AS a lifestyle journalist, being invited to all sorts of events and parties comes with the territory. While a handful of people behind these events genuinely enjoy your company, a good number of others want you to be there for the simple reason that they need the potential publicity a journalist could provide. It’s a fact of life.
Since I hardly cover socials, I have become more selective over the years when it comes to accepting after-six invitations. Unless the event offers a clear as well as potential story and networking opportunity for me, I opt to stay home or do something else.
My decision to decline is only fair for both parties. While I’m spared from dressing up and spending a few precious hours in the company of familiar faces and virtual strangers, the host is spared the expense, which he/she could use to invite someone else, and expectation of seeing a news story of his/her event splashed in the Inquirer.
Of course, there are must-go-to events that require no further evaluation on my part. Fashion shows for a cause and parties in honor of this and that celebrity, foreign designer, global icon, celebrated chef and member of royalty are just but a few of the exceptions.
But as a whole, declining or ignoring invitations, especially from people you’ve come to know and like, isn’t easy. Besides, you simply don’t know what’s in store for you as a journalist unless you go.
At the same time, it’s simply impossible for journalists to respond to every enveloped invitation that comes to the office. But, apart from phone calls, invites of a more personal nature like texts, as I’m beginning to learn, require a definite response.
Just recently, the head of a foundation invited me through text to attend their anniversary party to be graced by a prominent Filipino leader of the Catholic Church.
Since I wasn’t sure whether to attend or not, I simply ignored the text, hoping that my decision not to RSVP was tantamount to saying no.
I waved at him and thought that was that until I saw him right beside me the next minute. He was now asking if I got his text.
No heart to say no
Since I didn’t want to embarrass myself, I simply said that I would check my phone again. I also didn’t have the heart to say no to him since he and his wife have been very nice to me ever since.
During the musical’s 15-minute break, it was my turn to bump into his wife at the lobby. Unlike her husband, she was more direct, which was quite understandable because we’ve known each other longer.
“I assume you won’t be able to attend my husband’s event,” she said.
Again, instead of saying no, the Filipino in me said: “I’ll have to ask my boss if she wants it covered.”
Ever the gracious lady, the wife said something along these lines: “You don’t have to cover it unless you want to. We just like you to be there.”
I managed to smile back before excusing myself, as people were starting to return to their seats inside the theater. But what she said was something fairly new to me: “We just like you to be there.”
A few days later, I responded to the husband through text informing him that I won’t be able to attend. No reasons were discussed because no reasons were necessary. He took it well.
A few years ago, I was also faced with a similar dilemma. Since I wasn’t as “sophisticated” as I am now, I came out of it with a life’s lesson on the importance of tact even while dealing with your friends.
Since she and my then boss had a falling out, my response to her text invite was neither yes nor no. Instead, it was what seasoned publicists would describe as a PR disaster: “I don’t know if I could attend. I’m not really sure if my boss would even use the story.”
My friend, as I learned later on from a mutual friend, was hurt by my response. She even cried. I apologized for my insensitivity. She may have forgiven me, but I’m not sure if she has forgotten what I did.
In hindsight, stories and former bosses had nothing to do with her invitation. She liked me and simply wanted me to share the moment with her. Unfortunately, my jadedness got in the way of my better judgment
Whether you’re a journalist or not, there are invitations, and there are invitations. If anything, the episode has thought me to find time for good friends. If I really can’t attend, the least I can do is to respond and say no.
I guess the same thing applies to people you’ve known and worked with for a good number of years. Simply ignoring an invitation, especially texted, emailed and PMed invites, is not only bad manners. Done to a good friend, it’s downright cruel.