Caught up in the Frey fray + more (better) stories

January 27th, 2006 by Meg

Ok. I just did something I’ve never done before. And I’m not proud of it. I left my desk in the middle of the day to go down in my living room, turn on the TV, and watch Oprah. I am caught up in the James Frey fray. Go ahead. Make fun of me. I deserve it.

I almost turned it off a few minutes after I turned it on because, as I had correctly suspected, there is a reason that I don’t watch Oprah in the middle of the day. (Or anytime of day.) It’s just not my kind of TV. But I left it on. Here’s what happened.

Oprah looked pretty good. She was really “embarrassed,” she kept saying. Tsk tsk James. Who wants Oprah mad at them?

James is a total nerd.

Richard Cohen
of the WP told us, “I’m only addicted to bagels.”

Nan looked nervous nauseous.

Roy Peter Clark, a senior scholar at the Poynter Institute, basically summed it up, for anyone who’s confused. The truth is the truth and a lie is a lie. And we need the truth.

Then someone’s cell phone rang. Nobody answered it.

Then James told Oprah, with scolded puppy dog eyes, that he’s made mistakes, but he’s learning from this situation, that he’s “coming out of all of this better.” Which, surprise, surprise, is exactly what Oprah wanted to hear. Oh, he’s good. (Not!) Um, has anyone else ever been lied to by a “sincerely sorry” addict. Yeah. That’s what it felt like.

But you know what nobody asked him? “James, are you on the verge of a relapse?” Because *that* would make for an awesome volume three. Barring that, he could at least be Kate Moss’s writing coach.

Then the local news came on and a juror in the Richard Hatch case said he thought Hatch was an intelligent man. (He’s been on trial in Providence for tax evasion.) Meanwhile, video footage of Hatch walking into the courthouse showed him pushing on the door, when he should have pulled, just like in that Far Side comic. haha.

Anyway, what I really wanted to tell you about today is a much more interesting story. A story about a reporter who followed the tale of a murder for more than 30 years. It really became “his” story, even though the story is really about a young woman, Linda Cummings, who was murdered in 1974 (the year I was born.) It’s funny, I saw the picture of the girl, from her driver’s license, in the upper right hand corner of Romanesko’s newsletter yesterday, and so I clicked on it. Turns out that’s what’d kept Larry Wellborn going all those years too. The girl isn’t pretty and she isn’t smiling, but somehow, she bore down deep into Wellborn’s being. And even though he never met her, he avenged her murder (sort of) after 30 years.

He’d been thinking about her—about that photograph—the whole time: “It’s an image that snaps into my brain when I jolt awake in the middle of the night. And it’s an image I cannot shake when sleep does not return. This is Linda Cummings in the early 1970s. Something happened to her.”

This isn’t the best story ever written. But it is a good story. Wellborn’s editors at the Orange County (Calif.) Register insisted that he write himself into it, even though he didn’t want to. But he did have to. Because even though it’s a story about a murder that he wasn’t a part of and that happened 30 years ago, somehow he was meant to carry the lonely Linda’s torch and kept her story afloat. And that, my friends, is the way of the Smith.

::Murder by Suicide?
(registration required)
::Interview with Larry Wellborn

PS Newsflash! Have you heard? The Jews rule the media! Oy!

PPS As your angel of death, I feel it only right to tell you about this latest explosion on the eBay market: Elmo to kids: “Who wants to die?”

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