Notes from the editor emeritus

In early 2012, needing a job, I went to work at a small newspaper in nearby Granville, NY. It was eye-opening.

My adopted hometown of Rutland, VT, has a reputation, well-earned, for having a problem with petty crime caused mainly by abusers of recreational drugs, largely prescription but also pot, heroin, coke and the rest of America’s drug cabinet. Given that Granville shares the same white-trash underbelly, I expected the town/schools to be run pretty much the same … badly, on the whole, with honest, well-meaning efforts to overcome the miasma. It was, only worse. Much, much worse. Mostly because of the “honest” part.

As I move on, here are some observations from a passerby:

Dear Petty Official:

Stop lying so much. You’re not fooling anybody.

First off, you need some new material. I might believe you when you say my reporter never even asked you a question, except the entire editorial staff of the Sentinel shares one slightly oversized cubicle, and I listened to them ask it. Hell, I made them ask it. Here’s a hint: When a reporter calls back the day after the initial interview to verify a quote, that means a) the editor likely made them and b) yes, it’s going to appear in print. If you wish to beg for leniency from your own stupidity, that’s the right time, not wait until the paper comes out, then claim you never said it.

I also understand you are going to claim you never said it at Rotary. If they choose to believe you because they want to believe the word of the person responsible for teaching their kids or maintaining law and order in their community, that’s their willful suspension of disbelief. Some people like to think Liberace was straight, too, because the idea he might have been gay completely destroys their world view. I can’t help that and have given up trying.

But don’t bother trying to lie to me to get my reporter in trouble, because it just further discredits every single thing you say from then on. Remember, I’m the guy who told the reporter, “We can’t make Chief Wiggums/Principal Skinner/Mayor Quimby look like an idiot without at least giving the poor sap a second chance to clarify what he meant.” Not my fault you didn’t take it; not the reporter’s.

And when you do go to Rotary and tell them I got a whole story wrong when I was doing a little reporting myself, you might at least have the decency to call me back and tell me what was supposedly inaccurate instead of hiding behind your secretary.

Here’s another hint: When you tell the club over breakfast that I got everything wrong, then write a letter to the editor repeating the story pretty much verbatim except for the addition of the spin that you’re right and the teacher’s union is wrong, I’m going to run it. And not just because it kind of makes it obvious to everybody that the original story wasn’t so much “wrong” as “blatant, self-serving propaganda for the school district.” K? Thanks.

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