Surprise: You’ve got news!

I’m not often surprised in my job. Journalists like to think we’ve seen it all and we’ve anticipated it all.

And on my beat, the environment, I seem to write about the same things over and over again. I often can guess what’s going to happen. (Although I admit I did not anticipate 2 million dead fish to wash up in the Chesapeake Bay!)

I was sitting at a forum on sustainability issues on Friday, trying to figure out what my news angle would be, whether a full story was even warranted.

Gov. Martin O’Malley’s people had organized the event as part of a series of forums on hot issues as he begins his second term in office.

Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley on stage, photo by multimedia journalist and environment reporter Pamela Wood.
Gov. Martin O'Malley speaks at a "Maryland Forward" forum on sustainability. He surprised me by making news at an event that was otherwise not so newsworthy.

There were 700 people there and there was some interesting talk, but nothing much newsworthy. I had already e-mailed my editors to warn them.

Then, a woman steps up to the  mic and asks the governor about the budget. (Maryland, like many governments, is broke as a joke and the budget is a big deal.)

O’Malley answers that he’s looking at consolidating some government departments and agencies to save money, including the Department of Natural Resources and the Maryland Department of the Environment.

Ding! Ding! Ding!

There’s my news story.

As I wrote in my story, a DNR-MDE merger seems to come up every so often. But the idea has never gained traction in my time on the environment beat.

But in this case, we had the governor telling hundreds of people, mostly environmentalists and people in “green” businesses, that he might put such a merger into his next budget. Big news.

So just like that, I went from barely having anything worth writing about to a front-page story. Definitely a surprise!

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