Beyond the Beltway

Don't Call Us

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By Gene Weingarten
Sunday, November 25, 2007

Whenever I check my office voice mail, I have to spend the first 15 minutes deleting messages. They all sound pretty much the same:

"Hi! This is Amber McChippie of Ernest N. Forthright Communications, and I was just following up on an e-mail I sent you about our client's intriguing new book, Squat-Thrust Your Way to Inner Peace and Firmer Abs, and . . ."

(star-D)

"Hi! This is Madison Rosenblatt-Gonzalez of Constance Naggington Communications, and I was just following up on an e-mail I sent you about our client's exciting new line of kangaroo--themed party bunting, and . . ."

(star-D)

"Hi! This is Heather . . ."

(star-D)

The reason I get these calls is that, many years ago, someone apparently furnished my name to several companies that publish media contact lists for PR people. And, for some reason, I was identified as a "lifestyles reporter." So far as I know, "lifestyles reporter" is a newsroom designation that doesn't actually exist except in the wishful thinking of PR professionals who need to believe there are people whose job compels them to be interested in "news" releases about upholstered lawn tractors, hip-hop accordion music and lemon-scented dental floss for dogs.

I have tried to get my name expunged from these lists, with little success. But, just the other day, I gotå an e-mail from one of these companies, asking me if I wanted to update my listing with additional information. This was a hugely exciting development.

Below, verbatim, are the questions, along with my responses.

Q: What are your beats?

A: My primary responsibility is to savagely attack the quality of retail products and services. I rely on initial cold-call contacts from PR professionals to select which companies I will attempt to bankrupt through unfair reporting techniques leading to shockingly unfounded criticism. For example, I will fail to disclose that the bicycle I panned as "slow, sluggish and difficult to maneuver" was test-driven at the bottom of a swimming pool.


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