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Tuesday, June 27, 2006

News musing.....

Got a call last Thursday from a New York Times reporter, Eric Lipton, who was working on a story following up on the GAO study of fraud associated with the FEMA efforts immediately after Katrina. He contacted me because of a press item on the GAO UNH issued earlier (see June 14 post below).

The experience was an odd one. I've talked to reporters before, but this exchange was a bit -- well, "edgy". I guess the only way to characterize Lipton's attitude in general is "arrogant" -- perhaps that is what you have to be to get byline status at the NYT. The conversation started off badly -- the office administrator approached me to report that she had this Times reporter on the phone who was insistent that she find me and get me on the phone; you can tell that his approach to people was a bit offensive to her.

When I got on the phone we immediately got into a conversation about the assertions of GAO regarding the inefficiencies of the post-Katrina relief effort -- and after I essentially repeated my position in the press release, he suddenly burst in with his own that he just couldn't buy into it. I was in the odd position of reminding him that he called me for my "expert opinion" and that I was giving it as best I could. The fact that he did not agree with it was not my problem. I could tell at that point that he cooled on my value as a source....

In any case, the article came out this morning, and although I am not quoted or referred to, I get the impression of having made an impact. During our exchange I had noted that the focus of all the stories I'd seen was on the GAO report's criticism of FEMA's handling of relief (which I argue was unbalanced) rather than on the people who were committing the fraud. That was an angle not covered -- and it was a point that seems to be highlighted in Lipton's story.

Maybe I have a future as a news muse rather than an expert....


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