Inside the Capitol

Sunday, March 23, 2008

3-31 Be Careful What You Believe Tomorrow

Syndicated Columnist

SANTA FE -- WARNING: tomorrow is April Fools' Day. Don't be fooled. This message is brought to you as a public service because every April 1 well-intentioned jokes sometimes backfire.
Even this column is not immune to pulling your leg sometimes as an April Fools' prank. Fifteen years ago, when the state and nation first started talking about universal health care, the subject was a very hot potato. Ask Hillary Clinton.
New Mexico had a version, called New Mexicare, which caused an explosion of public sentiment. I wrote a column about how it had accidentally passed the Legislature and unintentionally been signed by Gov. Bruce King.
Although most newspapers included some acknowledgement of April Fool in their headlines, I received cards and letters from readers who either were mislead or didn't think it was a bit funny.
And such is the problem with April Fools' attempts at humor. High school student newspapers love April Fools' editions but youthful exuberance often takes them too far.
A food column in the Santa Fe New Mexican a decade ago clearly indicated in the last paragraph that it was a hoax. But some readers didn't finish the column before going out into the village to spread all manner of misinformation about Santa Fe restaurants.
In Las Cruces, 12 years ago, city editor Charles Brunt, now with the Albuquerque Journal, became aggravated with a local radio station that essentially read the Sun-News to its listeners every morning without any credit given to its source. The announcers made it appear they were digging up the stories.
So on April Fools' Day, the Sun-News printed a special edition delivered solely to the radio station with a completely bogus story that could have been easily checked out and found to be untrue. It worked, and Brunt caught some flack for his prank from straight-laced journalists.
This was a rare instance of a radio station being on the short end of an April Fools' joke. Usually they are the perpetrators. Talk radio, especially, with lots of time to fill, concocts elaborate schemes designed to take in as many of the public as possible.
Albuquerque has seen plenty of these pranks, with T.J. Trout often being chief prankster. One hoax, involving a new bridge over the Rio Grande, a very sore subject in Albuquerque, brought hundreds of angry calls, mostly to public officials.
KUNM got into the April Fools' spirit with a bogus program about a woman who was producing tofu products shaped like human body parts. She got into a heated argument with a man charging she was promoting cannibalism.
Then they ran a segment asserting that the Navajo Supreme Court had ruled that all land in the United States would be given back to the Native Americans. You can imagine what that produced.
Occasionally even the big boys get bit by April Fools' jokes. A few years ago the Los Angeles Times ran a story based on an April Fools' news release from the Wyoming governor's office that somehow had made it onto the Internet and looked legitimate.
So remember to be wary when you get up tomorrow and in your morning fog believe everything you see in the paper, hear on the radio or are told by your six-year-old son.
By next year, I may have strayed from the straight and narrow and want to make merry again. If I start telling you about political miracles produced by that lovable Swede Loof Lirpa, remember to try spelling unusual names backwards. That's one of the more common tricks.
My most enjoyable April Fools' column was three years ago, long after Gov. Bill Richardson had begun denying that he wanted to run for president. My April Fools' column that year reported that Richardson's statements had turned out to be absolutely true
I said Richardson had announced that he truly meant that being governor of New Mexico was his dream job. I didn't fool anyone.
MON, 3-31-08

JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505
(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail)



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