No one enjoys being fired, but when your screwup becomes national
news, it's even more humiliating. And when the Roswell Daily
Record, whose claim to fame is a 1947 report of a UFO crash just
outside the city, questions your ability to accurately gather and
report news--that really hurts.
I'll be the first to admit that the Caddyshack tribute I sneaked
into a news story in the June 16 edition of the Record didn't
work. The idea was ill-conceived, and my bungling of the Bill
Murray character Carl Spackler's name--I called him Carl
Spangler--didn't help. But I felt that the event I was sent to
cover, the 22nd annual father-son tournament at the Roswell
(N.Mex) Country Club, was so banal it needed a little fiction to
liven up the story. Maybe if I had more than 11 months of
professional newspaper experience, I might've thought twice about
cribbing a Caddyshack monologue and attributing it to a mythical
Roswell Country Club superintendent.
Of course, I thought everyone was a Caddyshack fan and that the
few people who cared enough about the father-son to read the
story would appreciate the humor. The idea that I did this in a
malicious way, to deceive readers, would be hilarious were it not
the reason for which I was fired. It might have helped if the
editor and the publisher of the paper had been familiar with
Murray's body of work. They didn't know I was quoting from a
movie, believing instead that I was alleging that the assistant
greenkeeper at the club was growing marijuana on the course. By
the time I copped to the joke it was too late.
The paper trumpeted my firing in the correction that ran in the
Record four days after my article appeared. Two weeks later the
Associated Press picked up the story. Within a few days it was
posted on countless websites, including those of all the papers
to which I had applied for a job.
August 3, 2003
For almost a week I was a national joke. In a way I had
accomplished my objective, which was to make people laugh.
Unfortunately, they were supposed to laugh at the article, not
the sequence of events that followed its publication.
But what people forget is, after the laughter fades, I still have
to go on with my life. I would like to get another job as a
reporter and prove that I can do the job right. But if my
journalism career is over, at least I have a fallback--as a
looper in Tibet.
Gregory M. Jones, 24, graduated from Wisconsin in 2002.