This excerpt from the diary of a NOM fact checker has somehow fallen into my hands. I cannot vouch for its authenticity.
This morning I was trying to use a decorative letter opener to cut the despair out of my soul when a NOM staffer dropped off a blog entry for me to fact check. “Make sure it’s accurate,” he said. He must be new.
He’d been told to write about our Starbucks boycott. I’d forgotten there were jobs here worse than mine. Starbucks stock shot up after we announced the boycott, but his article claimed the price has fallen lately, and after more than two months it’s finally a smidge below where we started.
Hooray, apparently. God, the desperation around here is so thick they should spread it on white bread and serve it with tea.
Anyway, I checked the stock price — OMG! it had dipped a bit, then risen, but then dipped again, most recently since about June 20. So this was…correct?
Oh, why couldn’t I have just stopped there. I could have been the hero, could have announced, Hey everyone, we’re saying something TRUE, could have been included in the alcohol-free celebratory sniffing of white-board markers.
But instead, I was caught up in the euphoria of surprise, and on the wings of confidence flew too close to the sun and checked one more fact:
This drop in value comes at a time when coffee prices, a major factor in Starbucks’ business expenses, are dropping.
And like Icarus, with melting wings of wax, I fell back into the tumultuous sea of reality.
Crap. It’s one thing to make a mistake. It’s another thing to emphasize it in exactly the wrong way so it ends up destroying the very fantasy you’re trying to sell!
I ran with this to Brian Brown, our president. “Mister Brown, Mister Brown, Mister Brown,” I cried.
He squinted. I said, “It’s Rodney.” He tilted his head. I added, “The fact checker.”
“Rodney? Rodney. Rodney! You’re still…alive?”
“Never mind. What are you holding?”
“The piece on the Starbucks boycott.”
“Oh yes.” He preened. “Yeee-ees.”
“Baaaa!” he cried.
“Listen, it’s the coffee prices –“
“BAAAAAAA! BAAAAAAAAA! BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!”
Sheep noises? I didn’t understand. In the old days news like this would make him clap his hands and bark like a seal, and the other staffers would drop what they were doing to balance balls on their noses. This, though – this was strange.
I backed down the hallway and returned to my desk on the fire escape. Someday, I thought, someday I’ll get a new job. But I was lying, inventing a dream that could never be. After years as a fact checker at NOM, I no longer have employable skills.