As a reporter, I’m used to having difficult conversations. From being interrogated by the common receptionist to straight up hang ups, no shows and missed call backs, it’s something I am – now more than seven years into my career – accustomed to. It really no longer bothers me. But I can’t quite remember the last time I’ve had such difficulty obtaining sources for a story. When it comes to the issue of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), otherwise lovingly referred to as Obamacare, no one (OK, I’m being a little dramatic here, but really it was very, very few) wanted to talk. A number of business- minded people simply ignored requests or, when I did miraculously get them in the phone, they wanted to speak more off the record than on about the law and its impacts – whether good or bad.
Read into that what you will, depending on your side of the political aisle, and let’s be clear, this is not a rant about the difficulties of interviewing, which honestly can feel like sales’ version of cold calling at the worst of times. Maybe I was barking up all the wrong trees. Maybe these people were just all too busy (which, by the way, is most definitely a passable excuse. That’s great news! Let’s talk about that this week!). It’s possible some others would have had the same response as this guy: “None of it really matters,” since it’s such a moving target anyway.
But the ones who did talk – on the record, mind you – made some pretty bold statements (see “Affordable Care Act: A moving target”). I wanted that piece to largely inform and inflect, to be a resource for other business leaders, owners and more. I’m not exactly sure if it served that purpose, but I did want to be clear, I do know it certainly could have used more meat.
Maybe it’s a case of heads buried in the sand. One source told me his peers “know more what’s going on with the Nashville Predators and the Tennessee Titans and UT sports than with what’s going on in Washington.” That’s a scary thought. It can even be debatable as to which topic is more entertaining as a whole, at least given the past couple sports seasons.
I get there’s still a lot of uncertainty. Maybe that’s another reason why I’ve gotten the cold shoulder. I’m sure the numbers vary widely, but by Forbes’ mid-February count, the legislation had undergone 35 changes, “18 (major changes) made by the administration, 15 changes passed by Congress and signed into law by the president (including 10 passed by the Republican House), and two in which the law was rewritten by the U.S. Supreme Court,” the publication said. That’s a lot, I guess. I’m just grateful, most days, that I don’t run my own business.
“Until you’ve lost sleep at night trying to figure out how you’re going to meet payroll, until you have set in front of a banker trying to figure out how you’re going to get financed,” I wouldn’t understand, one person said. And that’s probably true. But that’s also why I do what I do. I am thankful for the ones who decided to share their experiences after all, because I feel like that’s one way readers in our region can learn about what’s going on. And, for the record, the UCBJ welcomes any follow- up comments from any business owner who wishes to tell his or her story as well. Because the people quoted in this issue – and all our editions, frankly – are not far-off entrepreneurs from other states or time zones. They are not bureaucrats. These are our people. It’s that simple. Let’s help each other.
Liz Engel Clark is the editor of the Upper Cumberland Business Journal. She can be reached at email@example.com.