News hound

August 19, 2006 at 1:39 am (Uncategorized)


News is a funny beast. There are big stories that get lost on the back pages of newspapers and those TV guys who get distracted by something else. There are seemingly absurd stories that explode into mushroom clouds of ink and they float across the country and the world. It’s a strange, strange beast, is all I’m saying.
Some of the biggest stories are big for obvious reasons. The terrorist bombings of 911. The tsunami that wiped out entire villages on several continents. Hurricane Katrina and the weird sense of people stranded while the rest of the country fumbled in the rescue efforts. Death and suffering on large scales will always be news.
Celebrities who act up criminally will always make the headlines and they will always be the subject of incessant chatter. OJ and his poorly fitting glove. Pee Wee Herman and his interrupted act of self love in a movie theater. Marv Albert and his penchant for biting. Robert Blake and that clumsily killing.
Here in Maine, where we tend to live next door to kin and have acres of land between our homes, drama is slow to seep into the national press. The murder of a 4-year-old girl stuffed into an oven in Auburn in 1984. The disappearance of a high school football star in Lewiston in 1995. The beating deaths of two nuns at a Waterville convent in 1996. A mayor writes a letter asking for a halt to Somali immigration. Church poisonings in the northern tip of the state. A Bates College student stabbed to death during a brawl between the haves and the have-nots.
For better or for worse, the Mystery Beast of 2006 carried from western Maine to the rest of the world like the spread of some super flu. The story got so big, it was like something you could pick up and carry around, but only if you had a couple sturdy friends along to help. It was fun, everyone was giddy and a good time was had by all. For days and days, it was like a creature party.
Then the ugliness began. The woman who first reported the beast began to feel she was being poorly treated. Her photos were everywhere — brother, I mean everywhere. From the AOL start up page to CNN. Very little capital from the photos made its way to the woman and yet hundreds of new media outlets, blogs and souvenir hunters gained possession of those photos every day.
The state’s wildlife experts came under fire for completely ignoring reports about the dead animal. They said “it’s not our job,” while the rest of the population insisted: “then why do we need you at all?” The game wardens got haughty about it, most of the common folk gave them a collective finger.
There were earnest arguments about the decaying corpse of the dead beast. Samples of it were collected, but the head was gone. What began as a subtle debate over who would send off for DNA testing turned into a race over who could get it done first. I was glad to be rid of that stinky paw, and the responsibility for its care.
There developed a strange rift between news people and those ardent fans of cryptozoology. The latter group accused the former of taking mere road kill and turning it into a media freakshow. They loudly accused me of sensationalizing a story and in doing so, cloudy more serious matters of cryptozoology. I have been scorned by a group or two in my day, but I never imagined drawing the wrath of passionate followers of Bigfoot and Nessie.
I did four radio interviews at the peak of the beast story and it was fun as hell. I got to hunker down over the corpse and even that had a sort of rancid thrill. I still have a sort of smug satisfaction about being among the first to clap eyes on the creature and of being the one to formally introduce it to the world.
But big stories have crushing weight. Michelle O’Donnell, discoverer of Maine’s Mystery Mutant is left bitter and angry. Press outfits can’t quite remember who gave whom the photos and how they ended up in the hands of the Associated Press and other wire services. O’Donnell’s appearance on the Montel Williams show and other national programs is in doubt.
When the DNA is back, I think we’ll find that the mystery creature is no mystery at all. It will be something we all recognize and there will be a collective ahhhh. Not a big ahhhh, mind you. Because as intense as the attention got over the critter, I suspect this will not be a story to be remembered. Fascination with the mystery had intensity alright, but I doubt its staying power. It will fade the way a dream fades as the day progresses. Few people will think of it after a month. It will certainly not endure a year in the collective memory, though the press will revisit the creature when they do the perennial news round ups before New Year’s Day.
For me, it’s all good. I’m ready for the next big thing, be it the crime of the century or a UFO sighting. News is as unpredictable as anything in the world. The next big thing will bury the last big thing like an avalanche of information. It’s the way of the business. It’s the nature of the beast.



  1. K2 said,

    Cripes, LaFlamme, isn’t it about time you ask the SJ for a raise?

    Yeah, I know. They’re such niggards, I bet they won’t even upgrade the server.

    Are you sure the SJ isn’t run by Geiger? Cultures of failure, in my book.

  2. Linda said,

    What I find so fascinating is the “Saturday Night Massacre” syndrome — something big happens but is unnoticed because of something bigger. If I remember right before coffee, Mother Teresa died the same weekend as Princess Diana and was serously overlooked. Something like the tsunami or Katrina squeezes everything out.

  3. Bobbie said,

    I did as you requested.

  4. jarheaddoc said,

    It’s nice to see the serious side of you, Mark, eeven though you sound a little bitter and I can evision you shaking your head over all of this. People latched onto this like they’d found the Missing Link or Bigfoot.

    All I can say about the woman who reported this is that one cannot choose the five minutes of fame that life throws your way. And that five minutes of life won’t line your pockets unless you get a (c) after it and a notation underneath.

