There is always a good deal of give and take behind the scenes in journalism. Take Intel, for example, who gave another site a story yesterday that we might have liked for ourselves. A hurt email from yours truly promptly buzzed over the wires to the PR concerned, who replied "Ah, have I got news for you! Stand by your phone at 1 p.m. on Friday!"
We stood by. The phone stayed schtum.
More emails. "I'll get back to you," said the PR. And indeed he did, with a curious little press release that said "Ofcom commissions UWB report on commercial implications to 2020". Aha! Sounds our thing.
We call Ofcom (actually, we call Ofcom, get voice mail, send email, call again, get random Ofcommer who doesn't know, send more email, call Ofcom again, phone rings for ever. And finally, we call Ofcom and the right chap answers). "Er, no. No such report." We call the writers of the report. "Don't know. You'll have to call so-and-so" - and so-and-so is in meetings, between phones, at briefings. She's certainly not answering her phone. We call back Intel.
"Can you send us this report?" we ask.
"Ah. Don't actually have a copy of it ourselves. If you do find it, I'd be keen to see it," said the PR.
Then we get a second copy of the original press release, this time from another part of the Intel PR empire. It finishes "If you want to know more about this, please call me." Oh boy. We call the press release's author. "Ah." She says. "Don't actually have a copy of the report. Haven't seen it, to tell you the truth. If you do find it..." "Yes, we know." we say.
But as this press release has gone out to loads of hacks, we assume it's been cleared with Ofcom and the mystery of the missing report has been finally laid to rest. So we call Ofcom again. Our contact is very patient with us. He explains that he knows nothing of any such report, that it certainly hasn't been published today and that as far as Ofcom is concerned it does not exist.
We ask him if he has any on-the-record comment to make about Intel's PR. He does not.
Intel remains adamant that the report exists. Like those Midwestern farmers whose mothers-in-law are abducted by huge shiny saucers filled with hyperintelligent aliens, any actual proof -- the report itself, say -- is hard to come by.
We, caught in the middle of all this, feel like we're at the interface of some alternate universe where the report -- and everyone who knows about it -- is flicking in and out of existence. I ask the original PR whether he's checked to see whether he's still in those old school class photos, or in his wedding snaps.
His reply is curiously thin. Almost… transparent.
More as we get it -- and if there's nothing of ZDNet UK when you check back on Monday, you'll know what's happened.
And finally, Cyril… The sad story of a fax mishap which cost the EU a €100m court case against some banks -- puts me in mind of one of my favourite legal anecdotes.
A judge has heard a long and complex commercial case, and retires to his country cottage to write up his verdict - which is suitably long and complex itself. He returns to London to deliver it. However, as the court convenes he realises with horror that he's left the verdict on the table back in the rural retreat.
"I'm terribly sorry," he says to the courtroom. "I'm unable to continue as I've not brought the verdict back with me. It's stuck down in Dorset, and I'll have to recess until I can retrieve it."
One of the solicitors has an idea. "Fax it up, m'lord?" he says, helpfully.
"Yes, I'm afraid it does rather." says the judge, sadly.