Ms. Pigette and fake news
I got a text message from Ms. Pigette last week inviting me over for a drink. I knew she wanted something. And, if she invited me over for a drink, it might be serious.
So, the other day, after taking out the trash and picking up the mail, I meandered down Route 27 to the spot where she holds up a mailbox.
“Thank God. Where have you been,” she said. “I messaged you two or three days ago. Don’t you look at your phone? Or are you too old and can’t remember how to work the darn thing.”
“I invited you over for a drink hoping you would bring the ice. Wonderful ice. Cool and inviting ice," she said.
“Standing beside the road in the summer, especially this summer, has been a chore. It is not only the heat, but the humidity is also doing me in,” she said as a stream of sweat snaked down her snout.
“Welcome to the club,” I told her and explained that if she wanted me to bring her ice, she should have mentioned it, and I would have brought her a couple of bags.
Then she gave me her best sad smile. “Would you mind going down to the Center and buying …” So, being a good guy, I drove to the store and picked up a couple of bags of ice and brought them out to her and shoved them in her mailbox.
It took about a minute and a half for her eyes to close. “Ahhhh. Cool. Perfect,” she said, and she started in on me.
“Now, mister old news person, let’s get to business. What is this stuff I hear about the press printing Fake News? Is the national press, including our dear Boothbay Register, an enemy of the people? What gives?”
“Nope,” I answered. “I can assure you that The Register and all their reporters and editors are all patriotic Americans. Moreover, we love our families, are loyal fans of the Boston Red Sox and most, but not all, favor the Patriots.”
“But,” I explained, “like all newspapers, we sometimes write stories that some readers don’t like. For instance, we might say the high school basketball team or, perish the thought, the Red Sox lost the game. Sometimes, we have to write stories that bother people, stories about tragedy and death. They bother us too.”
“If you recall, last year we wrote a lot of stories about “the roundabout.” Some folks loved them, others did not. The same goes for the current efforts to rezone the east side of Boothbay Harbor. We don’t always write about cute puppies, and yummy meals washed down with tasty Manhattans.
Republicans and Democrats frequently claim we are biased when we write stories that show their candidates in a bad light. They can get real testy about it too.
I remember one Democrat Senator who told a gathering of tough union leaders that my newspaper’s stories were a pack of lies. Then he turned, raised his voice and pointed at me. There is the guy who is doing it, he said.
The comment surprised me, and the crowd rumbled and glared in my direction. I just smiled and waved. Fortunately, for me, they smiled back.
That candidate was right, we had been writing stories about his misdeeds, and he knew they were correct. FYI, he lost the election.
Despite the claims of some pundits, newspaper folks do not invent stuff and slap it on the page. Reporters, even old dogs like me, have to convince editors that our stories are real. And, our readers are quick to spot errors.
If we make a mistake, and we do, as we are human, the public lets us know in a hurry. If we foul up, we correct it in the next edition.
Also, if someone is still not satisfied, he or she can go to court and let a judge decide.
Somehow, this doesn’t seem to be the case for the ranting and raving broadcast/social media idiots who say terrible things about folks they oppose, including private citizens, like the parents of kids involved in school shootings, who are frequent targets of some hate mongers.
I am trying to tell you that we try to write for our readers, not for politicians. We do our best, to get the facts right and try to be fair about it. If we don’t do that, our readers will soon quit reading our paper. If readers do not read and trust our stories, our beloved advertisers will no longer buy ads. If we don’t have advertising revenue, we will go out of business. It is that simple.
On our peninsula, we are part of a hundred-year-long tradition of bringing community news to our neighbors. Believe us when we say we take that obligation seriously.