    Isn’t the story really about how things got so blown out of proportion? It’s all a hoax, a conspiracy, I tell you, and it’s all aimed at you, Mark, to knock you off the pedestal life hasplaced you on! Hopefully there’s a bag of beer on the ground, near where you will fall, so you can console yourself

  5. Mainetarr said,

    Well, the story may not have lasting power, but it was fun while it lasted!! It was all I would hear people talk about. For once, Maine had a “cool” story in the national press, not some woman in a nightgown with curlers in her hair and a cigarette hanging out of her mouth standing in the middle of a trailer park talking about how her ex-brother-in-laws cousin got caught screwing her father’s neighbor’s sheep, etc….

  6. Linda said,

    As soon as you put yourself in the public eye, you don’t own much about it any more. That applies to Michelle O’Donnell as well as to Mark. Unlike jarheaddoc, I didn’t pick up any bitterness in this post. Michelle was left wondering, what’s my payback for this? but I think Mark’s motivations are much more complex. Being part of the next big thing is the brass ring.

    Though I certainly agree — whatever they pay you Mark, you are worth much more than that to them. Hope they at least make it up with intangibles.

  7. K2 said,

    MT, now you leave my mom out of this, hear?

  8. jarheaddoc said,

    Are you talking about the woman with the cigarette in her face or the poor sheep, K2?

  9. Linda said,

    jd, I’d think you would know.

  10. AO said,

    That would explain a lot about you, K2.

  11. Mainetarr said,

    Sorry K2, didn’t mean to cause any baaaaaaaaad feelings with you.

  12. Daniel said,

    Mark, how much comment spam do you receive everyday? Got flooded by over 400 of them today, wondering if it’s going to start getting better.

  13. jarheaddoc said,

    I was just the camera man, Linda, THAT’S MY STORY AND I AM STICKING TO IT!

  14. LaFlamme said,

    Daniel, I get absolutely no spam in here. Aksimeth catches them. In fact, sometimes they label perfectly valid comments as spam.

  15. The Friendly Buddhist said,

    Maine is in the news!
    A creature like no other!
    Or K2’s mother?

  16. AO said,


  17. Bobbie said,

    MT and Weasel would know about that, right?

  18. K2 said,

    My mom is gonna kick the shit out of you people.

  19. Linda said,

    Starting with you, K2.

  20. AO said,

    K2, Yo better watch out, yo momma’s lookin fo yo!

  21. LaFlamme said,

    Stupid balloons. The air is filthy with them.

  22. AO said,

    It’s a “pretty” filthy though, isn’t it?

  23. K2 said,

    Hey if you ladies want to be bitch-slapped by my momma, keep it up.

    One word on balloon festivals — gay. Make that two words — very gay.

  24. AO said,

    Like you?

  25. Linda said,

    Yo’ mama, K2. We ain’t scared.

  26. AO said,

    Nope…ain’t scared. Scared of Balki’s mom? Never!

  27. Linda said,

    So what’ll be the next big thing? If we only knew …

    You know, I was driving on Rte 156 in Chesterville (Fred, are you reading this? I’m not making this up) a few days ago, and I drove by a team of dogs harnessed up and pulling a pickup truck. Sort of an Iditaroad.

  28. LaFlamme said,

    Hey, whatever DID happen to Fred, anyway?

  29. Linda said,

    I saw Fred on Our View recently, but she’s a stranger round here!

  30. AO said,

    I saw Fred in Our View, too. I sure do miss that girl. She could always spice thing up and, burn Dan’s ass at the same time. I also miss Lori. Lori and her Allen’s Coffee Brandy rants. I still can’t believe she hasn’t found us.

  31. Anonymous said,

    Yeah,I`m still here.You can see just about anything in chesterville! LOL A lot of pics on the net of the” beast”! You just have to stop and think about it. Its one of the laws of nature that a specie can only breed within its own “kind”.So it has to be a hybrid canine,Wolf ,coyote,coydog,domestic dog or any combination thereof.Probably with a lot of birth deformities it was abandoned by its mother or dumped by some human that owns a hybrid and somehow it managed to survive on its own.Its probably merciful that its life has finally ended. I`ve seen that dog team around here too,usually hooked to a cart.Probably some flatlander!

  32. Linda said,

    Fred!! That you? Yeah, the dogs looked like they wished they were in the flatlands.

  33. AO said,

    Fred sighting? Can it be? Fred, is that you?

  34. Linda said,

    I think Fred’s the only blogger from Chesterville, it must be her.

  35. FRED said,

    Its me!.I didn`t know i had to type my name in each time

  36. LaFlamme said,

    Wow. Like a genie. I rubbed the Fred lamp and POOF!

  37. FRED said,

    That`ll teach ya!

  38. Linda said,

    Hey! I think I rubbed the Fred lamp first! Fred, it was a mass movement, we all wanted to hear from you.

  39. Nadine said,

    Your “beast” story is now floating around MySpace as well Mark, heh.

  40. FRED said,

    Wonder who will get thhe book about “the Beast of Maine” published first?Mark or Stephen King!

  41. Bobbie said,

    It’s Mark’s turn for a book on dogs. Stephen King’s already had his crack at it.

    Glad to see you again, Fred. You’ve had some good things to say over in Our View. You’re keeping everyone on their toes over there.

  42. Linda said,

    Hi Bobbie, que pasa?

  43. Bobbie said,

    Not much. You?

  44. Linda said,

    Same. Busy day, quiet night.

  45. Linda said,

    This place is VERY quiet. Nice to have a visit from Fred, and a quick note from Nadine, but that’s it.

  46. Bobbie said,

    Quiet day, quiet night for me. Have to admit it was nice for a change.

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