in the morning and there’s the story. The personal saga goes on.