One day when I was 16 or 17, working at my first radio station (KEYJ in Jamestown, ND), I worked my usual Saturday “morning” shift – 5AM to 3PM. At the end of the shift, one of the station’s full-timers, a guy we’ll call Bucky, came in after me to work the Saturday night shift.
I walked over to the newsroom to put the stories I’d done that day into the files. “Bucky” sat down at the console and, at the end of the 3:00 network newscast at 3:05, spun the news sounder and started reading the news.
His first story got my ear to perk up.
“According to a publicly-available source, Jamestown man, John Smith [a pseudonym – Ed.], was convicted of shoplifting at the Pamida store. We are unclear whether it’s the John Smith that lives at 1024 Second Avenue Southeast in Jamestown. If you are John Smith of 1024 Second Avenue Southeast of Jamestown, please call the station at 252-1400 and confirm whether you are or are not the John Smith who was reported to have been convicted of shoplifting at Pamida. In other news…”
In a few minutes, the newscast ended, and he rolled a song. I walked into the control room.
“Um, Bucky? Where did you get that thing about John Smith?”
He handed me a mimeographed sheet entitled “People Who Shoplifted At Pamida”. It included a generic-looking list of names – although no details were given – and concluded with an ad for a store at the Buffalo Mall that sold mostly anti-shoplifting products for busiensses.
“Bucky, this is not official in any way!”
“That’s right!”, he said. “That’s why I asked him to call in and confirm it was him!”, he said, cueing up another record as the sound of screeching brakes echoed up from the street below. I looked out the window – it was the station’s owner and manager, climbing out of his car and racing toward the door.
“That’s not how you’re supposed to do it, though. You get the confirmation before you go on the air…”
“Don’t worry!”, he chirped. “I’m a journalist, reporting the news, and I’m protected by the First Amendment, and…” he started, as the manager threw open the control room door, reached over the console, grabbed Bucky by the hair and belt, bodily lifted him from the chair, and hefted him out into the hall. “Take over, Mitch”, he bellowed, as I heard more screeching from the street below. I looked out, and saw four lawyers and John Smith of 1024 Second Avenue Southeast climbing out of cars, as the GM tossed Bucky out into the street, bellowing “You’re Fired!” at the top of his lungs.
As the frenzy started below, the manager walked back into the studio.
“Sheesh. Who taught that guy how to do reporting? You do know that you clarify things that could damage peoples’ livelihoods and reputations before you air the allegations in public – don’t you?”
“Sheesh, Bob – of course I do!”
“Good. OK, I’ll try to get someone in here to spell you. Holy crap”. He walked back to his office.
Apropos nothing at all.
Why, yes. The story is completely fictional. It’s why I put it in the “Humor” category, silly.