Crumbs From the Corner: Adventures in Woolgathering

Thursday, April 10, 2008

With a Pinch of Salt



"I'm not upset that you lied to me, I'm upset that from now on I can't believe you."
-Friedrich Nietzsche

At the age of sixteen I wrote a poem about genealogical roots and family trees. I submitted it to my local newspaper, where it was swiftly rejected.
I had expected as much. It is still today the sort of newspaper that one has to know the proper Somebody in order to have any piece published. Failing that, however, if the week happens to be a slow one regarding news, there just might be a possibility of temporary fame.
One afternoon at school I was informed that a lady was coming from the newspaper to speak to me. Apparently she wished to know the background of the poem.
In the 1800s in Ireland, a particularly troubled time, a relative of mine had left her home at the age of nineteen for a better life in America. Communication at the time was sparse, expensive and uncommon. Apart from a few brief letters indicating that she had reached the new shores and was getting along, she was not heard from again.
She passed her story to her own offspring and certain names burned brightly so that another relative, during the 1970s, decided to find her family in Ireland, and wonderful connections were made that remain to this day. She put a great deal of effort into seeking out the right people; she spent countless hours poring over her grandmother's papers and piecing together what she could. She wrote to the newspaper I mentioned, posted an advert for information about the names she knew. It was ultimately successful.
She went with her mother to Ireland as soon as they had made contact with the family over there; her mother was in her eighties at the time and it meant the world to both of them to reach the homeland.
I knew that she would be pleased to see the story in a local newspaper so I was delighted to be a part of the event.
The journalist spent about one hour with me; I got to miss some classes and be interviewed. It was quite a thrilling day, especially when she took my photograph. The journalist was most excited by the fact that their newspaper had been the medium that solved the mystery.
About a week afterward I found my face in the newspaper.
The headline was dreadful, as was the ensuing story.
It told that I had, by my own hand and solely, dug up all the information and put two pieces of the family tree back together. Apparently I had done the research; there was no mention of my relative or her hard work or the fact that I was not born when she had first visited Ireland.
I was devastated, especially given that I had already written and informed my relative that her story- hers- would be in the newspaper.
I had to, of course, write to my relative once again and explain that the journalist had got it all wrong, all horribly wrong.
She got a laugh out of it because she understood the very nature of newspapers; but I was disheartened by the journalist's lies, by the trickery and deception. Had she just considered the matter, she could have had a much finer story on her hands: meeting, perhaps, with the person who did make all the discoveries. She might even have had to make a trip to America to do so.
Why lie when the truth might be even more productive and worthy?

8 comments:

Hel said...

Your stories are so magical. They make me happy when I read them even when they are about something sad. Because they reveal the wonderfully overgrown and mysterious avenues of live.

I know the newspaper people. They have a way of twisting what you said into something you wish were never said. And theres absolutely no way of contacting everyone who read it and telling them you would never say anything as daft.

julochka said...

i fear it's that unfortunately, people are lazy at the heart of it. that journalist was just too lazy to get it right, so she took the easy route. at least tho' it gave you a story to write yourself...

Beth said...

Another wonderful story and so true. I have noticed errors in so many articles in which I played a part or knew the inside scoop and it has made me skeptical about the truth of all articles.

TheElementary said...

Hel,
I was glad to see your post today- it's good to see you back. Your comment is really nice- thank you so much.
Julie,
You are so right: I got something out of it ;) Yes, she was lazy. She got her job done, I suppose.
Beth,
If you were trying to note errors, my local newspaper would keep you busy for a while. Even their headlines are spelled wrong sometimes. In general, though, like you, I'm wary of newspapers whether or not they have factual or grammatical errors. I try to read several versions of one story to be sure.

mouse (aka kimy) said...

ah those journalists....

Wayfarer Scientista said...

hi! So glad to meet you from your comment on my blog. Isn't it amazing how the papers can change our words? I always agree with you on the truth/lies part - it seems so much easier to be honest and to be nice. I'm glad your relative was understanding!

Wayfarer Scientista said...

oh my, but I DO know you, but under a different name perhaps? Lovely to see you again.cheers!

TheElementary said...

Kimy, Where would we be without them? Hmmm. Anyhow, I thought of becoming one until I met that woman. Seriously, she turned me right off.
Wayfarer, good to see you here again. As far as I recall, I found you through a Google search of my favourite keywords- I'm sure I haven't known of you before- I tell you I would remember :) Anyhow, I'm very glad you came by.

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