Can a millennial reporter live without voice mail?

Jessica Levco

This is an embarrassing workplace confession: Up until yesterday, I didn’t set up the voice mail on my work phone.

I know, I know.

How can a reporter not have voice mail?

You’d be surprised. It’s been a pretty easy thing for me to get away with for almost three years. Sure, I’ve missed every single call, but I’ve never missed a story. And no source has ever told me or emailed me, “Why haven’t you returned my calls?”

First, allow me to explain how this happened:

When I first started working at Ragan, I was mostly writing and proofing newsletter articles. I never bothered setting up my voice mail because nobody ever called me. Eventually, I started writing for Ragan.com, but after six months had passed, I wondered, “How stupid would I look now if I said I didn’t know how to work my voice mail?”

Not having voice mail was my dirty little office secret.

But now as I’m writing more for our health care website, I decided it was time to figure it out—no matter how embarrassed I was. It just so happened that our IT guy called me the other day and asked me to confirm my extension number. I told him. And then, blurted out, “I don’t have voice mail on my phone!”

Later in the day, I found out that I was on speaker phone when I admitted this. Of course.

When I told my GenX editor all of this, she was amused—but I think she questioned my ability to do my job.

“What if a source was trying to get in touch with you? What would you do?”

I assured her that I’ve been able to function just fine without voice mail. Mostly, I think that’s because I’m a millennial. My friends and I rarely leave messages for each other on the phone. We communicate with texts, emails, Facebook messages, and carrier pigeons.

Reporting can be done in a similar way.

Here’s how I did it:

  1. When I need to contact a source for a story, I always email first and set up a specific time to talk with him or her. I never say, “Call me sometime in the afternoon.”
  2. If I was forced to leave a message for a source, I’d just say my phone number very quickly. Then, I’d say my email address five times on the voice mail—and hope for the best.

Plus, there’s always been a certain joy to not having voice mail. I was impossible to talk to—unless it was on my terms. I never had to listen to PR pitches over the phone. No prank calls. No soliciting phone messages.

But I’m ready to move on.

In fact, when I came into work this morning, there was a red blinking light on my phone saying that I had a voice mail. My first one!

 Well, it’s too bad I don’t know what my pin number is. Maybe I’ll figure it out next year.

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