The thing I didn't get until much later was that it was futile to draw a line between reporters and their sources and say that friendships and favors were out of line. I thought it was supposed to be so, but in the features department, everything was mushy and human. People went to each others' parties, hung out, championed each other, and later, when someone needed a job, they worked each other's contacts. I was an editor, one of those semi-mom jobs where you're supposed to enforce the rules. So much for that. I thought somehow that distance, just that freedom from the tug you'd have about saying something critical about a friend, or getting someone you were close to in hot water, was worth the effort. But I misunderstood. That wasn't really how it worked.
The fashion reporters didn't even pretend. Boxes of clothes and shoes, and Sephoras full of cosmetics and perfume came in and then went home with them. Want something? Just make a call. The rule was return anything over $25. But the most beautiful flowers I'd ever seen crowded the desks. And when a reporter needed reservations to something, she'd make a call. In. I have a feeling no one paid for much, if anything. I did a sweep or two of "pack it up, send it back" when I arrived there, to great resentment, and for a while, it seemed that the daily deliveries lightened up. But it's just as easy to have something sent to the house. Even the barely-out-of-her-internship staffer with four roommates in Koreatown wore the most expensive clothes I've ever seen, straight off our pages. She wasn't a trust fund kid, and she wasn't buying them on what we were paying, but then, I never saw her credit card bills, either. Maybe I misunderstood.
I misunderstood the whole idea of objectivity. I saw early on that I liked and disliked sources and subjects, had strong opinions of them, could get people to not take me seriously and tell me things that would get them in deep trouble. I didn't know if I could spend a career doing that kind of manipulating or trying to suppress my intuitions while I let facts speak for themselves. So I steered away, moved first to the editorial pages where the opinion was clearly marked, and then to editing, where distance was imposed. It seemed more genuine, maybe safer. I was in my 20s then, and my 20-year-old self didn't know herself well enough yet, hadn't learned that directness and contact were safe, too. It was a lingering mistrust of myself, I think. I think I misunderstood.