Friday, December 7, 2012

Reporters Tricks: Getting past the receptionist

Sometimes you need to get in touch with someone for a story and you can't because that someone is avoiding you. Or maybe the receptionist won't put your call through, or won't give you the email address. Maybe you left a message and the call hasn't been returned.

So you give up and put this in your story. "Attempts to contact Joe Sleazeball were not successful."

But maybe if Joe Sleazeball knew what you had, he might give you an interview. But he can't know if you can't contact him.

There's a reason houses have back doors. If your knock on the front isn't answered, walk around and try the back. Same deal applies to reporting.

Phone calls: Let's say Mr. Sleazeball works for the Acme Corporation. (You know, the one that makes anvils for cartoons.) You call 555-1000 and get the receptionist, identify yourself, and she won't put the call through.

You hang up and dial an extension that has a number close to the main one. Perhaps it's 555-1001. Then, when whoever answers, you simply say, "I was trying to call Joe Sleazeball. Guess I dialed the wrong extension." Chances are you'll get the call transferred since the person answering has no idea you've been stonewalled by the receptionist.

Emails: You need Joe's email but they won't give it to you. You note on the company's website that there's a customer service rep named Helen Waite ("You need help? Go to Helen Waite."). Anyway, Helen's email address is Simply take the format of the email, and substitute Joe's Name. More than likely will work. While you can't know if he will read the email, chance are if he does and sees the info you've got, he might want to give you his side of the story.

Snail Mail: The last resort when you've hit nothing but dead ends. Print an envelope with Joe's address, and do not put a return address on it. Then, under the address, in capital letters, add PERSONAL AND CONFIDENTIAL. Trust me, the mailroom boy won't open it, and chances are neither will his personal secretary.

By the way, I wouldn't try this stuff when you're job hunting and trying to get in touch with a ND. These are just tricks you can use when you're wearing your reporter's hat.


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