Truth time: I don’t have a blog today.
Monday started early and just got away from me. By the time everything was in its place, I realized my planned blog hinged on the answer to a certain question.
Unfortunately, it was 3:30. And the question is an obscure one. County PIO Veronica Kampschroer is my go-to for all things heck and high water, and she probably could have tracked this down for me if I really needed it.
But I have a great deal of respect for Veronica and her time. No reason to drop what she’s doing on a late Monday afternoon because Just Wright Citrus wants to know about a building project.
(Veronica emailed me a few minutes after 5 saying she was working on it. I’m telling you, Citrus County could not ask for a better public information officer. That job isn’t nearly as easy as people think it is. Veronica really knows her stuff. I trust her.)
So you see my dilemma. It took me back to my Chronicle days when, as 5 p.m. closed in, I realized that the story I’d been promising all day wasn’t coming through. Sometimes that was my fault — OK, nearly every time that was my fault.
The clock ticked much faster from 3:30 on. That’s when the editor would start lurking about wondering how that big story was coming that he or she had penciled in across the top of tomorrow’s front page.
I rarely threw in the towel that early, but I knew I’d better think of something quick. I’d assure the editor I was on target, just waiting on a call, that sort of thing.
So let me set this up. It’s 3:35 p.m. and I have until 3:55 to either feel confident the story is in hand or bail and have a good reason why. My three options:
— Get the story. Sometimes you gotta light a fire under me and if I’m close to the finish line with only a few minutes to spare, I’m going to work hard on it. Politicians over the years, folks who are my friends today, would occasionally receive calls from me that began, “I need to know RIGHT NOW…”
I avoid the frequent use of that tactic for obvious reasons. People don’t like being put on the spot like that. It’s not fair. I try not to overstay my welcome if you catch my drift.
(Some people are thinking, “Wait a minute. You pull that every time we talk…”)
— The second choice is to spear from the air a different story to lead tomorrow’s paper. It must be solid enough for me to explain to an editor in 20 minutes why he/she should care and with enough depth to make my deadline an hour later.
Well, no surprise. That didn’t happen every day. There was one guy, though, I could count on no matter what the time of day. That was the late Ron Schultz, property appraiser during Citrus County’s last hay-day of the early 1990s.
Ron was brilliant, funny, a quote machine and he did not suffer fools gladly. He also constantly analyzed data and I could call him out of the blue saying I needed something in a five-minute conversation that I could explain to someone.
Five minutes later I’d jump from my chair and find the editor.
“You won’t believe what Ron Schultz just told me,” I’d say excitedly. “That other thing I was working on can wait a day.”
Ron taught me so much. I became friends with Ron and his wife Diann. He was one of my favorite people and I miss him.
— Sometimes the best efforts fail. So the third option is I just fess up and tell the editor I don’t have the story. I hated that option. Never liked giving in. But it was a reality of the business.
That’s what I’m doing here. Fessing up. I had a blog idea. The idea made sense (still does). Just didn’t walk it all the way through as to what information I needed, and crossed myself up.
So, sorry, no blog today. We will improve, that’s a promise.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.