I was talking to a good friend of mine the other day who is also in this strange business of newspapers. He was telling me that he was driving down the road for an assignment where he was to take up position outside the home of the mother of Ashley Alexandra Dupre, the alleged prostitute involved in the scandal surrounding former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer.
That’s right. I said the mother of the alleged prostitute.
We continued that conversation into a collective diatribe on the current ills of our profession. All the hot topics were addressed — newsrooms cutting staffs, efforts being focused on chasing big stories rather than focusing on the communities we are supposed to be covering, papers filling their pages with wire stories that do nothing positive except fill holes that should be packed with local stories, etc.
We cut off the talk when he told me he had reached his destination, and I hung up having one of those, “Man, am I glad I’m not that guy” moments.
I realize every day how lucky I am. I have a great family life, terrific friends, co-workers I respect a great deal and a job that allows me to do community news in a community I love. Big picture-wise, it really doesn’t get much better than my life.
I thought to myself how fortunate I was to not get involved in some of the stories I read every day. I’m thrilled that I’m not covering the steroid scandals in sports, or elections charged by race and gender issues or interviews with the mothers of alleged prostitutes. While you’d think these stories are gold for journalists, they most certainly are not. You question why you’re there, what good you’re doing the world, and you wonder if Wal-Mart is hiring greeters this week. As easily-distracted as I can be, I started scanning the Internet for other stories I’m grateful not to be covering.
You’d be surprised just how many are out there at any given time.
For instance, UPI reported on Sunday that a woman in Arizona had settled an argument with her homeowners association that, well, “became known as the ‘$80,000 light bulb’ case.”
For starters, I admit that I was intrigued by the headline. I dove further into the story and realized that the dispute had centered on the lady’s installation of security lights at her house, and the sleep-deprived neighbors who lived in the radiance of the woman’s home. The woman had reportedly paid $50,000 for legal assistance during the War of the Bulbs, and was looking at $30,000 more in fines to the homeowner’s association.
I am so happy I did not have to cover that story. Oh, it has some interest, and the time-honored tradition of homeowner versus homeowner’s association is one that many people have an avid interest in, but ...
Personal conflicts are never fun to cover for a reporter. Trust me on that one. Plus, being the impatient sort that I am, I’m guessing I’d have either chucked a rock at the light or bought thick curtains for the neighbors after about four minutes of interviewing each side.
The next piece I stumbled on was an Associated Press piece out of Illinois that told the tale of a tarot-card business near Chicago that had been allegedly defrauding customers by telling them they had been cursed, and it would require more money to have said curse removed. The two business owners were charged earlier this week with a variety of felony charges, and were in jail in lieu of bond at the time of this column.
Again, I am so, so happy I am not covering this story. On one hand, exposing the fraudulent business does indeed benefit the readers. On the other hand, what if you wrote something the businessmen didn’t like? Do you get seven years of bad luck? Do you turn into a three-headed duck at midnight? Do you have to get married?
But I very much digress.
And, last but not least, there was one more story in my 30 minutes of searching that made me grateful for where I am.
WFTV-9, in Orlando, reported earlier this week about a dispute between a middle school student and his teacher in the classroom. According to the young man, he asked the teacher for permission to go to the bathroom. The teacher allegedly told the boy “he could wait until the end of class or use her lunchbox in the back of the classroom.”
Well, the boy took her up on her offer, urinated in her lunchbox in front of the teacher and 19 students. The boy’s mother heard the story from the boy when he got home, called the school and the teacher is now under paid suspension until an investigation is complete.
Do I need to explain why I’m glad I’m not covering this one? First off, I’d ask the teacher why she offered the option of someone urinating in her own lunchbox, and then I’d ...
Actually, I’d really want to hear that answer.