June 2, 2010 Erin Sutherland

Sometimes, it just doesn’t go as planned.


Notice something funny about this photo?

Yes, you’re right. There are no people.

Last week, I went on a wild story chase to Dubuque, Iowa to see how IBM has affected their community since opening a call service center about 18 months ago. We had grand plans – photos, stories, maybe even multimedia. The reporter, Gikunju, and I were stoked. Six hours in the car later, we found ourselves in this beautiful community. Little did we know there were iron gates ahead.

IBM has very strict PR policies. We knew this going in, and heard our first rumblings of “no” within minutes of starting our search for stories. Carefully crafting our questions to avoid the possibility of breaching their NDA’s, we asked mostly about how they liked living in Dubuque, if they had problems with their housing at first, if they came here without their families, and most importantly (at least for me) if we could take pictures and video.

“I’m sorry, but you need to go through our PR representative.”

We did find a handful of people to talk, and even fewer that agreed to photographs, but overall, we were met with the iron cold shoulder from the IBMers. Visually, I saw almost nothing that would work. Empty apartment rooms, empty streets, empty stores. I still feel defeated.

I know there were visual stories to be told. The access was just not there.

originally posted to my staff class blog.