I have met a lot of politicians during my career as a journalist. Granted I have been in the game only about 9 years now, but between university media at Western, working at Rogers TV for almost 6 years, and now Easy 101, you get to meet and interview a lot of them.
Today was my first day where I officially had to represent the radio station(s) at an event. The event in question was the groundbreaking for the Woodstock General Hospital. The hospital is being made as part of a private/public partnership that will see the City of Woodstock pay a private developer for the construction and maintenance of the facility across a 30 year period, to the total cost of just under $600 million.
That's the background, here is the reason for my blog entry...
I arrived at the event wearing no identification that made me recognizable, and I had to park the company vehicle far enough away from the crowd that nobody noticed initially that I was the reporter who was driving the thing. I walked slowly through the crowd, hoping to find someone with a name tag or some kind of ID that would make my job a little easier to pull off. Or at least I was hoping to find my brother Jon, who was there to provide his store's sound system for the event.
Instead of finding either one of those, I saw a familiar face in Brant MPP Dave Levac, someone who have known since I was 10 or so. I stood behind him just out of view since he was in a conversation as I did not want to interrupt. Media guy or not, that's just rude when you aren't in need of a soundbyte. Suddenly from behind Dave this man popped over to say hello. Needless to say, I recognized him immediately.
"Hi, I'm George Smitherman, Deputy Premier."
"Yes Mr. Smitherman, I know its you. Its good to see you again. I'm Andrew Macklin, from Easy 101 in Tillsonburg. I have interviewed you before though."
He started to give a look that resembled bewilderment, a look I assume was him trying to figure out where we had met before.
"Don't worry Minister Smitherman, it has been a few years since we last spoke. I met you with Dave here when you were in Brantford. I used to work with Rogers there."
I know it doesn't sound like much, just a courtesy conversation between a politician and a member of the media who is trying to get his job done.
The fascinating part was, the conversation continued on from there, and kept going in a very casual manner. I hadn't pulled out my digital recorder to get my interview, so he continued to chat about the event and how great it was.
We continued our conversation by talking about the Hospice in Brantford, the place hwere the two of us had met for the first time. We continued on for a few minutes, never once bringing up the issue of an interview, or him needing to move on to someone else. As the conversation began to run its course, our talk took another peculiar turn.
"Well George I will let you get on to other people. I will get a comment from you after the event is over."
"Are you ready right now? If you are ready, why don't we get this done right now and you won't have to worry about finding me later."
"Are you sure? I don't want to keep you from other people who might want to talk."
"That's okay. If you are ready, let's do the interview."
And so I did, avoiding what would have likely been a fight to the finish in any media scrum that would take place later on, especially since I noticed at least another 5 or 6 media there. So the interview went off without a hitch. I got my 1 on 1 with the Deputy Premier...
Its very rare that you would get a 1 on 1 interview with someone at the level of Deputy Premier, let alone people that are a few rungs below that. Of course its a little different if it is the representative from your home riding, but mine was standing right behind Mr. Smitherman.
Where am I going with all of this? I'm trying to make the point that sometime's everyone appreciates the personal touch. Instead of just telling me that he could give me comments later on with 'the rest' of my counterparts, he took the time to meet my specific needs by giving me comments to my questions. He didn't make my choose from the assortment of comments generated by a pool of reporters, with likely just one directed towards a question I have been able to sneak in. My needs in my job were met by, of all people a politician, going out of their way to meet those needs. It was a true gesture from someone who I have known from past interviews to be a class act.
Perhaps to most journalists something like this would have gone unnoticed or unappreciated. But as a young guy starting to feel like he's a veteran of the industry, it truly was noticed, and it truly was appreciated...