Every day seems to bring another tale of a journalist exposed for the inexcusable sin of fabrication.
Newspaper columnists are especially prone to this sort of ethical lapse. A writer named Diana Griego Erwin resigned recently from the Sacramento Bee after her editors couldn't confirm the existence of several people she quoted in her columns.
Griego Erwin wrote a mere three columns a week. I write five. It's understandable that you might be concerned about the columns you've enjoyed these many months and be curious whether I have resorted to making stuff up in order to satisfy my constant deadlines and ravenous editors.
And so, in the interests of complete disclosure, I'd like to set the record straight:
In a column on people who fish with laser beams in the Chesapeake Bay, I quoted a retired police officer named Tarquin Fin- tim- lim- bim- whin- bim- lim- bus- stop- F'tang- F'tang- Ole- Biscuitbarrel.
After the column ran, my editors confronted me and said they could find no one named Tarquin Fin- tim- lim- bim- whin- bim- lim- bus- stop- F'tang- F'tang- Ole- Biscuitbarrel on voter registration rolls or property records in the Washington area or, indeed, anywhere on the planet.
I admit that I took the name from a Monty Python sketch hoping that no one would notice.
Also, no one fishes with laser beams in the Chesapeake Bay.
In many of my columns I have mentioned a woman I refer to as My Lovely Wife. I have also made reference to our two daughters, Gwyneth and Beatrice, imbuing each with a nicely balanced assortment of aggravating and endearing qualities.
I am, in fact, a confirmed bachelor who has trouble keeping houseplants alive, let alone two children.
It almost goes without saying that my beloved Labrador retriever, Charlie, is actually a roughly dog-shaped mildew stain on my living room wall.
The warm memories from my childhood that I frequently evoke in prose? Sorry, but I am the result of a top-secret government experiment involving in vitro fertilization, gestation in a viscous, nutrient-rich growth medium, and an upbringing at the hands of an advanced android I knew only as Silver Unit.
I do not have an assistant named Julia Feldmeier. (I mean, really, what kind of name is Feldmeier?)
Fatty tuna is not my favorite ice cream flavor. (I can't even remember where that one came from.)
I did not invent the beloved children's card game Uno while drunk on aquavit and fatty tuna ice cream.
In a column about Wheaton, I referred to a carpet store on Veirs Mill Road. That should have been Viers Mill Road. And it should have been a pet store. And it wasn't in Wheaton; it was in France.
In one of my columns I claimed to have won a Pulitzer Prize. I corrected that in a later column, writing: "I did not win a Pulitzer Prize; however, it is an honor just to be nominated."
I did not mean to imply that I was nominated, just that it must be an honor to be nominated.
I mean, duh.
We Kid Because We Love
Kidding! I was only kidding!
I wasn't raised by an android. I am married with children. I do have an assistant named Julia Feldmeier.
I'm partial to the occasional satirical column. Why? Well, while most people have something in their bodies called fascia -- a type of fibrous tissue that joins skin and muscle -- I have facetiouscia. In other words, I was born this way.
Please, if you ever doubt something that you read in my column, please don't hesitate to send me an e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) or call me (202-334-5129) and ask.
That's what one person did after reading the faux "Hints From Heloise" a while back. This reader thought it was a bad idea that we had recommended people sign all their new checks the moment they arrived in the mail as a way to save time.
All together now: Kidding!
A Helping Hand
Sometimes at Camp Moss Hollow there are children who draw back at another's touch. They shrink from hugs. They come from homes where a raised arm doesn't mean a pat on the back but a smack on the face.
Five days at camp aren't going to suddenly make everything better for these children, but it's a start. Surrounded by caring counselors who teach rather than scold, who soothe rather than shout, they can start to see that not all grown-ups are out to get them.
"We can help them make sense of the chaos," says camp director Hope Asterilla. "We can't control it, but we can help them step back and understand that it isn't them."
We have only about two weeks left in our annual drive to support Camp Moss Hollow. So far we are $493,862.01 short of our $650,000 goal.
Here's how you can help make up that deficit, ensuring at-risk kids will get a break this summer:
Make a check or money order payable to "Send a Kid to Camp" and mail it to Family and Child Services, P.O. Box 96237, Washington, D.C. 20090-6237.
To contribute online, go to www.washingtonpost.com/johnkelly. Click on the icon that says "Make a Donation."
To donate by MasterCard or Visa by phone, call 202-334-5100 and follow the instructions on our taped message.