Sometimes, when reporters ask questions at press conferences, they maintain a cool, disinterested composure. McCloy, however, looked distressed, as if she herself were one of the people she was describing. “It could be me,” she told me. “Advertisers could pull out. We could all lose our jobs.”
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Melissa DeRosa, the secretary to the governor, told McCloy they’d look into it. And then, to McCloy’s surprise, DeRosa called her and told her to send information on anyone who couldn’t get through to the unemployment office. “Something I said must have struck a chord,” McCloy said.
DeRosa may have been expecting one or two names, but McCloy spent four hours compiling the nearly 200 emails she’d received and sent them on. The station also aired a segment about the encounter. “If you need help, please email Anne at AMcCloy@sbgtv.com,” the anchor said at the end of the segment. “That’s when the floodgates really opened,” McCloy said. “It was an email every minute. Everybody and their mom was emailing me.” Even people from other states started contacting her.
So Anne McCloy began living a double life: news anchor by day, vigilante unemployment specialist by night. She’d work all day, come home, eat dinner, and then forward emails to the governor’s office until 2 a.m. (When I caught up with her, she was at a Starbucks grabbing a quick lunch between tasks.)
Her efforts have paid off. After receiving McCloy’s emails, the governor’s office contacts the Department of Labor. An unemployment specialist then calls the claimant and deals with the issue. Hundreds of people have messaged McCloy to thank her. Some say they cried over the phone when the unemployment office finally called them. One man said he’d been contemplating suicide before he got the call.
Sometimes people who have been waiting weeks—or even months—contact McCloy and hear from the department the next day. “I can’t believe this worked; you’re an angel,” one of them told her.
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A spokesperson from Cuomo’s office told me it’s not unusual for a reporter to write a piece about an unemployed person and work with the governor’s office to resolve the situation. What is unusual in McCloy’s case is the volume—she sends information for not just one or two people, but thousands. As of mid-November, Cuomo’s office had received roughly 3,500 emails from McCloy, and they keep coming. The office had to create a designated inbox to handle all the messages.
It would be a mistake to see McCloy’s role in helping unemployed Americans as a simple feel-good story. “It shouldn’t be this way,” one of the New Yorkers McCloy helped explained to her. “I shouldn’t have to contact my local news station. I should be able to trust the system.”
McCloy is a news anchor, not a government worker. But she has used what power she has to make up for the government’s failures.
“What am I supposed to do when someone emails me that they’re considering suicide because they don’t have money?” she told me. “It almost feels like if I don’t do something about this, then I’m not doing my job. This could be the most important thing I ever do in my life.”
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Ilana E. Strauss is a journalist and podcaster interested in the unwritten rules of the human world. Her work has also appeared in New York Magazine, Popular Science, Politifact, and other outlets.