We had one of those deadline emergencies last week, the kind that seems to come up with each new edition. There was a dispute over a typo on a ballot initiative. The city attorney said it could be changed with a phone call; the opposition spokesman said god himself couldn’t fix it.
With 30 minutes till deadline, who ya gonna call? Turns out the guy’s name is Glenn Levy. We could all use more sources like him, and it occurs to me that we should at the very least talk him up among ourselves as one guy you can count on to answer the phone in a pinch.
Levy is a deputy county counsel in our county of about 700,000 souls. He’s specifically assigned to questions about local elections. He got back to us right away, he spoke on the record and was a joy to work with.
Ruminating on that contact later, I thought that I should highlight him to the staff of the Review. I’ve added him into the wiki that serves as our shared source list and I think I’ll ask staffers to provide me with folks like him – people who don’t shirk their responsibility to speak to the press, who answer promptly and have something intelligent to say – and feature them in this staff blog. In that way, we may remember whom to call the next time we’re on deadline with an elections question. …
We all have horror stories of the government guy who doesn’t return phone calls. It seems like those guys are more trouble than ever before. I think it’s partly because newspapers aren’t doing as well covering government, making regular contacts with sources and whatnot, but it’s also because public servants get so much grief online and in meetings from an increasingly belligerent public. Who wants to answer questions in the newspaper if you are just going to be ridiculed in the comments following the story?
But there are also superstars in city hall and the chamber of commerce and the local school district. Make sure you share their names and numbers with staff and make sure you don’t make these sources regret being such a good sport. Be polite. Ask good questions. Don’t waste their time.