The story we ran last week on the Internet scam featuring "Dove of Oneness" provoked lots of reader comment.
Some readers thought it was overplayed.
"You're taking up good newspaper time to put that into the paper?" wrote a reader who wanted only to be identified as Barbara. "It's ridiculous. If you have to mention it, it should be on the back page or somewhere else."
And of course, supporters of Dove - a woman named Shaini Goodwin who lives in a mobile home near Shelton - were incensed.
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
"Your lies will make you pay," wrote one. Another said, "We are praying and sending energy to you." That's good because we need more energy.
By the end of the week, Dove was accusing us of a conspiracy of our own. She said the CIA asked reporter Sean Robinson 18 months ago to do a "smear job" on her and that we had manipulated a photo (it was "stretched diagonally") to make her look "crazy."
For the record, if she looks crazy it's without any help from us and Robinson does not work for the CIA.
But the articles also were a terrific hit with a lot of readers. Our Web site recorded more than 12,000 hits on the stories and we got scores of e-mails.
"I live in Australia and read your two part report on Dove of O," wrote Leo Williamson. "Finally someone ... had guts to tell wider population about those con artist whose only goal is to suck money out of innocent people."
"What an interesting, well-researched article," wrote Jacki Strader. "My husband and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. It's articles like it that make reading and subscribing to the paper enjoyable."
"I saw one letter saying you and/or your paper shouldn't give space to nut cases like Dove and her scam. Yes you should," wrote Miranda Brooks, "and thank you for doing it! You may not change the minds of the followers and fools the scam has already sucked in, but you just might save others from getting involved and you should feel good about that. Informing the public is what journalists are supposed to do."
Several readers critical of the stories seemed not to like them because they didn't fit into the traditional "watchdog" role of journalism. They weren't about government or civic affairs.
But the readers who liked the stories liked them for just that reason.
I liked the stories and encouraged Sean to do them because I think Dove's scam feeds into two important trends - one regarding human behavior and another involving technology.
The human mind hungers for stories that seem to explain the world and make its chaos, randomness and complexity understandable and part of what seems a congruent whole.
The Internet gives such epic stories the ability to be everywhere at once.
The problem is in separating truth from junk.
Good newspapers do that sort of separating. Our ultimate usefulness is in telling citizens when they're being lied to. The Bill of Rights presumes a role for the press in telling the truth about government. But there are other places where it's also important to tell the truth.
When someone is lying over the Internet, asking people for money and getting them to lobby the World Court or the federal government about a fictitious law, someone needs to call their bluff.
Sean did that.
"This piece is much like the curtain being pulled back in the final scenes of the Wizard of Oz," wrote Renee Cruickshank. "I appreciate all the work you went to and the real risks you have probably now exposed yourself to. Thanks for doing this."
- - -
Dave Zeeck: 253-597-8434