Tipsline and the power of names
It was a dark and stormy night. Black clouds billowed above the valley, churning and building like an army of conspirators, threatening destruction and prophesying evil. Wind howled and lightning cast forked fingers downward to the parched earth, sparking small brushfires and sending helpless, furry bunnies scurrying to their holes.Houses were silent in the village below. The townspeople huddled in their homes. Cars stayed off the road. Travelers ran for cover. And somewhere in the distance, wild coyotes emitted lonely howls.Suddenly the phone rang, shattering the silence in my office. I nearly jumped out of my seat. Goosebumps ran down my arms and shivers ran up my spine. Outside (almost as if to foreshadow doom) lightning struck. Thunder followed, and its booming voice shook the very foundations of our newspaper’s small office.Who could it be?Who could possibly be calling so late at night? What news did they have? What baneful deeds were going on under the shadow of a dark and stormy night? What scandalous plans lay in wait for our Valley, for our leaders, for our people and for me?I hesitated. Thoughts ricocheted through my mind like so many hockey pucks in a temporary ice arena. Could it be a Town Government Official, calling to render the latest account of Vail Resort’s scheme to take over the county and own the town? Could it be a reader, calling to reveal the latest information in the plot to take over the Vail Trail? Could it be the DA, calling for advice on the possible investigation of a county commissioner? Or was it just a citizen, calling to tip me off on the latest effort to vandalize the blue lights in Edwards and rip up the heated sidewalks on Bridge Street?I didn’t know but my heart seemed to beat a thousand times before the cold, stark ring of the telephone came one more time.Slowly, cautiously, I answered.”Hello?” I said, my voice wavering slightly with fear.A dark, deep-throated voice scratched out a few words on the other end of the line.”Is this Tom Boyd of the Vail Trail?” it asked.Another round of tingles coursed through my spine.”Yes,” I responded.”Listen,” the voice said. “I have something important to tell you”My knuckles became white with dread as I gripped the phone in one hand while taking notes in the other. The voice was mysterious, hard to place, but somehow familiar. My mouth dropped and my heart pounded as I discovered that this person, (whoever he or she was) knew just about everything there was to know about the Valley, and more.I listened carefully, penciling every scrap of condemning information into my notebook. Page after page of incredible information was coming from this wise and tortured soul. I heard about plots, sex, power struggles, shady real estate deals, bribes to public officials, gangs of conspirators who ruled over golf courses like the heartless monarchs, dog owners who scorned leashes without a care in the world, carpenters who failed to follow safety regulations on the job, wild municipal officials who drove willy-nilly through the mountains in government-owned vehicles, teachers who burned photos of superintendents, hippies that spit on fur coats, racists in positions of authority, law enforcement officials who distributed drugs to children and hookers, and even ski industry officials who were so deluded with power that they believed they could control the weather and make it snow.Eventually there was a pause, and I took a moment to relieve my writer’s cramp. I listened to the heavy breathing on the other end of the line. I wanted to know who this person was. I wanted this person to stand up, speak their name, and have the courage to stand by what they believed.”Who is this?” I demanded.”I can’t say,” said the voice. “It’s too dangerous.””I’ll protect you,” I said. “This is America. You have the right to speak your mind.””No,” the voice said. And for the first time I sensed fear coming from the other end of the line. Fear of discovery. Fear that, if they said their name, someone would find them and and and do the unspeakable.”You must,” I said. “I need you to. This information is useless without a name. I can’t do anything unless I can source it. I’m not Jayson Blair. I’m not Jack Kelly. I can’t do anything if this is just anonymous prattling. How do I know you’re not just saying all this stuff because of a personal vendetta you have? How do I know you’re telling the truth?”I listened again, but I heard no response.”Listen,” I said, “If you don’t tell me your name, then this phone conversation is no more reliable than information from any kooky blogger. If you don’t tell me your name, and I just print what you told me without checking the facts, then I would be doing a terrible, reprehensible disservice to my profession, my community, and my readers.””Look. This is Eagle County,” the voice said. “Think what would happen to me if my name was in the paper right next to all of this information. I could be killed! My family would be run out of town! The powerful war-coyotes would hunt me down like a furry bunny in the woods. I would never make it.””So you want this to be entirely off the record?” I asked.”Yes. It has to be.””What are you so afraid of?””I’m afraid of speaking up. I’m afraid of having to defend myself and my opinions. I’m afraid of what will happen to me and my family if anyone knew what I believed.”I paused. This wasn’t the first time I’d been through this. Frustration welled up in me like so much captured water in a snowmaking pond. Calmly, quietly, I said the words that I had said so many times before.”In that case,” I said, “you want Tipsline.”Tom Boyd is always available for conversation, questions and comments at (970) 748-0049, (970) 390-1585, or email@example.com. If you have something to say about a Vail Trail article, say it to us not to the competition. Just be sure to include your name.
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