Every reporter can cite chapter and verse. In the process of interviewing people for a promising story, you chase it away. So it went with The Case of The Stolen Radio Signal.
An anonymous correspondent wrote to inform me of what happened when she called the Rental Accommodations Office of the D.C. government. The line was busy, so a recorded voice popped onto the line and asked her to wait. Then came beautiful music.
But it wasn't Marion Barry's beautiful music. If you listened long enough, my correspondent said, you discovered that it was the signal of radio station WGAY -- stolen directly off the airwaves.
Could this be legal? Absolutely, said Maureen Peratino, a public relations officer at the Federal Communications Commission.
There is "nothing at all" in FCC regulations that would prevent an office like Rental Accommodations from using a live broadcast to fill "dead telephone time."
But when Annette Samuels, the mayor's press secretary, was asked to comment, she pulled the plug.
"The recording was done by the Rental Accommodations Office," she said. "What they've been doing without clearly understanding it" is to pipe into the telephone waiting device the same station they're listening to in the office. "We have requested that they cut it off."
Why? "We'll put on our own music recording if we're going to use music," she said. And that's exactly what the city plans to do, very soon, Samuels said.
I'm delighted, actually, if Samuels means that D.C. music will appear on D.C. government phones. I'm sure my pals in the Eastern High School marching band would love to make the new recording.
They're a lot more local than The Southern Sacramento Strolling Strings, or whatever's big on WGAY these days.
But my fondest wish is that, in pulling the plug on WGAY, Samuels has pulled the plug on the radio altogether. Why are public servants listening to the radio while they work, anyway?