DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am a business reporter for a local newspaper. I was informed that one of our local larger businesses was having a staff meeting to discuss major changes, so I decided to attend.
It took place in a large auditorium and there were about 500 people in attendance. I quietly sat in the back row and took notes. About 20 minutes into the meeting, I had enough material, so I got up to leave.
The president of the company, who was speaking at the time, apparently mistook me for one of his employees because he shouted at me, in an angry tone of voice, “Hey you! Sit down! We’re not done yet!” I ignored him and just kept walking.
Granted, I had not been invited to the meeting, though the company made no effort to keep outsiders out, either. But ignoring that aspect of it, what would have been the appropriate response on my part? Should I have ignored him as I did, or should I have said something? And if so, what?
GENTLE READER: No doubt the most satisfying solution would have been to say, “Thank you. I’m actually a local reporter and I have everything that I need,” before running for the door. It would certainly have given the company president pause.
But that only works if you are yourself innocent of any wrongdoing. A reputable reporter is expected to identify as such to the people he or she is covering -- unless the information to be obtained is accessible to the general public. When throwing a dinner party, Miss Manners may forget to lock the door each time a guest arrives. But that is not an open invitation to the neighbors.