Now I know why reporters can be annoying

Two former reporters walk into a greasy spoon …

Okay that was supposed to have a punchline, but I got sidelined by some seriously concentric thinking: ideas nested inside concepts like those Russian dolls – each one painted complete with an ever tinier wire-bound reporter’s pad. One former reporter interviewing another former reporter about how the bottom fell out of the reporting business – one going back to school for journalism and serving as a living example to his classmates of their lucrative career choice – the other teaching the next generation of young people the basics of the news business and trying not to crush their Woodward and Bernstein ambitions.

I got my profile family – thanks to a round of desperate calls to former coworkers and journo-friends. Jason Flanagan met me for a recorded interview at Generous Joe’s in old Greenbelt and I’ve got about half a story together complete with ignored editors’ marks gathering electronic dust.

Jason Flanagan leaving his bachelor pad in Greenbelt.

Flanagan’s got a himself nice post-modern family, two kids and a child support payment, three jobs and a one-bed bachelor pad off downtown Greenbelt. He also is a contributor to this Website, over on the Teaching Moments blog.

He’s living the dream – except for that part about being able to support and sustain a family, buy a home,  and crawl out of a deep credit hole, pay off college and maybe someday retire.

It’s like old times, except I don’t remember us actually going out for coffee in the times we worked together at two different papers.

Professor Nelson likes the story, but wants more, “It’s almost enough to make me care.” (Good thing the public doesn’t hear what goes on inside story meetings. They might just get jaded.) And she’s right. I got the one interview, sat down to write, then saw some holes you could drive a lawsuit through, not to mention a glaring need to connect to thousands of struggling teachers trying to raise families.

Then nothing.

I’ve emailed, called, texted, emailed, emailed again and gave his contacts to a classmate who needs a video component.


I don’t get it. Flanagan was a journalist until the same catastrophe that drove me to the dark side and back to school. It gets in your blood. He knows how agonizing it can be to wait for a call back and have countless follow-up emails ignored.

He too is back in school, though on the other side of the digital pointer, teaching journalism and English to the fine young people of Oxon Hill High School in Southern Prince George’s  County. A living example, nested in an idea, grounded in practice, confronting the ideals of the future generation.

Maybe he got uncomfortable with the fine-toothed parsing of his financial laundry. Maybe he figured one sit-down interview was enough – now I’m upping the ante with a video request and a second reporter. Or maybe it’s just that dumb email address he abandoned to the spam pits ages ago …

He isn’t ducking me! You’ll please pardon – I have a bit of Stockholm syndrome going on right now.

So, now we’re set up for a Sunday afternoon video shoot. He’ll go buy some school supplies. We’ll go to the ice-rink and catch him checking in for his night job trying to make ends meet. We’ll talk on the record about the heartburn that is living on a public school teachers’ wages while supplying pens and paper to students who don’t care enough to bring their own – not to mention buying the school supplies the county won’t pony up.

It’s strange that I’m learning so much more about Flanagan now, that we’ve seen each other maybe a half-dozen times since the Baltimore Examiner shuttered, than I ever did working side-by-side with him in the buzz of the news pit.

No, It doesn’t feel too creepy doing a thorough background check on a former colleague to make sure there aren’t any skeletons in his closet.

Good thing too. Nothing like calling back an old friend to bring up the two court actions over credit defaults  that didn’t come up in the first interview session. No awkwardness there.

It’s a good thing he knows the routine from years on the inside – even I might be annoyed with me by now.

(All photos by Karl Hille. Feature photo depicts CNS Wire room.)