Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A Ceres addendum

I meant to tell you a story about my days in Ceres that taught me that you should always know who you are writing about.

One day I get a call in February from an older woman telling me that all of her roses had bloomed two months before they ever did before (!) Now, that might not sound like a big deal to you, but in Ceres, California, in 1983 this was big news. In hindsight, I now realize that I could have scooped the world on global warming had I asked the right questions, but that's neither here nor there. Al Gore had not yet invented global warming or the Internet to research it.

(Save yer political comments. I was just kidding. I love Al Gore. We wear the same size pants now.)

Anyway, I do a big spread in the paper with this woman in her garden and her early-blooming roses. Praise all around from the garden clubs in town -- until the next day. I get an anonymous call from a woman who says, "How can you write such nice things about that family. Her husband is a child molester, you know."

Ohhh kay. I talked to my editor, who was barely more experienced than I, and asked what to do. She suggested I go to the courthouse in Modesto and check it out. Sure enough, the man was awaiting trial for child molesting.

I didn't really know what to do at that point. You can't really write a correction that reads, "Wednesday's photo spread on Mrs. Jones' roses should not have run because her husband is a pervert who should rot in jail. The Courier regrets the error."

I just let my editor handle it. She was the cops reporter and I think she wrote a blurb about the man's upcoming trial.

I wish I had the Internet then. I would have just Googled "Smith roses February molester" and saved myself a lot of embarrassment.

As a postscript, I so seriously hope this man's victims are doing OK.