Last week, I got to see President Obama in person.
Not only did I see him, but I covered his visit to Atlanta, Georgia for the Creative Loafing. And seriously, nothing will make you feel more like a legitimate reporter than writing a story about the President for a legitimate publication. I mean, I was spitting distance from him (not that I would ever). I was actually nervous – not because he’s the leader of the free world or anything – because a fellow friend and photojournalist kept saying out loud how excited he was to have the opportunity to “shoot the President.”
“When people ask me of my biggest achievement, I’ll be able to say I shot the President,” said Frank. (No, I’m not kidding, he really said that.)
Anyway, back to the bull Schick…
When you’re excited about something, what do you do? Do share your happiness via social media? Maybe make a “OMG” Facebook post or tweet a photo? Well, I did both. And here’s where the story actually starts (sorry inverted pyramid, my lede should’ve been, “If you wonder why journalists get a bad rap, wonder no more”).
After they White House media check-in, I innocently posted this tweet:
— David Schick (@reportschick) February 14, 2013
Now, this is where the fun begins. Three days later, I get a tweet from a Rachel Shirey and according to her profile she has “news you can use.”
Now at first, I thought this was merely a joke. I didn’t think for a second that anyone seriously considered my press pass a “security threat.” I also thought the addition of the twitter accounts for the President and the Secret Service were merely for satirical value. So, I decided to join in on the fun.
What I hadn’t realized was that she was serious. And apparently, so was this next tweeter, Kelsey Cochran. She tweeted me three separate times in order to get this message across:
(The original tweets have since been deleted, but here are some iPhone screenshots)
@kelseycochrandh My comment was meant sarcastically. I highly doubt excitement over a piece of inconsequential paper constitutes a “threat.”
— David Schick (@reportschick) February 17, 2013
First of all, smart enough? Are you serious? I wasn’t going to touch this, but the slight made to my intelligence really pissed me off. And in the same breath, you give me more than enough rope. Second, what do you mean bragging? I was covering a story about the President. I was excited. Are you telling me that you wouldn’t be? Or that you wouldn’t mention it to anyone? Finally, #sorrynotsorry? What are you sorry, not sorry about? Raining on my parade, or looking publicly incompetent?
Here’s where this becomes like a train wreck (so, horrible yet you can’t look away).
But as an investigative reporter, I decided not to speculate. I sent the following email to the National Security Administration.
So, in regards to the attached picture, is this a national security risk?
I send this asinine question with much reluctance because I’m already 100% sure of the answer. I’m quite certain that had I imposed any “risk” or “threat” to the nation, that I would be more than aware (and in federal custody).
But as a green journalist, it’s important for me to verify inaccuracy (i.e. a fellow reporter claiming that “friends who work for NSA” say tweeting a picture of my press pass is a “threat to national security”).
Anyway, I sincerely apologize for wasting any of your time. I hope you find this email as hysterical to read as I did writing it.
NSA’s missions are foreign signals intelligence and information assurance. We suggest contacting the White House regarding your request.
I assume that means I’m in the clear (in hindsight, using the word “threat” in an email to the NSA is probably more of a “risk” than my picture). Not that I need to add insult to injury, but this National Security Threat List has things from Terrorism to Espionage, to targeting the U.S. Government, but nothing about posting a paper press pass with your name, your publication, and the date on it (all of things which could be found on your social media account).
In a recent post from Michael Koretzky, a couple of things stuck out.
“You can tell yourself you’re learning something new ‘everyday,’ but those lessons aren’t seared into your brain as if you made the same stupid move in front of a human being who immediately burns you for it – and perhaps gloats afterward,” he said.
While his message was about the discrepancy of Words With Friends, it made me realize that we as journalists need to be just as willing to dish out the harsh punishment to each other as we do to the public official we attempt to hold accountable in the form of scathing editorial.
“You can’t succeed in this field if you fear having to issue a correction every now and again.”