Archive for the ‘Post 1.3’ Category

Monday, March 19, 9:22 a.m.

I’ve never met Jack O’Lies, award-winning crime reporter from the venerable Washingtonian newspaper, but I know so much about him. I also know about his boss, Washingtonian Deputy Assistant Editor John Whiteclay. I first encountered young Mr. Whiteclay at a Society of Professional Journalists awards ceremony a couple years ago, when I was but a slip of a staff writer and he was an investigative journalist at the Tulalip Tribune on the Indian reservation few miles north of my house.

He and the crusaders from the downtown Seattle social justice newspaper, Real Change, owned that awards ceremony, racking up eight or nine first place statuettes between them. I remember he had the longest hair I’d ever seen on a man or woman: a raven black braid that hung past his belt, tied off with either a thin strip of leather or a garbage bag twist tie. He was all of 27.

I didn’t talk to him at the time. I remember being profoundly embarrassed that I hadn’t realized there was a legitimate newspaper up in casino land.

Last night, I finally read John Whiteclay’s 2008 first place investigative journalism article, Slaughterhouse 98271.  He has accumulated at least eleven more first place statuettes since I last encountered him. He’s also ascended from lowly reporter at a weekly tribal newspaper with a circulation of maybe 2,000 to editor at the Washingtonian, one of the last print dailies in the country. My own journalistic ascension has been far less impressive.

When I called Jack O’Lies to set up an interview (multiple times, all sent to voicemail) and when I emailed him (multiple times, all unanswered), I never thought I’d resort to that lowest of tactics (contacting his boss). But I get pushy when I’m ignored.

After checking my email one last time and finding no response, I decide to place a call to John Whiteclay, one print editor to another. Very collegial, I figure. As I dial, I wonder if he still has the incredibly long braid.

I’m transferred, put on hold, transferred again, then put on hold again. While I’m humming along to the canned version of the theme from Titanic, he picks up.

Titanic Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet

“John Whiteclay.”

How much humming did he hear?

“Hi there. This is Katherine Luck from the Journal,” I say.

“The Business Journal?”

“No. The Journal Newspapers.”

Did he hear my unconscious attempt to hit the high trills? Why would they subject people on hold to a Celine Dion song? And what the heck is the lyric after “My heart will go on?” It’s going to bug me all day.

“The King County Journal?”

“No. Yes. No, not the one you’re thinking of. That folded, like, ten years ago.”

I just said “like.” That’s not a good sign. It means he’s rattling me.

“Who are you with?” He sounds annoyed.

“We’re a monthly newspaper. We have two editions—the King County Journal and the Snohomish County Journal. But officially or whatever, we’re the Journal Newspapers.”

I just said “whatever” to an award-winning investigative reporter turned editor. I sound 13. I’m 33.

“I’ve, uh, been trying to get ahold of one of your reporters for a piece I’m working on,” I say.

“Permissions can be obtained by calling extension 102—”

“No, no, I don’t want to reprint anything,” I say. “I want to interview him.”

I hear the chatter of a keyboard through my phone. He’s checking his email as we speak. I know that he isn’t looking for a message I might have sent—no, he’s multitasking, barely listening to me. Not that I know this because I do it.

“Who were you trying to reach?” He sounds distracted.

“Jack O’Lies. He’s a crime reporter, it says.”

“It” is the ten year old byline that Google supplied when I typed in “husbands of serial killer victims.”

On the other end of the phone, John Whiteclay stops typing and sighs.

“Jack O’Lies,” he says. “Why would you want to interview him?”

“Research. Um…that I’m doing. For a book. That I’m working on.”

John Whiteclay sighs again.

“Is this some kind of backgrounding thing?”

“Yes?” I say. I have no idea what he means.

“Okay,” he says. “I’ll see. What’s your number?”

“425-775-2400,” I say. I don’t bother to give him my extension. I only do so when I fear a potential interviewee will mistake me for a mere blogger.

“Okay,” John Whiteclay says. “Jack will get back to you.”

He hangs up. I hang up.

Jack does not get back to me.