Mightier Than The Pen

Making The World A Bitter Place

Tree Falls in Forest; Deaf Reporter Assigned to Story

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The fallen spruce that may or may not have made a sound (AP)

BEACH LAKE, PA (AP) – In what journalism industry experts are calling a colossal blunder, the Wayne Independent assigned a deaf reporter to cover the fall of a 100-year-old spruce tree that occurred when no one else was present to witness it. The journalist, 34-year-old Gregg Nealy, arrived just in time to see the spruce teeter and collapse, but was unable to determine whether the event had produced any sound.

The tree, which had leaned northwest for years, began to look unhealthy two years ago, according to Myra Gaunt, 60, of nearby Indian Orchard. Local children used to climb its sloping trunk, she recalled, but it began to show signs of frailty, and it was only a matter of time before the venerable tree came down. Gaunt alerted the Independent to the impending story opportunity, and the newspaper dispatched Nealy, whose beat includes the deer population, precipitation concerns, cow methane emissions and tracking the number of out-of-state license plates at the Honesdale shopping plaza parking lot.

“This is scandalous,” said Honesdale resident and media critic Arthur McNabb. “The Independent squandered an opportunity to answer one of the age-old issues in human existence. I wish I could say I’m surprised, but this is hardly the first screw-up.”

Arthur McNabb

McNabb referred to a previous occasion, last March, when the Independent assigned Nealy to interview a visiting lapsed Zen Buddhist who claimed he could clap with one hand. Nealy, who can read lips proficiently, had no trouble conversing with the visitor, but was unable to ascertain what sound the man’s hand produced when his fingers rapidly struck the raised portions of his palm.

Fuller Utley, Managing Editor at the Independent, defended the paper’s decision, noting that the tree could not know that Nealy was deaf, and therefore the question of sound remained moot. He further noted that the former Zen Buddhist in question freely distributed recordings of his manual feats, rendering the auditory abilities of the reporter irrelevant.

At the scene of the tree collapse, where dozens of residents had gathered, a scuffle erupted between opponents and defenders of the Independent, which police quickly broke up. McNabb accused Utley of deliberately stifling scientific inquiry, while Utley countered with assertions that McNabb had a personal vendetta against the newspaper for declining to send a reporter to write about a mudhole on his property in which his wife Sylvia had seen an image of the virgin Mary.

Utley himself put a sign up outside his property along Navajo Parkway East three weeks ago, renaming that section Navajo Driveway, to make the name congruent with its function. Nealy covered that story as well, noting in the article that the thoroughfare was never used for parking, and that any driver who did so risked a fine and towing. He further wrote that Utley’s remarks on that occasion included a promise to eliminate semantic confusion, and that he would soon embark on a political drive to change Wayne County driveways to parkways in keeping with their current use.

Following the scuffle, a debate ensued among local dog owners regarding the age at which it is no longer possible for a canine to apprehend new learned behaviors.


Written by Thag

February 16, 2012 at 4:43 pm

2 Responses

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  1. All good points.

    It seems to me that Nealy should be assigned to tasks that are less dependent on his weak faculty for hearing and tuned more to his good sense of sight. For example, when the rolling stone finally stops, he could examine it to see if it’s true that, in fact, it hasn’t picked up any moss whatsoever.


    February 16, 2012 at 9:29 pm

    • Actually, the first item on Nealy’s resume when he applied for the job was his coverage of an experiment involving the comparative values of three birds: one in captivity and the other two residing in a pachysandra shrub nearby.


      February 16, 2012 at 10:30 pm

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