Editors of newspapers and magazines often go to extremes to provide their readers with unimportant facts and statistics. Last year a journalist had been instructed by a well-known magazine to write an article on the president’s palace in a new African republic. When the article arrived, the editor read the first sentence and then refused to publish it. The article began: ‘Hundreds of steps lead to the high wall which surrounds the president’s palace.’ The editor at once sent the journalist a fax instructing him to find out the exact number of steps and the height of the wall.
The journalist immediately set out to obtain these important facts, but he took a long time to send them. Meanwhile, the editor was getting impatient, for the magazine would soon go to press. He sent the journalist two more faxes, but received no reply. He sent yet another fax informing the journalist that if he did not reply soon he would be fired. When the journalist again failed to reply, the editor reluctantly published the article as it had originally been written. A week later, the editor at last received a fax from the journalist. Not only had the poor man been arrested, but he had been sent to prison as well. However, he had at last been allowed to send a fax in which he informed the editor that he had been arrested while counting the 1084 steps leading to the fifteen-foot wall which surrounded the president’s palace.