Win some, lose some
This was one of the weirder things that’s happened to me as a journalist, which is saying a lot. First the background.
I’m a pretty competitive person, especially when it comes to NJBIZ being the first to report something. So, of course, I and my newsroom colleagues were trying to find out who would be the next president of Rutgers University. But that news was locked down tighter than anything I’ve seen in a long time, especially considering the presidential search committee included a couple dozen members (aka potential leakers).
Yesterday, NJBIZ’s Jared Kaltwasser was the first to report that the new president would be revealed today. That lead came after we saw a post on Charlie Kratovil’s Facebook page, proving that Facebook can be useful while also being a total time suck.
But still no names. Then shortly before 6:30 p.m. yesterday, I get a call and someone floats the name Robert Barchi. My desire to be first is overridden by my desire to be right, and the tip wasn’t solid enough—yet—to report.
This is where it gets weird. I’m on the phone with the first person, and I get an email at 6:23 p.m. with subject line “RU” and the message, “Give me a ring.” It was from one of the people we have asked (badgered?) about the presidential search over the past few months. I get all pumped that this will be a second source solidifying that it’s Barchi.
I quickly get off the phone, call the second person and hear this: “I know who it is, but I'm not going to tell you because you called Greg Brown a loser." Brown is the Motorola Solutions exec and Rutgers alum who chaired the presidential search committee. In our April 9 Winners/Losers column, we labeled him with the big L saying, “The chance for him to find a new president for Rutgers could have been a great opportunity for the school. Instead, candidates have to be asking themselves why, exactly, they'd want to inherit a Camden street brawl with Lautenberg, Norcross, Sweeney, et al. over Rowan.”
As we try to make NJBIZ an interesting as well as an informative read, we do things like the Winners/Losers column—and find that most readers love that type of stuff. But then there’s the rare occasion when it flips the other way and someone calls and yells at you. This was a bit different and, in an odd way, intriguingly brilliant: no name-calling, no raised voice but someone making an extra effort to taunt, essentially, “Nah, nah, nah, I know something you don’t know.” Ouch. For a journalist, that hurts more than being called a loser plus every other name I can’t print here.
So I hang up, hit refresh on the Ledger’s site and see their 6:30 p.m. story naming Barchi as the next president. Who’s the loser now, right? And all we needed to do was keep hitting refresh on the Rutgers media relations website, waiting for them to accidentally post Barchi’s photo.
Maybe Brown is a winner after all—he definitely has a fan base. You win some, you lose some. But it’s always interesting playing the game.