The entire staff of the Graveyard Shift took a field trip yesterday. We boarded a big bus and drove over four hours to the offices of newspaper giant, The Bottomfeeder Gazette. We wanted to see how their hardworking news reporters come up with those gritty stories they crank out each day. We wanted to tag along when they hit the streets, conducting interviews and digging up the dirt. We wanted to learn how they’re able to garner all that juicy, gossipy stuff they print each day.
Well, I was shocked. We didn’t leave the building. Not even for lunch. They had gluten-free kale chips and bottled water brought in by a man-bun guy dressed in skinny jeans and a Grateful Dead t-shirt.
So here’s how this media group came up with their news stories du jour. I was shocked. We all sat around a large empty room, on the floor with our backs against the wall. There were fourteen of us in all. Five in our crew and nine Bottomfeeder reporters. Oh, and the editor. So fifteen.
The editor started the ball rolling by asking for story ideas. Someone said, “The sheriff is up for reelection.”
The editor paused to ponder the thought. We all sat there in silence, watching his face undergo several transformations, moves to help him think, I surmised. First he wrinkled his forehead, raising his bushy brows until they nearly touched in the middle. Next, he scratched his chin using a single index finger. And then he said, “I like it. Let’s run with it. Who wants to go first? Headline?”
Another man-bun guy, this one with a permanent five-o’clock shadow and a lazy eye, set up a large white board and stood at its side with a green marker in his hand. A young woman raised a hand, the one holding a Starbucks coffee cup with the name “Celine” penned in a delicate “Sharpie” script. Beneath the name was written (in the same hand) “Likethesinger.” I’m guessing the clerk assumed the young woman’s full name was Celine Likethesinger.
Anyway, the editor called on Celine (like the singer) who promptly said, “I remember when the sheriff was the crossing guard at my elementary school. He’s a sweet man.” So bun guy reached over to the white board and wrote:
Crossing Guard/likes children, a lot
Someone to my right shouted, “I went to school with his kids.”
Man Bun put his marker to board once again.
Another voce from the room, “He’s a member of my dad’s golf club.”
Plays golf … with campaign contributors?
“I heard he doesn’t let his kids go to parties.’
Questionable parenting skills
“I once saw him in pursuit of a robber.”
Reckless driver/Speeds through town/Dangerous
“I saw him go inside the liquor store with one of his campaign posters.”
Frequents liquor stores while on the job
“He arrested a large number of drug dealers.”
Has been seen in the company of major drug dealers
“I wonder what kind of pistol he carries?”
Supported by NRA
“One of his kids has special needs and is home schooled.”
Doesn’t believe in sending kids to public schools
“His oldest daughter once wrote a book report on Helter Skelter, the story about that Manson creep.”
Follower of Charles Manson/indoctrinates his kids into Manson cult
So this went on for the better part of an hour and this, the way I believe most stories today make it to the papers and in online news sources these days, was the result:
Longtime sheriff, Gi. Meabrake, has announced his bid to seek another term of office. He faces tough opposition this year, especially in light of the inflammatory accusations facing him. A hearing is scheduled for next Tuesday at the county conference center, where Sheriff Meabrake will answer to the charges of child endangerment, drinking on duty, supporting a known convicted murderer, abuse of authority, and reckless driving/endangering the wellbeing of citizens. It has been reported that child services are filing the necessary paperwork to remove the Meabrake children from the home. Officials within the agency say removing the children is for their safety.
Protestors are scheduled to march to the sheriff’s office on Tuesday. They’re demanding that Sheriff Meabrake announce who he supported in the presidential election. They also want free parking, free access to all police equipment, no firearms for deputies, two get out of jail free cards, and the promise that no one will be arrested for the next two years, for anything.
*Disclaimer – News staff has not verified any of these allegations, but we believe it is good journalism to put this out there to give the public the opportunity to decide whether or not they want to believe it.
