It’s April Fools Day again, and the Politics Blog security system has already fended off a press release announcing that Mayor Dan Pike has ordered the city to convert to the metric system to accommodate visiting Canadians. Nice try.
This April Fools Day is a special one for me. It’s the 30th anniversary of a hoax that was perpetrated on us 30 years ago by former Sheriff Larry Mount and the late Doug Gill, who was, I believe, undersheriff at the time.
Two days earlier, John Hinckley had become the most infamous man in America after wounding President Ronald Reagan in an assasssination attempt.
On April Fools Day, the Herald’s cops reporter was making his rounds at the sheriff’s office when he noticed a bulletin coming out of the office telex machine, which was used in those days to relay law enforcement information on fugitives and so forth.
This message was special. It informed the sheriff’s office that because of threats on Hinckley’s life, he would be transferred to a secret location: the Whatcom County Jail.
I wasn’t there, but as I remember the reporter’s retelling of the episode from 30 years ago, the reporter said Gill and Mount were yelling at him for peeking at this top-secret message.
The reporter raced back to the newsroom where a spirited ethical discussion broke out about whether we had a greater duty to our readers’ right to know, versus the legitimate security concerns of law enforcement.
This discussion lasted just a few minutes before someone realized what day it was. There was never any danger of this appearing in print.
I shudder to think what might have happened in a similar situation today.