Missing Person Guide?
Usually, The Crimson will rely on other newspapers for help when it's working on a national story with Harvard repercussions. Generally, reporters here don't ask for inside information, just for clips of stories that have already been written.
Last week, however, saw the tables turn. The Boston media was actively pursuing a story about a $160,000 donation that Eliot House's ice skating charity, Evening With Champions, never made to the Jimmy Fund, which raises money for cancer treatment and prevention.
The Crimson, alone among local media organizations, had located and talked to Charles K. Lee '93, a former Evening With Champions co-chair who had a long, involved explanation for the missing money.
Everyone in town wanted a copy of the article faxed to them, and the reporter was all too happy to oblige. But local television stations, the Associated Press, the Boston Herald, the Boston Globe and the tabloid TV program "Inside Edition" also called asking for information The Crimson's reporter would not release: where was Charles Lee?
These people's careers and reputations depend on getting the information on a breaking story faster than their competitors. And it doesn't look good when some dopey college newspaper gets the scoop So getting information such as the location of Lee, who is a target of the investigation of the situation, is vital.
Tactics for trying to get Lee's locations varied. The most common strategy was flattery. The Boston Herald's Helen Kennedy tried this tactic, but quickly gave up. One TV station all but offered the reporter a job. The Crimson wouldn't budge. "You've got an exclusive," Kennedy said with a sigh. "I understand why you're keeping it."
The Boston Globe's Alice Dembner tried a tougher tactic. She grilled the reporter. Did you know Lee personally? "No." How did you find out where he is? "Not telling." Did you find him credible? "C'mon Ms. Dembner, you know I can't talk about that."
The Crimson reporter, who spent exactly one hour finding Lee, suppressed a strong desire to suggest that Dembner do some of her own reporting.
If it were The Herald instead of The Crimson who beat her on the story, he thought to himself, she wouldn't have called for the information.
But for sheer persistence (and sleaziness), no reporter could touch Gary Wynn of "Inside Edition." First, he tried to make a deal.
"Let's work together. Tell me where Lee is. I'll put you on TV. It'll be tremendous exposure for you, for the newspaper."
The reporter wasn't swayed. "I'm just a student, sir, and we're just a community newspaper. I'm not sure we need the exposure."
When that didn't work, Wynn switched to begging. "C'mon, man, help me out. I'm young, just a couple of years out of school. I'm trying to bust ass, really make it in this business. I'm asking you, 'help me out.'"
The Crimson reporter was beginning to enjoy this. "Well, sir..."