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It may just be apocryphal, but it is said that news derives from the practice of displaying new information on four sides of a post placed in a prominent place in a small town. The four sides were labeled North, East, West and South to give some indication of the direction these events came from and, hence, N. E. W. S. became the word news. It could just as easily have been sewn, which would have made it a place to “needle” someone publicly. Things not “posted” would never become news.

Folklore tells us of one such small western town where, typically, the “post” was placed in the intersection of the two major roads passing through town. North of town was a lake favored by fishermen who would post results of a day drowning worms on the north side of the post. South of town was a played-out gold mine and on the south side of the post, you might find information about a stray nugget picked up by some lucky soul.

The post was owned by a brother-in-law of the mayor who, with his cronies, had run things for a long time. Disrepair was the order of the day because any work had to be submitted to the mayor and his cronies for approval before a project could begin, and there were many regulations to be reviewed. Many shops had moved to neighboring towns where business was upbeat.

One day, an obviously well-heeled stranger came to town with a desire to open a store. After going through the approval process by the mayor and his bunch, the well-heeled stranger made up his mind to challenge the mayor when he came up for re-election. “Experts” thought his chances were slim to none, but they didn’t take into account the dismal existence that the mayor and his cronies had visited on his people.

When the votes were counted, the town had a new mayor, although the results were posted in very fine print on the brother-in-law’s post. One of the new mayor’s first acts was to scrap all the regulations which had hindered progress. Fresh coats of paint began to appear all over town. Some of the old businesses began to return and smiles were the facial expressions of the day.

Exuberance broke out everywhere except on the post which complained incessantly that the new mayor parted his hair on the wrong side. It neglected to report that a new ore vein had been opened up in the old gold mine with the result that townspeople were the last to know and have an opportunity to file a claim. The brother-in-law hired a private eye to look into the new mayor’s past and found he had a speeding ticket which is pretty hard to do…unless you have a really fast horse.

By the time that the next election came up, the new mayor had had enough. He bought up everybody’s property, burned the town to the ground, and rode off into the sunset.

Doesn’t this make you glad for modern journalism?

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Wayne McLaughlin

Wayne McLaughlin is an OpsLens Contributor and US Army Veteran.

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