Lynda Gledhill, a spokesperson for the state Senate, is a former San Francisco Chronicle reporter who shifted to the other side of the notebook: Now she gives out information instead of receiving it, and she helps reporters instead of competing against them. We caught up with her at her office in the Capitol.
You deal in information, so how is this job different from what you did before?
It’s information, but it’s at the front end, not the back end. You are crafting and originating the information, rather than regurgitating it. It’s interesting, it’s different. My basic question is, “How do I frame the information in a way that is most useful to reporters?”
How do you deal with reporters?
Well, Alicia (Trost) really handles the daily questions, and I’ll be filling in for her when she goes on maternity leave. But basically, you answer questions as best you can. You try to make sure (the stories) are reasonable and give your guys credit when it’s deserved.
What kinds of questions do you get?
It’s amazing to me. You can be in the middle of something really big, like a budget deadlock, and you’re at the center of what’s going on, but you’ll get so many random questions from people on whatever enterprise (feature) story they happen to be doing. Because you’re in the leader’s office, they often come to you as the point person on every issue. I’m also amazed that they’ll expect you to explain every side of the issue. They’ll ask you things like, “What’s the Chamber of Commerce’s point of view?” It’s really hard not to say, “Well, why don’t you just call them?” But you have to help them, because you want them to call you back and get your side and you want to be as helpful as possible. There are some reporters who you have to educate every time they call.
With all the turmoil in the newspapers, has the press corps changed much?
Obviously, there are a lot of newer people and beats are changing a lot. There’s always going to be that learning curve for reporters, as in any situation, and that’s a challenge. Even if they were new to the Capitol, there used to be more of an institutional understanding of the way things work here.
Have your hours changed much?
I guess the nice part over here is that you are not 100 percent dependent on someone else’s schedule. When you’re a reporter, and the governor schedules a 4 p.m. news conference, you cover it, no matter what else you have going on. You’ve got to be there. Here, sometimes, you can do it tomorrow. In newspapers, there is no tomorrow. As one of my former colleagues said, “The only tomorrow in newspapers is at the bottom of a bird cage.”