Dear Big Daddy,
I’ve worked in the Capitol for four years and I’ve been dating a reporter, off and on, for the last eight months. We’ve kept it quiet because he thought we would have problems if the word got out, although I don’t see why. What do you think?
Keep it quiet.
Reporters dating staffers is a dicey proposition, at best. When word leaks out, colleagues for both become instantly suspicious of the other. No matter how sincere, no matter how heart-felt, relationships born in the steamy political jungle usually expire quickly. Good thing, too. There are exceptions, of course, but I can count those on one hand.
Reporters see their fellow newsie as a person with an unfair, inside track to the Building, while the staffer’s colleagues fear that private information is getting fed to a reporter who later will use it to write a story.
Nobody trusts the other, and with reason.
Capitol lore is replete with tales of backbiting and chicanery among those in public service, while newsrooms are filled with journalists who see themselves as the noble seekers of truth but who would stab their colleagues and whack their grandmothers for a promotion.
Given the duplicity and maneuvering on both sides, when they come together romantically the ultimate combination can get volatile. Ironically, many staffers are former reporters, so in some cases, it’s kind of like hooking up with a first cousin.
After the break-up, of course, it gets even worse: Embittered staffers leak to the reporter’s rivals, while the reporter goes the former lover’s boss. It can get ugly, and either way, careers can get damaged.
So keep it quiet.
It won’t stay quiet for long, any way – people in the Capitol can sniff out love affairs with amazing speed – and when it does come out, you can deny everything to everybody except your boss. The reporter probably will confide it to a couple of close friends, who will immediately blab to everyone within earshot because information is the valued currency of the Capitol.
Rather than go through all this strain, people should date their own. Staffers should date staffers, and reporter should stick with reporters.
If they can’t do that, reporters should forget the staffers but go with an elected, or even a lobbyist. There’s definitely more excitement as one skulks in the shadows to avoid the glare of reporters and the public, and the thrill of meeting in a roadhouse outside Sacramento is hard to beat. (Even there, problems arise: Years ago, I went into Rogelio’s in Isleton and stumbled across an internationally famous investigative reporter huddled in private conversation with a source.)
And with an elected or lobbyist, a reporter may wind up with a chance to make policy, something they’ve always wanted to do anyway, instead of watching from the sidelines while others do it.