Sure, this article is dumb. Totally dumb. For the life of me, though, I can’t image that much of today’s news stories derive from a better source(s) than my fictional one above. Do reporters actually interview people? Do they research topics? If so, where and how do they do this? Why is it that facts are no longer important?
I used to read the news, a lot. Now, when online, I simply scroll past most headlines and images, skipping the political rants (from all sides) and ludicrous promises of juicy news about Hillary’s pantsuits that were made by starving child slaves in 3rd world countries, who, by the way, are the offspring of Bill Clinton. I also pass by those fake tales accusing Trump of planting Tribbles on the Enterprise, and about him appointing little Barron as Secretary of State.
Unfortunately, skipping all the roiling, boiling, ranting, raving, hate, lies, and totally fake news, I find that I’m missing out on a lot of the wonderful accomplishments of my friends. But, it is what it is. I’m weary of the hate and of the backstabbing and name-calling, and, well of it all.
What started this little fake news rant of my own? A news story this morning, from a major media source, about … basically nothing.
It’s just one of those days. I’ll get over it.
For now, I’m off to the dentist. Wish me luck.
In keeping with year-end tradition, Madam Zelda did a reading for us this morning and she’s confident 2017 will be fantastic. Here’s a list of her top twelve predictions. Believe me, she’s always right.
Anyway, I hope each of you finds the new year packed to the brim with good things for you and yours.
Happy New Year!
*By the way, January 2017 marks the 9th anniversary of this blog. It’s hard to believe nine years has passed by since the day I first gave blogging a try as a compliment to my book on police procedure. 2017 is also the 9th anniversary of the Writers’ Police Academy. Thanks so much for sticking with me all these years!
Coming in January!
Yes, I’ve come out of hiding for a brief period to teach an intensive online class for RWA’s Kiss of Death Chapter. To make things a bit more interesting, one lucky pupil in the workshop will win a free registration to the 2017 Writers’ Police Academy. The KOD class is open to everyone. You do not need to be a member of the group.
Here’s the title and description. The signup link is at the bottom of this page. I hope we see you there (Jan. 4 – 29, 2017)!
“The perp, a bleached-blonde badge bunny, couldn’t have gone far. Maybe only a ten minute headstart. I know, because the odor of cordite still hung heavy in the room, like a wet bath towel draped across a by-the-hour hotel shower rod. She’d be easy to crack, too. A belt of cheap scotch and pack of Lucky Strikes and she’d sing like an American Idol contestant—loudly and horribly, followed by a gusher of crocodile tears.”
Does the paragraph above sound familiar? Have you ever written anything that sounded remotely close to it? If so, you may need to take your research efforts to the next level. I know, you’ve been writing about cops for years, thinking you know what makes them tick and why they do what they do.
Sure, you and your characters each believe you have what it takes to bring life to the officers in your latest book. But do you really know what you’re writing? Have you talked to cops? Visited a police station? Ridden in a police car—in the front seat without handcuffs?
Do you know how it feels to wrap your arms around someone in uniform? Does their badge poke into your flesh? Why do cops sometimes wince as if in pain when they slide in and out of their patrol cars? Is body armor made differently for female officers? Is it okay for a female officer to strip-search a male prisoner?
Does the FBI ride into town on white horses and assume control of any case they choose? Is it mandatory for the FBI to work all kidnapping cases? Is it okay for undercover officers to smoke marijuana while they’re working an assignment? Can they drink alcohol? Who gets a search warrant? How long does it take? Who’s in charge, a police chief or a sheriff?
Why the heck don’t cops shoot the bad guy in the leg instead of blasting a big hole in the center of his chest? Better yet, why don’t they simply give the thug a big karate chop on the back of the neck and take away that machine gun? That would be safer, right?
Why not forget the search warrant and the fact that your hero has been suspended from duty. Just have him open the door and go inside anyway, even though he’s no longer an active-duty officer. The courts and your readers won’t care, right?
