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‘There is no story here’ usually means there’s a story here

April 9, 2017 GMT

If you have ever read one of my articles before, say, for example, the one about squirrels attacking people in California or acts of road rage between a man and his GPS, and upon finishing it you thought, “There is no story here,” you were probably absolutely right. I feel that way myself quite often about newspaper and magazine articles or episodes of The Big Bang Theory.

Yet I have noticed recently that politicians or their spokespeople use this line “There is no story here” quite often. In fact, the expression may have entered the English language right around the time Donald Trump was sworn in as President.

Trump’s press secretary Sean Spicer uses a variation of the saying at just about every press conference. For example, he told the press recently that the whole issue of subterfuge involving President Trump and Russia during the election is over, done, kaput—there is no story. Yet, there are currently at least three intelligence community investigations going on at this very moment. So, obviously, the ‘no story’ is a very big story.

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In contrast, on the opposite end of the news story spectrum, you have Kellyanne Conway making up stories when there actually is none, such as the ‘Bowling Green Massacre.’ Conway, who won the New Jersey Blueberry Princess Pageant in 1982, likes to use the terms ‘alternative facts’ and ‘fake news’ in place of “no story here,” but it’s still pretty much the same type of dodge tactic.

Then we have Donald Trump who is not creative enough to invent new phrases to lead the media astray. So he simply tosses out red herrings like a cat in a dumpster, saying things like Obama bugged his tower or Susan Rice committed a crime.

Interestingly enough, we had a prime example of the “There is no story” defense used right here in Idaho this week.

Idaho legislature House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, R-Star, married Janet Trujillo, an Idaho Falls Republican representative last December. As reported in the Idaho Press-Tribune at the time, neither one of them foresaw any possibility of conflicts of interest. Which, of course, really doesn’t matter anyway because, though forty-two states have an agency or commission to oversee ethics laws, Idaho does not.

However, there does appear to be just an itty-bitty issue of some sort. The Idaho Statesman reported on April 3 that Rep. Trujillo apparently stayed at her husband’s house 16 miles from the capitol during the recent session. Yet, an Idaho Falls Post Register public records request reveals that throughout the session Trujillo collected the higher $129 per diem rather than the $49 per diem for those living within driving distance of the capitol.

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Now I personally drove 100 miles round trip every day to work for 14 years—and that was over the river and through the woods, not on the freeway. Also, I received no per diem, and, boy, I have a stack of gas purchase receipts that reach the ceiling to prove it! So, yeah, 16 miles is definitely living within driving distance.

Let’s just pop up the old computer calculator and see exactly what this all adds up to. Trujillo’s base salary is roughly $17,000 plus a total of $10,320 living expenses. Her husband is also paid $17,000 plus the lower $49 per diem which is an additional $3,920. So, between the two of them they pulled in $48,240 for 80 days work or $603 per day.

The Statesman interviewed Trujillo, and she refused to say where she was living during the session or whether she was paying rent. “You’re trying to make a story where there isn’t one,” Trujillo said. Soon as I read her quote, I thought, “Hey, there’s a story here!”

But this isn’t the best recent story concerning stories where “there is no story.” No, that award has to go to the journalism staff of The Booster Redux, the Pittsburgh High School newspaper in Pittsburgh, Kansas.

The high school recently hired a new principal for the 2017-18 school year. According to an NPR report, she interviewed the best of all the candidates and appeared to have sterling credentials. However, the high school kids smelled a rotten red herring and began their own research on her background.

First, they researched Corllins University where the new principal received her masters degree. The students discovered that Corllins ranks right up there with Trump University and is simply a degree mill—mail in your tuition and a self-addressed stamped envelope and receive your diploma within a few days!

They also discovered a number of other glaring discrepancies: the principal was unable to provide her undergraduate transcript, her stated bachelor’s degree was not offered at her alma mater, etc. Little things like that.

All the while, the students were told by influential adults in their community, “There is no story here.”

Well, there was a story there. The new principal resigned, and, I imagine, the school board is mighty embarrassed.

High school junior Gina Mathew said on NPR, “We knew that there was a story to be heard here, and that’s exactly what our paper sought out to do.” Like any good journalist, Gina knew that where there’s smoke, there’s usually fire.

Mike Murphy of Pocatello is an award-winning columnist with accolades including an Associated Press first-place award in column writing and a first place award in a national writing contest sponsored by Nissan Corp. His articles are syndicated by Senior Wire.