I’m never sure how things like this happen, but it’s frustrating.  I think there was miscommunication all around this afternoon.  I say all around because the problem just wasn’t here in the newsroom.  We almost missed an important story all because the right questions weren’t asked and those who were supposed to have all the details had little information themselves.

An intern answered one of the many phone calls this afternoon and was told of an upcoming press event.  The event was possibly in just over 30 minutes.  The intern told me there was going to be a press conference to announce upcoming free events. 

I asked the intern to give me all the details.  The intern admitted, “I didn’t understand what she (the caller) was saying, but I do have her number, I can call back.”  With no details and a full assignment board I couldn’t just send a crew to the event location without knowing more. 

The intern called back after I explained what information I needed to be able to make a decision on how, or if, to cover the event.  I listened as the intern asked the questions.  After a moment the intern hung up and told me a press release with all the information would be sent over immediately.  The event was within minutes of the station so I waited for the email.

I waited five minutes, only 25 minutes until the possible event time, and couldn’t wait any longer.  I asked the intern to give me the number so I could call.  The intern asked if she could call herself to try to get the information.  The intern wasn’t able to get answers so she asked me to talk to the contact.  I spoke to a woman in media relations for a large organization who admitted she didn’t have any information on the event, but would have someone call me back.  I asked her to at least confirm the time of the event for me.  She couldn’t.  I pointed out that there was little time left for me to get a crew there and asked her to make sure someone called back.  The call never came.

I didn’t send a crew.  All of a sudden a producer is shouting out, “did we know this?”  Another media outlet was reporting new developments in a continuing story.  I knew instantly this information came from the press event of which I couldn’t get clear information.  The press conference obviously had absolutely nothing to do with announcing upcoming free events.

As people around me scrambled and talked loudly and asked how we missed this, I explained what happened.  The producer got a crew together while I called media relations back.  The same woman answered and I think she could tell by my tone I was not happy.  “Hello, this is Misty from CBS4 News, there has obviously been some misunderstanding because we never received a press release and no one called back like I’d asked regarding this event.  I’m sending a crew over now and I’d like someone to be there to do an interview with our reporter.”  Again, she couldn’t help me, but put me on hold to find someone who could.

Finally someone in the media relations office working the event picked up the phone.  He didn’t even wait for me to explain what had happened.  He just said, “I know.”  Then told me if I had someone there in 10 minutes we could still do the interview.

The reporter and photojournalist got the interview.  We got the story.  The viewer at home had no idea that the crew hadn’t attended the press conference with the rest of the media.  No sweat then, right?

Wrong.  I know and my heart raced with frustration as we scrambled to get the coverage we needed.  It’s beyond frustrating when miscommunication happens like this and even worse that the media relations department failed as well. 

This is life in the newsroom though.  This is not the first time a situation like this has happened and, unfortunately, it won’t be the last.   Martini anyone?!