Pranksters and spin doctors try to trick news reporters all the time. Newspapers across the country have learned to guard against fake obituaries, altered photos and multiple other efforts to mislead readers, embarrass the paper or simply win a bar bet.
Most such successful shenanigans are harmless or at least corrected during the next news cycle.
But an effort to fool a Quay County Sun reporter last week raised questions about safety at the Tucumcari municipal swimming pool.
The reporter's assignment was to interview a lifeguard. A young man working in the pool's office volunteered to answer questions.
He'd been a lifeguard for two years, he said. His inspiration had been watching the "Baywatch" TV show, he said. He talked as he collected money from pool patrons, handing them wire baskets for their shoes and T-shirts.
There were two interviews, one on June 26 and another on July 3, both at the pool.
The reporter had no reason to doubt the guy's story, until she returned to the newspaper office on July 3. That's when pool manager Kim Garcia called to say we'd been duped.
The young man was not a lifeguard, Garcia said. He didn't even work there.
It's still not clear why he was in the pool office or even how long he'd been hanging around.
We wondered if he'd been performing lifeguard duties near the water? Was he certified to perform those duties? Was all the pool's money accounted for?
We were pleased to learn late Tuesday that the prankster is no longer pretending to work at the pool.
City Manager Doug Powers told us he took care of the matter as soon as he learned about it — from us — last week.
The young man was never acting as a poolside lifeguard, and there's no money missing, Powers said.
"They should have known better," Powers said of pool staff allowing a non-employee in the workers' area. "They made a mistake. Young people make mistakes. It will not be a problem in the future."
Can anyone imagine the taxpayer liability if a child had drowned or was injured while this teenager played games?
We're glad the nonsense ended before anyone got hurt. Powers and other city officials need to make sure it never happens again.
Unsigned editorials are the opinion of the Clovis Media Inc. editorial board, which includes Publisher Ray Sullivan and EditorDavid Stevens.