November 23, 2012


     While working for the Provincial Picayune Gazette and still laboring under the delusion that reporting was what I was meant to do with my life, I was sentenced to the cruel and unusual punishment of submitting a daily story about a flyspeck of a town called Deep River – a settlement about as full of hot news stories as a rain barrel.  So, to those of you interested in a career as a small town news reporter, here is Lesson #1.  Pay attention.  It’s about all you’ll be able to pay with the salary you’ll be earning.

     Lesson #1 – Salacious Rumors, assorted Lies, and Miscellaneous Gossip
Somewhere along the line, those inevitable lean days for news will sneak up on you (or, in my case, will lie in wait and ambush you, day after day).  Nothing is happening, town officials are taking five-hour lunches, and everybody else is on vacation.  The ever-present five o’clock deadline is looming closer by the minute, and there is only one thing left to do.
Make something up.
Oh, don’t look so shocked.  It’s very simple, it’s done all the time, and it makes terrific copy.  All you have to do is think up a nasty rumor about a town official, then call that official, repeat your newly-born rumor, and ask for verification.
Here’s a short example:
Reporter:  Mrs. Swane, is it true that, as First Selectman, you’ve been dipping into the town General Fund for personal use?
FS (First Selectman):  Absolutely not!  That’s a vicious lie!
Reporter:  My sources tell me that you’re building a castle out in Winthrop, complete with a moat.  Isn’t that quite expensive considering the salary you’re paid?
FS:  It’s beyond my comprehension how these rumors get started.  I am not, I repeat, not building a castle!
Reporter:  Exactly what are you building, then?
FS:  (quickly)  It’s just a replica of the Taj Mahal.  And it doesn’t have a moat, just a small reflecting pool out front.
Reporter:  But it is filled with alligators . . .
FS:  Well, yes, but they ate the Second Selectman last week, so they’re pretty docile at the moment.  They do get testy when they’re hungry, though.
Reporter:  Don’t you think “testy” is an awfully mild term to describe killer reptiles?
FS:  I don’t understand why everyone is so down on my alligators!  I need protection out there in the woods.
Reporter:  Mrs. Swane, I’ve seen your home and I’d hardly call it “woodsy.”
FS:  Well, it does have trees all around . . .
Reporter:  There are only two trees on your entire lot!
FS:  But there are lots of bushes!
Reporter:  That’s true.  With all those shrubs to hide behind, you’re just asking for a pygmy attack.
FS:  Well, my husband died last year, and I do need the security.
Reporter:  Don’t the jackals take care of that?
FS:  Oh, you’ve seen the jackals, have you?
Reporter:  Yes, but they saw me first.
FS:  Oh, my!  Are you all right?
Reporter:  Sure.  I’ll be out of the hospital in another month, and then they tell me that I shouldn’t have any trouble learning to walk again, with my new artificial leg.  Now, to get back to this General Fund thing . . .
FS:  I told you already . . . it’s ridiculous!
Reporter:  Then perhaps you could tell me why the town is running on a $200,000 deficit, with a safe deposit box full of IOUs signed, “A Friend.”
FS:  I don’t know anything about those IOUs!  However, the deficit can be laid at the feet of the town sanitation crew.  The cost of garbage collection has simply skyrocketed this year!
Reporter:  But the townspeople pay for garbage pickup.
FS:  Oh, yes.  That’s right.  Well, upkeep on the truck is very costly.
Reporter:  $200,000 worth?
FS:  Well, we had to replace a tire.
Reporter:  Where did you buy it?  Fort Knox?
FS:  No, but it was handmade in Akron, Ohio.  Labor isn’t cheap, you know.  As I always say, you get what you pay for.
Reporter:  Well, that just goes to show you why you’re where you are and I’m where I am.  I would have done something silly, like take it to an ordinary service station and have a regular tire put on.
FS:  I guess I can’t really expect you to understand the inner workings of town government, since you’re just a reporter.  Well, I’m sorry, but I’ll have to hang up now.  It’s time to feed my piranhas, and I just got some meat out of the freezer . . .
Reporter:  Wait, wait!  I wanted to ask you about the disappearance of the Third Selectman!



1 comment:

  1. So funny. Loved it. I eventually left a small town paper because I refused to follow such "leads" and editor wanted more excitement in the "news."