In this week’s Dudes in the News, Dave Ford gives the Associated Press what for. What for? There’s only one way to find out.
If you can make sense of the following June 30 Associated Press report, included here in its entirety, you are a better man, woman or child than we:
Authorities say a burglar offered to repair the screen that he damaged breaking into a New Jersey home after he was confronted by the homeowner and told her he meant to break into a neighbor’s home.
The homeowner, Maria Cordona, tells the Press of Atlantic City that the man made her nervous as he told her about his family and kept a hand in his pocket. She says he was really polite, but she just wanted him to leave.
Vineland police say nothing was stolen during the encounter Monday.
We often lament the paucity of facts contained in modern news stories, and this dispatch is no exception.
It is, after all, simply fantastic that a man attempted to break into a home, and that it was the wrong one. This is criminal folly of the highest order, the kind deserving of recognition in the form of some kind of plaque or letter of commendation.
But if not Ms. Cordona’s, what home was he trying to break into? And why? Did he know of some kind of specific treasure within it? Or was that house painted the same color as Ms. Cordona’s, and so he simply became perplexed?
We know that the burglar apologized, but we don’t know, from the construction of the story’s first sentence, whether he did so to police or to Ms. Cordona. This is the kind of massive journalistic oversight that can cause especially curious readers to break out in stress-related hives and/or some forms of eczema.
The second paragraph fails spectacularly to provide enlightenment. Why did the man talk to Ms. Cordona about his family? Is there, perhaps, a family history, going back generations, of breaking screen doors, after which family members, filled with remorse, offer, by way of apology, to fix them? Alas, we shall never know.
The AP also failed to follow through on Ms. Cordona’s assertion that the man was “really polite.” Did he, for example, refer to her as “ma’am”? Did he invite her to step onto her own porch and gallantly hold open, for her, the door the screen of which he’d lamentably just broken? Or, when referring to his screen-related blunder, did he call it “a gosh darn shame” rather than “a goddamn shame” or even “a goddamn fucking shame”? This, too, we shan’t ever know.
The story does offer some hard facts, if bewildering ones. We know that nothing was stolen from the encounter. This seems obvious. How would a man with one hand in his pocket manage to steal anything short of, say, an apple from a fruit tray on the porch?
We also know that the incident occurred in Vineland, New Jersey (population 59,195).
And, last, we know the AP lies like a rug on the floor. A note at the bottom of its story says, “Information from: The Press of Atlantic City.” But a scan of that paper’s website turns up three separate polite-burglar related pieces, and all are the AP story quoted above.
This is the type of thing that convinces dedicated—if, at this point, slightly paranoid—newshounds that they are being gaslighted into the kind of depressive state that renders them vulnerable to searching out news where Rupert Murdoch has only recently trod.
There is ample evidence, we think, that the AP may indeed be on a mission to confuse readers.
Police say a Washington man who was holding a dead weasel when he assaulted his girlfriend’s ex-boyfriend was actually yielding a mink carcass.
This head-scratching lead of a June 10 AP report, datelined Hoquiam, Washington (pop. 8,804), seems to be the journalistic equivalent of a psychological Rorschach test: readers are left to see in it what they will.
But no matter how long we stared at the sentence—parsing it, decoding it, analyzing it, deconstructing it and shrieking into the void—we never would have guessed that the facts were as simple as these:
A man of 33, whom the AP declined to name, and who was wielding (not “yielding”) the dead animal, went to look for his girlfriend at her ex-boyfriend’s house. The ex-boyfriend asked him why he was carrying a weasel.
“It’s not a weasel,” the man replied. “It’s a marten.”
Then he punched the ex-boyfriend in the nose and ran off.
The Hoquiam police chief, who goes by the suitably nondescript name of Jeff Myers, told KXRO-AM that the animal carcass was a mink, not a marten. Martens have not been seen in those parts for 50 years, he said.
But, you see, the weasel-toting man likely was upset by the possibility of shenanigans going on between his girlfriend and her ex. This would explain why he misnamed the genus of the dead animal, especially when face-to-face with the object of his wrath.
One aches, however, for more details. Sadly, the AP report on is short on them. Worse, a local paper called The Daily World (“Serving Grays County and Northern Pacific Counties Since 1899”), which covered the incident, charges for story views on its website.
We appreciate the fact that fiscally endangered newspapers need to create moneymaking Internet schemes. But to be thwarted in a search for details about weasel-gripping assailants is a stab in the heart of all fog-brained satirists idly fashioning whimsical news items in order to while away the increasingly few hours left to them until the Grim Reaper has his way.
It is, therefore, bloody infuriating.
And we mean that politely.
Dave Ford is a San Francisco writer whose work has appeared in Spin, The San Francisco Chronicle, The San Francisco Examiner, SF Weekly, The Advocate, and a host of other periodicals. He writes the blog Dave Ford, and is a certified yoga instructor who teaches at various venues in his home city.
Illustration by Bion Harrigan. Bion Harrigan keeps his head firmly planted in the clouds and has done so since the earliest days of a youth misspent idly daydreaming, reading Mad magazine, and drawing scary monsters and super creeps. He continues to spend an inordinate amount of time daydreaming and drawing at his home in Maplewood, New Jersey.
Other dudes, who, previously, have been “in the news”: