One of the things that surprised me most when I started working in California was to find an army of spokespersons working for politicians.
Some spokespersons are like walking encyclopedias who are available almost 24/7 to answer any question and who give the same treatment to ethnic media as to the mainstream English media.
But some spokespersons hardly ever deal with reporters and when they do, they take a whole day to respond if not multiple days. Once, when one of them finally called me back, I told him I was going to throw a party.
“What did you say?” he asked.
I went directly to the point of my press inquiry to avoid upsetting him.
There are those who never respond, even though you’ve explained to them what you need in two or three phone calls.
There are some that respond to your calls or e-mails if it is convenient for their bosses. If not, forget it!
Others interrogate you about the purpose of your story, so it seems as if they are trying to convince you that the story isn’t worthwhile. Of course, it’s not worthwhile to them.
Others call you after the story has already run, after you found an alternative source.
Reporters that work for ethnic media are at a disadvantage because preferential treatment goes to big newspapers. So the exclusive stories or previews will always go to them. A spokesperson once told me that the reality is that PR bosses will always give priority to the big English media.
But don’t assume that because the Communication bosses don’t read Spanish, you can make a mistake or run a story counter to their interests. No, then they call immediately and you’re in trouble.
Some want to give reporters lessons about journalism even though they never graduated from College or worked in the Media. That’s hilarious!
Do not think for a minute that having a Latino spokesperson is an advantage. Not at all. Of course, there are excellent ones, but others seem like their blood circulates too slowly and that they were never a part of the Media.
Others think that since they were part of the Media, they have the right to be abusers. “I bet Republicans ordered you to do this story,” told me one spokesperson. “Excuse me,” I said. “I am doing this story because I want to, and they don’t pay me to order me around”.
Of course, it is ideal for a Latino Reporter to work with a Latino Spokesperson. But this formula doesn’t work all the time.
Most spokespeople earn salaries higher than ordinary people. Some make up to $150,000 per year. I am fine with that if that spokesperson is highly productive, but in some cases they do not pull their chestnuts out of the fire for you. Then it is very frustrating.
However, at the end, I must say I am happy because most of the spokespeople at the Capitol are helpful, and when they are not, I do not take it personally. In the end, there’s always someone who can help you.
I understand that theirs is not an easy job. They must deal with demanding bosses and pushy reporters, some of whom think they are the last coca cola in the desert.
I hope I am not in the Diva category.
(Edited: Maria Ginsburg).
Araceli Martínez Ortega is a Mexican journalist who has lived in California in the last nine years. This collaboration is about her personal journey through Las Americas and wherever she goes.