By Mike Moore
Maybe I'll have to start carrying a badge. I'll need to take off a couple of days to perfect flipping it open and shut in one fluid motion.
Don't want anybody mixing me up with Jeff. "Jeff from the Journal" is how the caller introduced himself when he dialed up a couple of contestants from the recent Miss ChocolateFest pageant.
There are a few blind spots in my view of the newsroom, but I'm fairly sure nobody by that name snuck in and commandeered a computer here. Yes, he could've meant that other paper, but he didn't.
The guy wasn't a local at all. A few of his questions made that clear.
"The girls could tell he didn't know what he was talking about," said Caitlin Morrall, who won the pageant last year and got involved in coaching this time.
Street smarts and good looks? I'd develop a twitch while interviewing women like that.
Except it wasn't the caller's professional polish that prompted the contestants and their families to get off the line. It was the kinds of questions he asked. I don't recall a chapter on "Uncomfortable Prying" in the Newswriting 101 textbook.
"He knows a lot of information about these girls that he would've had to do a lot of digging to get," Morrall said.
While she's never received one of those calls, this sounds to her like the same guy who strikes up conversations with her at pageants. That one's a regular on the circuit, although not a welcome one.
Morrall said the guy sometimes asks her for an autograph, although on those occasions he wants to be called Chris. Starting to sound like a Vegas commercial, eh? "It doesn't harm anyone. It's just odd," Morrall said, though she does wonder how far he'll go.
It might yet harm the caller himself. Detective Sgt. Bret Maus said, if Burlington city police can connect the pageant stalker to the local calls, the guy could be charged. Until they're sure, it's not fair for me to name him.
I don't need a name to flog him with my keyboard. Go pretend to be someone else, buddy. It's bad enough you're creeping people out. Leave us journalists out of it. We're still busy trying to finish off the ghost of Jayson Blair. (That silver bullet has to be in the filing cabinet somewhere.) Besides, you're killing the aura. Real writers just sit back and wait for the women to come running. Making sure to trim their fingernails every few weeks while they're waiting, of course.
If you're going to pose as a reporter, there are more productive ways to do it. One online message board suggests posing as a member of the press to get access to your favorite celebrity.
Better yet, you'll find all the curves you can handle with the free access to scientific charts and journals.
Just know your limits. There's a movie scheduled to come out soon called "Black Dahlia," about a grisly murder in the 1940s. Rumor was the victim, an aspiring actress, had been posing as a reporter to get access to murder cases.
However tame the pageant hound has been, Maus said Oshkosh police appreciated the heads-up so they can try to prevent the man from bothering anyone at the Miss Wisconsin event later this month. Morrall will compete for that title.
I'm trusting, after these intrusions, everyone can still distinguish a nose for news from an eye for trouble.
Mike Moore's local news column runs three days a week. He can be reached at (262) 631-1724 or by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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