For weeks, I’d been asking to interview Brian Kemp. He’s Georgia’s Secretary of State, the guy who has accepted responsibility — in statements released by his press office — for the leak of the personal data of six million Georgia voters.
The answer — when I’d get an answer at all — was always “no.”
I asked again. The SOS was about to release an internal investigative report on the leak. This time, the answer was a modification of no: We’re already scheduled to talk to one of your colleagues.
Jon Shirek? I asked.
Shirek! The visual could be my contorted face gazing upward, fist shaking. Shirek! Once again, I’d been bested by a superior reporter.
Instead, I responded with: “Great! Thanks.” Click.
Brian Kemp had already talked to Shirek a week previously — while disregarding my concurrent interview requests. On Monday November 30, his chief of staff told me Kemp “is not doing any interviews” on the data leak issue. I urged him to reconsider, darkly suggesting that somebody — not me, necessarily, but an ambitious TV news goon of some stripe — would likely ambush Kemp in a hallway when he least expected it. A sit-down would be more civilized, I reasoned.
Have fun with that, came the answer. He didn’t actually say that, but that was what he communicated, loud and clear.
Two days later, Kemp scheduled an interview with Shirek. To my knowledge, Shirek’s interviews with Kemp are the only TV chats Kemp has granted on this topic.
And really — who could blame Kemp?
Shirek is perhaps the most admired reporter in our building. He’s timely, enterprising, legendarily thorough, and one of the two best writers in our shop. (Fortunately, the other one tends not to request the same interviews I do.)
He’s also much nicer than I am. In fact, there is no more personable TV reporter in town. When I competed against Shirek, his was the competitive company I wanted to keep.
Same now. He actually watches TV. He stays reasonably aware of what his coworkers are doing. He heaps praise on them, and me occasionally, when he finds our efforts laudable.
If I was a public official going through a rough patch, I’d call Shirek too. Especially if yours truly was my other best option. My MO is awkward politeness, with carefully and respectfully phrased questions that can be a bit uncomfortable. “You are the world’s worst!” Gov. Nathan Deal once said to me, in an unguarded moment aboard a campaign plane, when talking about reporters trying to get newsmakers to say things they don’t want to say. He was smiling when he said it. I took it as a compliment.
Shirek is Julio Jones to my Roddy White. During this year’s NFL season, as Jones eclipsed White, White made believable-yet-not-believable comments to the press about how he didn’t care who catches footballs. He cared only about the team winning.
So here’s yet another tiresome post praising Jon Shirek. He’s not exactly kicking my ass, inasmuch as we play for the same team. But he’s taking care of business that I seem to be unable to handle my ownself. I only care about the team winning. I really do.