By Nury Vittachi IANS | 5 days ago

So I get a news report from a young reporter. "A car was in collision with a bath" the other day, it told me.


Huh? So why was someone driving a bath down a road? In a follow-up email, she explained that the guy in the bath claimed that the car drove through the wall of his house (this happened in the US city of Oklahoma), but she decided to write that the car and the bath were in collision to "try to be fair and impartial".

Good thinking. Life is strange. An investigation might conclude that the car was innocently parked by the kerb when a house came roaring down the road and subsumed it.

This actually might happen in New Zealand, where many houses are wood-framed and portable, and people drive wood-framed homes around the way normal folk take dogs for a walk.

If you've ever wanted to win a road race, go to Christchurch and get aggressive at the traffic lights with a man who has a two-story mansion on his trailer.

But the main point is that reporters these days have to be VERY careful, which is why we write things like: "It will allegedly be cloudy with an alleged chance of rain, according to the alleged weather forecast released by our alleged government."

Thus we avoid screw-ups. This columnist was recently reminded of one of his worst journalistic mistakes when reader Juanita Joseph sent a news link which said Kim Jong Un had scored 100 percent of the votes in an election.

I covered a North Korean election in the 1990s in which his dad was the only candidate. I predicted he would win. I was wrong. The North Korean Electoral College discussed the issue for hours and finally gave the presidency to the corpse of the candidate's father.

Losing any election is bad enough, but it must really hurt to be defeated by a decomposing pile of organic matter. In my youth, I lost a student union election to a person who could only be described as a pile of decomposed organic matter, no offence intended to piles of decomposed organic matter.

But the truth is, being a reporter is harder than ever, now that news often breaks on social websites. My new golden rule: "Forgive those who sin against you: it's easier than trying to work out how to delete their Facebook posts."

Yet sometimes readers do send interesting tales through social media: like the guy who forwarded a report about two dogs who drove away their owner's truck. Apparently true. I guess this could have happened if they were jumping around and accidentally hit the controls.

But generally speaking, dogs hate machines. If you want to break into any high security place protected by guard dogs, just carry a vacuum cleaner and make a zzzzhhhhhhhh noise: watch those mutts vanish.

Motorists: if you crash into a lamppost going home today, tell people that you swerved to avoid a speeding bath driven by a pair of dogs. With a bit of luck, your story may be covered by a young reporter determined to be fair and impartial.

(18.07.2014. Nury Vittachi is an Asia-based frequent traveller. Send ideas and comments via www.mrjam.org)

(Posted on 18-07-2014)