The Local Rag
Starts to Clean Up Its Act
As faithful readers of this column know, the Local Rag, aka Yellowwich Time, has had a pretty poor history of truth-telling and fact-reporting in recent decades. The reason was not far to seek: it was locally owned, locally run, and well versed in the mythology that Greenwich is Disneyland East, where nothing nasty or dishonest or untoward ever occurs. And if it does, the theory went, their readers certainly didn't want to know about it.
An ostrich with its head deep-buried in the sand would have been an apt image of Yellowwich Time. There was a rumor circulating for many years that the paper was published in the basement of Town Hall, so that all the bent or incompetent politicians could censor everything before it was printed. And woe betide anyone who dared to question the status quo or rock the boat in Town; all the blunderbusses of the illiterate reporting and editorial staffs would be leveled at him or her in a effort to belittle, discredit, and smear the offender. In this town in those days it was lockstep or nothing.
Which is why your scribe once told Bill Rowe, the then-owner of the rag, that the paper should change its masthead color from green to yellow. Why, he wanted to know? So that it would reflect the color of the journalism you publish, replied your scribe. Rowe walked off in a huff; and from that day forward the Local Rag has adamantly refused to publish anything written by your scribe - who had thitherto been one of the more popular letter writers in Town.
But bit by bit karma has reasserted itself, as it always does. Bill Rowe sold out to a chain; that chain sold out to another chain; and pretty soon the new owners and stockholders decided it was time that Greenwich had a real newspaper. The illiterate reporters were replaced by ones who knew how to write English; the middle-level editorial staff like Mike Sweeney and Bruce Hunter vanished into the sunset; and now - finally - the ax has fallen on senior editor Joe Pisani.
Your scribe remembers nostalgically the arguments he used to carry on with Joe in his ground-floor corner office: your scribe would castigate him for printing rumor and slander as fact, and Joe would scream back that he would print anything he damn well pleased. The entire staff would gather in the bullpen to overhear these exchanges, which provided great entertainment to the masses. But Joe was the boss, and whether any of the staff agreed with your scribe or not, they knew that he buttered their bread. Anti-scribalism became the official unwritten policy of the Yellowwich Time.
Well, Joe's chickens have now come home to roost. The new owners apparently believe that biased and inaccurate reporting should be a thing of the past. Likewise, slavish knuckling under to powerful interests, be they Town Hall, crooked police chiefs, or the Kennedy family (as in the Martha Moxley murder), are no longer considered proper journalistic behavior. The era of Joe Pisani has, thankfully, come to an end.
Predictably, the mandarins and Poo-Bahs of Town have reacted with shock and dismay. Their pet editor has been fired! How will they ever be able to control the news in this Town again?
Good question. One hopes that the "good-old-boy" school of sanitized stories and hatchet journalism will now go the way of the dodo, and that we will never have another Joe Pisani in our midst, bending and shaping the "news" to fit his personal predilections and those of his handlers. Greenwich deserves better than that.
Let's let Joe have a few last words. "I'm not that good of an editor," he is reported to have said the day the ax fell. Nor a grammarian, one might add. In yesterday's Yellowwich Time he wrote his final column, which he aptly thought might be labeled "this tedious and tendentious and pontificating column." No doubt he thought he was being cutesy and ironic; but as far as your scribe is concerned, these were about the truest words he ever wrote.
He also talked about how newspaper-writing allowed one "to sit in judgment on the world as you know it. Being a weak man, I've never resisted that temptation...." Once again, some refreshing last-minute honesty and truth-telling after a long career of biased and slanted "reporting". Do you think that practicing Roman Catholic Pisani is finally making his confession, dear reader? It certainly seems so.
Fittingly, the Yellowwich Time building on East Elm Street has also been closed permanently and sold to a new owner. Perhaps it will be torn down for condos or retail stores or a combination of both. But for the moment, as your scribe walks past the windows of the corner office, he can still hear echoes of Joe Pisani yelling, purple in the face, "I'll publish anything I damn well please!" But the echoes are growing fainter, and soon they will cease altogether. Karma has prevailed, yet again.
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