At some point over the course of a reporter’s life they are going to lose a source. I’ve been there when a source is mad about something written, so they shut down communication. Sometimes they come back, but other times they’re done with you forever.
The type of loss I’ve suffered over the last 18 months, however, the high-quality sources I’ve lost is not because of anything I have done. I’ve lost them because they resigned for a variety of reasons.
Tonight, for example, I’m covering a Board of Finance meeting that will be Gavin Anderson’s last. He has served on the board since before I started covering Westport in August 2000, and he has been a valuable source to me over that time.
When writing a story, like any good reporter I want to get both sides of the story. I could always count on Gavin to give me a different perspective — with a lot of thought-out analysis — to the thoughts provided from the other side of the aisle.
There were times Gavin would be fighting with other members of the board about something political, and those fights would spill into my stories. I could always count on something colorful from him during those times.
But it’s not like Gavin was just a source. He’d share his poetry with me, ask how I was doing and always check on my work while I was in graduate school during the last year. I certainly will miss the laughs and fun we had during our conversations just as much as I will miss the deep analysis he provided for my stories.
He’s not the first source I’ve lost over the last 18 months, though, with Lewis Brey resigning from the Board of Education and Steve Ezzes resigning from the Board of Finance. Each were unique and fun to work with over the time they served on various boards and commissions.
Steve and Gavin, for example, had some epic political debates while on the Board of Finance. Those spilled over into the pages of the newspaper. They enjoyed debating each other, and it was fun being part of it. Many times I would hear “What did Gavin say?” or “What did Steve say?” during the course of an interview.
Lewis, meanwhile, added a different dimension to Board of Education meetings. He would never take anything for face value that the superintendent provided, and when I spoke with him for an interview the analysis came through. Being we are closer in age than I am with most of my other sources, we shared some of the same pop culture references. I remember one interview where he tried to compare a debate among Board of Education members with the “Lord of the Rings.”
Then there was the loss of Carl Leaman. He’d provide me tips on stories mainly, but he also was there to always explain something financial. I’m a reporter. Math isn’t necessarily my strength. And there was always the train and green energy discussions, two of Carl’s passions. But most of our conversations — usually Tuesdays and Wednesdays when he was at Town Hall — would eventually turn to baseball or hockey. “That Pedro’s done,” he’d tell me to rile me up. Other times we’d debate the New York Times and the Washington Post and which is the better newspaper.
I could go on forever about the sources I’ve lost over the years and how I miss the interviews with them. Not all these sources necessarily go away forever. Last summer Lewis returned as an attorney for a teacher seeking to return to his position. I see Carl regularly at Town Hall and town meetings (and we still talk about baseball, hockey and newspapers). I’m sure I’ll continue to see Gavin around town.
The loss of a quality source is hard, however, because I then have to replace them. Some of these people have giant shoes to fill. Many times, so far, I have not found new sources to quite fill those shoes. Perhaps in time.