Once we decide to do a round-up story like this week’s cover story on how pets help reduce stress in the lives of working professionals, the next step becomes, where are we going to find these people? Well, they get “chosen” for lots of different reasons, some deliberate, others completely by accident. (And, unlike Oprah, we don’t advertise for subjects on the radio.)
During the editorial meeting in which Scott Morgan, our business editor, suggested we focus on pets for our annual Health & Fitness issue, Jamie Saxon, our Preview editor, remembered a couple we had photographed at the SAVE benefit for “U.S. 1 Crashes a Party” (May 12): C.C. Cartier and Dave Imiter, owners of Maverick Pet Partners, a high-end canine training, boarding, and nutrition outfit in Skillman. Morgan set up an interview and got the ball rolling.
Also at that meeting we remembered we had been holding on to several photographs taken at Creative Marketing Alliance, whose president, Jeff Barnhart, lets his staff bring their dogs to work. This would be the perfect time to build a story around those photographs. Saxon set up interviews with Barnhart and one of his employees, Kaitlin Friedmann, to talk about what it’s like to bring your dog to the office.
Then we decided it would be interesting to see if there was a psychologist who was doing research in this area or who had a client whose pet was helping him or her through a challenging issue. We called up to Rutgers and put out feelers with psychologists we knew or had interviewed for previous stories. Nothing panned out until Saxon started editing a story on Nikki Stern, a 9/11 widow who has written a new book on the “dangerous appeal” of moral authority (U.S. 1, June 16). The writer mentioned a support group Stern had started, facilitated by Ruth Goldston, a psychologist at 601 Ewing Street. Saxon E-mailed her and the next day heard back from Goldston, who suggested her client, Ted McKnight.
A day to two later Stern came in to drop off a photograph for her story. When she walked into our offices with her dog, Molly, Saxon asked Stern if she would be willing to be a part of the pet story. Bingo. Then Stern suggested we also talk to one of her neighbors, Geraldine Getzow, who juggles three jobs and says one of her greatest pleasures is taking her half chow, half shepherd collie, Tula, for walks in her Sayre Drive neighborhood, where the kids love to play with the dog.
We also decided we wanted to interview a working professional who was going through a serious illness and could talk about how his or her pet was helping him or her cope. We put out calls to oncologist Peter Yi at the University Medical Center at Princeton and oncologist Deborah Toppmeyer at the Cancer Institute of New Jersey in New Brunswick. Yi called back within minutes and suggested his patient, Kourtney Crivello, a young woman with Hodgkin’s disease. Toppmeyer’s secretary suggested Toppmeyer herself, whose dog, Reggie, helps her unwind after a long, hectic day.
So that’s how we got the people to interview for this story. Part research, part networking, part serendipity. Watch out, you could be next.