As my dad always said, it’s better to be luck than good and that goes for journalism, too.
You can work as hard as is humanly possible but if you can’t get the right person on the phone at the right time all your work, contacts and knowledge can count for nothing.
I got lucky on Thursday when I wrote this story for Time magazine about the killing of Pedro Alcântara de Souza, a land reform activist in the Amazonian state of Pará.
I managed to get the police officer who heard the initial deposition on the phone and I got some good background on violence in the state from the man who writes the annual study on the country’s most bloody municipalities. In my contacts book I found the name of a priest who worked on land conflicts in Pará and he spoke of the recurring issues there.
On another day – and there have been many – the police won’t talk and you can’t get through to the right person to get the background you need. Phones ring and ring and ring and web sites don’t load.
It’s a constant struggle dealing with the public sector because so people who work there just don’t care. And it’s a hassle with the private sector because companies all have press officers whose job is to stop journalists getting information.
This time I was lucky.