Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Today's fortune: April 26, 2011

Today's fortune: With integrity and consistency, your credits are piling up.

Integrity and consistency are two traits upon which I pride myself, just as I'm sure most people do. As a former journalist, I made integrity and consistency my stock in trade, and I worked hard to be a reliable and and trustworthy even as the business I was in crumbled around me.

Integrity is a difficult thing in the newspaper industry. People assume, before they even meet a journalist, that he or she doesn't have any, simply because of his or her chosen profession. So journalists who hope to develop a reputation for integrity have to work twice as hard.

One of the funniest and most memorable phone calls I ever received as a newspaper editor came from an angry little old lady who called to question my integrity. In that day's newspaper we ran a poll that had been provided by a national syndicate service. This was back when George W. Bush was in the White House, and the public was just beginning to turn on him. The poll was a presidential approval rating, and the headline of the poll said something like, "47 Percent of Americans Now Disapprove of the President."

The little old lady found my name and number in the paper's masthead and called me. "Why didn't you say 53 percent of Americans approved of the president instead of the other way around?" she asked.

It was a fair question, and I tried to explain it as best as I could - even though my staff did not create the poll, we only published it from a syndicate service. I explained that the newsworthy part of the story was that Bush's approval ratings were slipping. It would be like running a story about a plane crash with the headline, "Almost Every Plane Arrives Safely at its Destination." That's not the news. If Bush's approval ratings had gone up, the headline would have surely referred to his positive numbers.

She paused for a moment, and then said - I'll never forget this - "Nice try, Liberal!" Then she slammed the phone down.

Instead of taking offense, I laughed uproariously, and walked out to the newsroom to share the story with the staff.

The woman had assumed a liberal bias because I was a member of the media, and nothing I could have said during the conversation would have convinced her otherwise. What I learned from that experience is that sometimes, integrity and consistency don't matter at all.

I thought about that when I opened up today's fortune, and I was a bit cynical about it as I drove to work.

But less than a half hour after I opened the fortune, I received a foolproof sign that the fortune cookie gods are listening.

Over the weekend I rented a movie, "The King's Speech," from the Acme Company Store. Yesterday, I forgot to take it back to work, so I sent a message to Connie, the very nice lady who runs the Company Store, asking if I could return the movie today and pay an extra day's rental fee. "No problem," she said.

I returned the video to the store today, and I reached for my wallet to pay the extra dollar. She waved me off.

"Don't worry about it," she said. "You always return movies on time, and I know you didn't do it on purpose or try to take advantage of the system."

That is literally what she said to me. She specifically referenced my consistency and integrity. Those traits had earned me one credit at the Company Store.

But only one. Connie was quick to add, "But the next one's on you!"

Integrity and consistency can only get you so far. I'll just have to keep piling up the credits.