Ever watched a movie and witnessed something so bizarre in it you couldn’t help but wonder if it would ever happen to you in real life?
It happened to me last week, chasing a story for a print assignment due this week concerning a follow up to a notable death last year in a car park close-by.
Now, I’ve had to jump through hoops to interview the former MP of Kingston and Surbition, climb mountains to interrogate everyone’s favourite Mysterious Girl Peter Andre, but have never found myself in a Woodward/Bernstein meets Deepthroat position for a story before.
I would like to, but may not be able to get into all the details of what happened to me chasing my print assignment story last week for this blog post. This is due to an obligation to protect confidential sources of information (shout out to IPSO!), but I’ll do my best for those apart Ian who may be reading this right now.
It all started with a phone call to “deepthroat” at a university department a week ago in times that were simple and innocent, to ask for some help. “Deepthroat, can you answer a few questions for a story I’m doing?” I ask. “We can definitely answer your questions, not a problem,” replied deepthroat. “Great – I need them answered by today; can you do that for me deepthroat?” “Sure darling, not a problem.”
A few hours soon turn into a week and deepthroat does not get back to me at all: I am betrayed by my own optimism. I forget about deepthroat until they return from the shadows just as soon as they had appeared. An email is returned from the dozens of emails and phone calls I have placed since then. “Sorry for the delay – I have been out of the office, but here are our responses to your queries.”
Imagine a moth to a flame, or a fat kid to cake. I was a journalist and boy, was I aroused by this new information for my story. Excited to finally hear back from deepthroat and ready to forget about being let down, I looked at their responses. Deepthroat had answered my three well-considered questions, with two one-word answers and about six words for the other.
I thought of how I could turn deepthroat’s 8 words into a story that needed to be 450 words at least. I’ve done things that were stupid before sure, but it would have been crazy to create the Mona Lisa with the stick and not the brush. I write back to deepthroat outlining their responsibility to provide a thorough answer to what they will do to prevent another death occurring to one of its scholars in a car park again. I sleep.
Deepthroat responds later to say they will prepare a more substantial response and have it to me soon. Bloody right you will: words for an article don’t just grow from trees, you know. A statement is finally sent: it’s not good. It doesn’t read as the corporate PR response I was expecting. It reads in the manner of a Q&A session you would expect to see at Comic-con. Not good.
Disappointed, I write back to ask if deepthroat wants to add more before I run with it. Deepthroat does. “Give me a few hours as there’s more information I want to include,” deepthroat writes back.
I go to the library and my phone rings: it’s deepthroat. “This is going to sound strange I know, but can you send over your email again as that’s the only way I can send you through this new one. Could you also in your email, ask for the new information.” This is strange as I had already done this, but I need more words as it is leaves and not words that grow on trees. So I do.
An email pops back, but it isn’t deepthroat this time, it’s deepthroat’s boss, Richard Nixon. Nixon asks what I meant asking for the new information I had already asked for. “Strange,” I think. “Who is this Nixon person and why are they getting involved?”
I immediately ping a message to deepthroat’s number and tell them what has happened: “Copy and paste all your questions thus far in a new email and send it to Nixon. Nixon will then forward you all the information I couldn’t send over to you.” As I do, deepthroat messages to ask to meet in person to tell me about what is going on behind the scenes. I hold off.
Deepthroat wants to meet in an undisclosed location to talk. I don’t know what to expect, but do as I’m told. I don’t know who I’m looking for, yet see someone sitting on a bench: they don’t look like deepthroat, or anything resembling Linda Lovelace, so I awkwardly hover for a bit. I take the risk and finally approach: “you deepthroat?” I nervously ask. “Yes, I am. I saw you standing there, but didn’t know if that was you.” They get up.
We walk and soon they begin to talk. “Sorry about all this trouble you’ve been put in,” deepthroat posits. “The original responses were not from by me, but from Nixon. I was told to say those things in response to your questions: that’s why they were brief and poorly considered. I wanted to meet to tell you why you’ve had all these difficulties.”
Deepthroat continues and adds that Nixon is a “knob” – I try my best not to smile, but I feel comfortable in their presence not to. She explains the department is poorly run and they’ll be making a formal complaint against Nixon in the future. “I just hope you don’t have to go through this again in your career, but I had to tell you what I couldn’t in my emails.”
“What about the new information that was promised to me? How do I get that?” I eagerly ask? “It’s already written and ready to be sent to you. You just have to copy and paste your previous questions and Nixon will immediately send what you want. This is Nixon. And trust me, Nixon won’t forget about you.” Deepthroat apologises and we head our separate ways.
I’m a good boy and remember words come from sources and not trees, so I head to the newsroom to do what I’m told. I walk in and am immediately startled by those who are in it: “Who were you talking to?” “Fuck,” I think. “They saw.” A voice echoes: “We thought they were going to hit you; they were very animated.” So much for secrecy. I sing like a canary and tell them what they desperately want to know, then retreat to my computer to email Nixon.
A few minutes later, Nixon sends over a document resembling an essay just as deepthroat said they would. The responses are no longer 8 words, but a few dozen: I’ll be able to meet my word count and assignment now. I’m happy. But I sit there for a while. I can't help but reflect on what started as a straightforward inquiry and had ended up as something from All the President’s Men. Bernstein and Woodward would be so proud.
I reach for my phone to text deepthroat to let them know Nixon had sent over what they said they would. I get a reply back. “I’m sorry you got caught in the crossfire but thanks for understanding throughout. I really appreciated it.” This is what actually what happened to me last week. I'm not even kidding.