Tipping your server

R. Justin ShepherdIn the print version of the paper, on Page 2, there’s a little box with a lot of phone numbers. One of them says: “On weekends, call 783-3241.”

That’s me.

Most of the calls I get are mundane: from funeral homes checking up on obituaries; or from photographers, letting me know they really are coming back, they promise; or from my wife, wondering why I keep leaving my cell phone on the nightstand and, by the way, could I start taking the trash out before it starts to smell bad? (And here I thought the smell was the indicator… I guess she favors the pre-emptive doctrine.)

Sometimes, though, I check my voice mail to find something else — something that’s been dramatized by Hollywood for years: The Anonymous Tip.

First off, let me assure you: Journalism is not that exciting. It has its moments, but for the most part (especially for me, who gets to judge the stories without all the hassle of writing them) its a routine affair. But the Anonymous Tip is different. It gives me hope, if only for a moment, that the day’s going to be much more interesting.

Most of the time, the tip turns out to be a bust. “Hey there, uh, I don’t know if y’all were aware, but I heard that Barack Obama was trained at one uh those, uh, madrassas, ya know? Well, I just thought, ya know, he’s runnin’ for president and all, but that seems awfully fishy to me, and I s’pose I was hopin’ y’all could get a reporter on that?”

Sometimes, though, it does turn into a story. Last weekend, I got a voice mail from a concerned citizen in Edmonson County, telling me about a petition to release $500,000 in state funding that was designated for a library, but which he said the county had other plans for. To be fair, I’m not sure he meant it to be an anonymous tip… maybe his cell phone reception wasn’t the best? Anyway, I passed to note on to our Projects Editor, who passed it on to a reporter, who got the story in Monday’s edition.

Without that tip, we probably would’ve missed it. Because, contrary to popular belief, the Daily News does not have a massive database of every issue in every city in our coverage area. (Nor do we have “codeword clearance,” I told the man concerned about a possible terrorist-infiltrated White House, “to get that kind of information.”)

I guess what I’m getting at is this: We try to catch the issues, but we’ve only got so many hands. So if you see something going on, don’t assume we know about it. In fact, give us a call.

But do me a favor: Leave your name and number at the sound of the beep.

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