What about sex in a patrol car? Does that really happen? What about all that gear? Does it all come off, or …
Well, readers are more knowledgeable about cops than ever before and they expect at least that same level of knowledge from their favorite authors. So, like it or not, it’s time go that extra mile. And you can begin by strapping on your gun belts and body armor, and polishing your badges and shoes, because you’re about to take a wild and fun ride into a side of law enforcement not normally seen by the average citizen.
Please join me in signing 10-41 … On-duty. It’s going to be fun!
It’s official. We’ve become a world occupied by Chicken-Little-esque populations who mindlessly accept “the sky is falling” news without so much as looking up to see if it’s true or not.
You know what I’m talking about, and I’d be willing to wager that even you, yes you, have fallen for fake headlines, especially those seen on sites such as Facebook. I’m truly ashamed to admit it, but I’ve been known to roll a cursor over a story title or two and I do because they’re so doggone alluring to those of us who can’t resist. They’re like potato chips, right?
It’s been reported that fake election news on Facebook generated more activity than 19 of the top so-called legitimate news outlets combined (legitimate news – now that’s a questionable statement if there ever was one).
Why, other than having a bit of fun, do people write these stories? Well, the answer is simple … money, of course. Isn’t that the motivation behind much of what humans do?
For example, Paul Horner, a fake news superstar, has made a comfortable living by writing and posting faux news. In fact, you may not know it but I’m sure that, if you’re an avid Facebooker, you’ve probably seen and/or read at least one of his totally made-up stories. Such as:
Don’t waste your time visiting the above webpage, unless that is, you enjoy seeing a ton of ads for clothing, Ellen Degeneres’ shocking secrets, Dr. Oz hawking wrinkle cream and, well, you get the idea. The ads are the reason behind the stories and headlines. Companies pay big bucks to post those things on websites.
The website listed above appears to be that of ABC News. However, the site address is not that of the real news agency. It is close, though. But the extra “.co” at the end of the address is what sets off the “fake site” alarm bells.
There are many other fake news sites out there, and they’re all waiting for us to click the bait-filled headlines. Unfortunately, all that’s accomplished is that headline-clickers are lining the pockets of those who write and publish the tall tales AND, these stories have been known to generate tons of of anger, gnashing of teeth, and exploding tempters equal to infernos of raging hellfire.
Believing these faux stories as hard fact has divided family and friends. They’ve caused anger and resentment. I see friends arguing and backstabbing and name calling each and every day over something I know to be totally false—a fake news report on Facebook. And, it is believed by some that these stories and click-baity headlines may have influenced the outcome of the recent election, another source of extreme anger.
Many of these websites appear to be absolutely legitimate and their headlines reach out to grab us by the
hand throat to reel us, the unsuspecting sheep, inside.
Here’s a great example of headlines that seem true, especially if the reader already has a dislike for cops and firefighters.
From Call the Cops, a website dripping with satire (but people believe it!):
I know people believe these stories because someone read and complained about an article I published where I stated police officers are not trained to shoot hands, feet, weapons from a suspect’s hands, etc. The reader sent me a nasty note saying I didn’t have a clue what I was talking about because they saw a more reliable news article that reported a new mandate handed down by the Department of Justice that absolutely proved my information to be incorrect. The article-reader went on to say, according to the piece he/she read online, the DOJ has ordered all U.S. police officers to stop aiming for center mass and instead point their weapons toward softer targets, such as those aforementioned hands and feet. This, of course, was a faux article posted to Call the Cops.
So, to hopefully put a damper on this horrible trend of people obtaining their news from phony sources, Facebook and Google are each cracking down by removing these faux sites from their advertising networks. Other sites are posting lists of these phony news sources. I know, how do we know if the sites posting the fake news sites are telling the truth?
I’m so confused.
But the sun is shining today and all is well. Unless you believe the latest report …
* PLEASE, DO NOT POST POLITICAL COMMENTS!!!!!
(Seriously, this is real)