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Today's word on journalism

May 12, 2009

The Last WORD

The Fat Lady Sings, Off-Key, Drools

At about this time every year, like the swallows to Capistrano or the buzzards to Hinckley, Ohio, the WORD migrates to its summer musing grounds at the sanitarium —St. Mumbles Home for the Terminally Verbose.

The reason is clear, and never moreso than as this season —the WORD's 13th —peters out.

It's been a fraught year of high palaver and eye-popping transition, both good and not-so-much. An interminable presidential campaign saga finally did end, and in extraordinary and historic fashion. Meanwhile, the bottom and everything that's below the bottom fell out of the economy, with families, homes, entire industries and —of particular interest to WORDsters and the civic-minded —dozens of daily newspapers ("I don't so much mind that newspapers are dying--it's watching them commit suicide that pisses me off." --Molly Ivins). . . all evaporating. What replaces them, from the individual to the institutional to the societal? Are we looking at a future of in-depth Tweeting?

As any newsperson or firehorse knows, it's hard to turn your back on day-to-day catastrophe --we just have to look at the car wreck. But even the most deranged and driven need a rest. As philosopher Lilly Tomlin once observed, "No matter how cynical you become, it's never enough to keep up."

So this morning, as a near-frost hovered over northern Utah, the unmarked van pulled into the driveway and the gentle, soft-spoken men in the white coats rolled the WORD out of bed and into a straitjacket for the usual summer trip to St. Mumbles, where the blathering one will be assigned a hammock and fed soothing, healthy foods --like tapioca, dog biscuits and salmon --while recharging the essential muscles of cynicism, outrage, sarcasm, social engagement and high-mindedness, in preparation for the next edition.
Summer well, friends.

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Feedback and suggestions --printable and otherwise --always welcome. "There are no false opinions."

False report of Amber Alert frustrates Idaho residents

By Allison Porter

May 6, 2009 | Several Idaho residents received an early unwanted April fools' joke March 31 when a false Amber Alert was sent out via text message. An Amber Alert is a procedure for rapidly publicizing the disappearance of a child. The alert said that a 7-year-old girl had been abducted from her home and that the suspect was driving a new silver truck with the license plate number as 72B381.

The false alert has been going on for quite some time and is now reaching Idaho. The alert ranged from Maryland to California in a matter of months. A news station in Idaho Falls, Idaho, had received many phone calls regarding this alert and later informed the public in the nightly news broadcast that the alert was false and to pay no mind to it.

Many people had already forwarded the message without knowing the location and before being informed that the incident was a false one.

"When I first got the message I was a little bit frustrated because it didn't say how it happened or even where it happened, which would have been nice to know," DeeArla Dooley, an Idaho resident, said.

Dooley said that she too had passed it on to about ten people and didn't think anything of it either until she watched the news later that day. She believes that it was a "dumb teenager" who thought it would be funny to play a joke when really it resulted in a pay it forward effect. "It's kind of like when kids call 911 and hang up as a joke or even filing a false police report," Dooley said.

Cpl. Alan Bollschweiler of the Blackfoot, Idaho Police Department said that filing a false police report is a misdemeanor, but the levels of consequences are different depending on how serious the crime really is. Bollschweiler said, "Anybody can do anything, it doesn't matter what their race or religion is, anybody can do it for various reasons such as monetary reasons, jealousy, revenge, and basically anything else that you can think of."

Bollschweiler said that false police reports are pretty common. He said that even if you just lie to a police officer you are still obstructing justice and can be charged with a misdemeanor. Bollschweiler was unable to give his opinion on what the FBI should do to stop or even prevent these false alerts from going around because he is "sworn to enforce" the state and city laws and that the Amber Alert situation is on a more federal level if it doesn't give a specific location.

He said that one way to recognize if it is a false report is that when you receive the message, whether it is through e-mail, text messaging, or even television, that the source would be credited in the message.

DeeArla Dooley said that even if there wasn't a credible source within the message that she will still send it on because it doesn't hurt anybody or cost her anything to send a text message. She said that there is always the possibility that it could be true and might save somebody's life. Dooley said that she doesn't agree with the fact that somebody actually made up a false alert and that something should be done about it. She said that she doesn't care if the punishment is as little as a fine or several hours of community service, but that somebody has to get to those "immature teenagers" who think they are funny. She said, "Every choice that is made has a consequence, and those consequences need to be enforced."


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