Daniel found himself in the middle of one political story after another. He interviewed statewide candidates as well as local candidates. Daniel was viewed as “somewhat of a political guru,” by the other reporters in the office.
He wrote articles about each politician and each campaign using the information that the candidate’s handler emailed him or he researched a news wire story, working it into a local angle. One such campaign was a judicial seat in Sparks between a Republican attorney and a former city mayor and a devout Democrat.
The former mayor’s handlers had issued several press releases during the course of the political season. These were emailed directly to Daniel and he gleaned from them ideas for new stories involving the candidate and his opponent.
The set back was the attorney, who refused to return Daniel or any other reporters’ telephone call. Therefore when it came press time, Daniel would write an article about the ex-mayor and the attorney’s name appeared in the last paragraph that usually read that he was “unavailable for comment at the time of publication.”
The lawyer called and left messages on both Daniel’s cell-phone and office phone, complaining about what he believed was “lopsided coverage.” Daniel returned two of the four calls.
“Sir,” Daniel replied, “I’ve called you for comment and never heard back. Our deadline in 4 p.m. and if I don’t hear from you I can’t quote you. Do you have another phone number where you can be reached immediately?”
Daniel never heard from the attorney again.
Then one afternoon the papers editor told Daniel that the newspaper would not carry another article about the former mayor. She said, “I think we’re being too one-sided about our coverage on this campaign.”
“Okay,” Daniel said. “But can I ask what prompted this action?”
“I received a letter from his opponent complaining that he has hardly been mentioned and the ex-mayor is getting loads of press from us,” she said. She paused and continued, “I looked it up and every story has been written by you.”
She didn’t say anything about the article Daniel had written about the lawyer when he announced his candidacy for the judgeship. Daniel thought that it was odd that the editor would overlook such a detail.
“Can I see the letter?” Daniel asked.
“No, I think it would be better left alone,” she answered.
The following day Daniel opened his email and found that she had forwarded the letter to him. He wasn’t surprised by the act since the editor was known to change her mind.
The letter was a full page and was filled with varying complaints leveled at Daniel. As he read it, Daniel felt a sense of betrayal because the editor felt inclined to allow the newspapers goals to be swayed by a political candidate rather than stand up for her reporters and staff.
Then he read the final paragraph that called Daniel “a puppet,” of the former mayor. Daniel realized that he was being allowed to look-like the scapegoat for the attorney’s public relations difficulties.
It felt like a burr had suddenly become caught between the saddle blanket and saddle on Daniel’s skin. He forwarded the emailed letter to his personal email address.
“I’ll deal with this later,” he said to himself. Daniel continued with his daily assignments.
Hours later and back at home, Daniel took the letter and posted it on his personal website. He also wrote a response to it, defending himself and the news staff against the label of puppet.
In the mean time Daniel worked feverishly to uncover several websites that seemed bent on defaming politicians using lies and vulgar humor. He had nearly cracked the top offender and was prepared to expose the designer and author of one of these sites when he got a call from the editor.
“You had no right to steal that letter from my email,” she accused Daniel. “I’m changing my email password and locking you out of the system.”
Daniel was stunned.
For nearly three months he had tried to get her interested in his website. He even pointed out that their competition had sites that were attached directly to their newspaper. Daniel told her that he thought the paper should look at the same design.
“Suddenly she decides to read my blog and now she’s pissed off at me,” he said to himself as he hung up the telephone.
Her action was puzzling to Daniel, and then he found out why she had decided to read his website. The editor had been prompted to read it by the very person whom he was preparing to expose as the writer of so many nasty websites.
This person was the mastermind behind a political action committee, which once a politician paid for an endorsement from the Committee; he would go to work designing a nasty campaign aimed at discrediting that Politian’s opponent.
Daniel had even proved that the same man had committed fraud by creating a credit card account in another man’s name.
Daniel was even collaborating with Nevada’s Secretary of State, who along with his daughter had been a personal victim of the man’s attacks.
“It’s just that nobody wants to use his name,” he had told Daniel. He added, “Because he is a creep that will continue attacking a person until he nearly destroys them. He’s a ‘Right-wing Internet Jihadist.’”
In one of the several emails that Daniel and the so-call right-wing Jihadist had exchanged, he warned Daniel that an e-mail attack was eminent. He said Daniel should “be prepared to explain things to his editor.”
“You may want to try and start working on damage control before it gets real messy,” the man wrote. He continued, “Just trying to give you a heads up. I would hate to see you go the way of Dan Rather.”
Naively Daniel didn’t take the warning seriously. It was less than a week after Daniel was warned that he found himself in the publisher’s office once again.
“This is nothing personal,” the publisher stated calmly, “but I create enough problems of my own without having to deal with the ones you create. That’s why we’re letting you go. I don’t want to lose my job because you can’t hold your temper.”
Daniel didn’t say anything. There was nothing for him to say.
He had seen it coming the moment his editor had called him. It was even more evident when she had spoken to him about the letter during a private meeting the day before.
He told her that he was standing up for himself and everyone in the newsroom.
Daniel said, “I know that I’m not a puppet and I don’t think anyone here is a puppet.”
The editor disagreed. “We’re all puppets!” she exclaimed.
From that minute onward, Daniel had a clear understanding of the position his editor was taking. Daniel had already taken steps to protect the newspaper and himself by deleted his website, making certain that the man and his cronies were unable to “lift” anymore material from what he had written.
The newspaper’s editor added, “I don’t know how we’re going to stop a lawsuit from occurring. Anything over two million dollars will bankrupt this paper.”
Still Daniel said nothing.
Instead he slowly rose up out of the chair he was sitting in and exited the office. He walked over to his desk and started clearing it off. As he did so he chuckled to himself and thought, “Of all the things that I could have been fired for, I get fired for telling the truth about a lying politician.”
Later Daniel would learn the editor was involved in the Washoe County Republican Party and was president of the Women’s’ Republican Committee.
He suddenly understood where the truth lay in what had happened to him.