JOSEPH R. THOMPSON
Sitting on the shuttle to Gorham last week, I got to hear the greatest phone conversation with memorable lines like “yeah, a bacon cheeseburger would be great for dinner,” and “I couldn’t stop it, so I joined in.” I haven’t any clue what “it” was, but I bet “it” had nothing to do with a burger. I freely admit I’m a passive eavesdropper who always pays half attention to the conversations going on around me. And normally I enjoy the constant drone of the stuttering monologues that are inescapable in our cellular society. In my mind this sound acts like white noise, taking the place of waterfalls or bird songs.
But back to the verbal exhibitionist. I wasn’t really intrigued by his chatter until I heard him say “I could have sworn I told you that before we started dating.” Told who what? I really wanted to know. Was his signiﬁcant other a vegan who didn’t know that Phone Boy liked bacon cheeseburgers? Was Phone Boy deformed in some way? Did he have a strange Bella Lugosi obsession? All I can be sure of is that the other people on the bus instantly looked up at him
– they wanted to know too. How rude of him to tantalize and then not to deliver.
This could be the reason why I got into journalism. I, like others, would never be satisﬁed with only half the story, with only one side. I wanted the full truth – something Phone Boy never delivered, to my disappointment. Or, should I say, to my fault. In searching for the full story there is a responsibility on the shoulders of the reporter to ask those awkward, prying questions, to dig beyond the presented veneer and to try to delve deeper than ﬁrst glance would say is necessary. By not asking Phone Boy what he could have sworn he had told his euphemism, I failed as a journalist. Granted, it was in a minor way, but it illustrates my next point adequately, which is nobody on the bus held me accountable for getting to the bottom of his story.
Okay, on the bus nobody really cared. But project this point onto your favorite news source. Do you shoot off a letter to the editor when a story raises more questions than answers? Do you let the editor know when you feel a story was only half covered? Or do you just go about your day?
A news source, be it print or broadcast, is like any product in the grocery story. The consumer must hold the company reliable. If the public doesn’t voice complaints then they are tacitly accepting trash, sloppy journalism and poor quality coverage of what’s important. In this scenario of passivity if there isn’t a drop in readership and a subsequent drop in advertising dollars, the only ones hurt are the consumer.
Where does this leave Phone Boy? I guess I should ask him now: when you, Phone Boy, publicly declared, on the Gorham shuttle bus, you could have sworn you told your signiﬁcant other something before you stated dating, what were you referring to? More to the point, where does this leave the consumer? Perhaps you the reader should send us a quick email letting us know where we didn’t get the full story
– how else will we know?
Joseph R. Thompson
can be contacted at