THE HOUNDS OF NEWS
RANGE: Like the fabulous Fairy Dog packs of yore, the Hounds of News roam wheresoever they list, red-eyed and terrible; from newspaper pay windows to celebrity discos, precinct press rooms, post-game locker rooms, and wire service terminals, on the trail of scoops and Mafia bribes.
HABITS: Like the stringers, freelancers, correspondents and spirits they are, the Hounds hunt in packs. Their sensitive noses are attuned not to news only, but to any free lunch. They feed upon the sandwiches provided at new product launches and lap up the cabbage scented beer from the sodden sawdust-strewn floors of bars with Irish names. Like their human counterparts, they go into a rutting frenzy nightly from eleven-thirty to twelve; and like them, they never actually breed. The Hounds of News are invaluable to the gentlemen of the fourth estate: they retrieve useful expense account receipts from under tables, they scent out simple-to-rewrite stories in rival publications, and are quick on the spoor of politicians’ barbers, nightclub washroom attendants, and other informed sources. In the field, the Hounds lead the hunt, baying after their swift prey: ambulances, squad cars, fire engines, and stretch limousines. With supernatural hunting instinct, they will wrestle to earth any recently divorced actress, misunderstood race fixer eager to tell his sad story, blabber mouth hit man, philandering politico, drug-crazed jock, cult leader, cult victim, and all such subjects for hot copy. And at the end of a tough day on the beat, it is a Hound of News who tips off his master as to which of the forty-odd identical Aquascutum trench coats on the barroom rack is his very own.
HISTORY: The Hounds of News are likely descended from the Cu Sith, or Hounds of the Hill, the Fairy Pack of Wales, who once hunted souls there. In America, where souls are few, their prey is scandal. They led Haliburton to Cuba, Lowell Thomas to Arabia, scented the ill wind off the Watergate, and continue to sniff out rueful and amusing members of the proletariat for Breslin, Royko and Hammill. Because of their Celtic ancestry, they tend all too often to track down colorful and self-destructive Welsh actors as potential feature material.
SPOTTER’S TIPS: Like all hounds, spectral and otherwise, these Mutts of Mencken make a hell of a racket—baying, belling, barking, and howling. The unearthly noises raised by a gathering of reporters are in fact the cries of a News Hound pack. Listen closely for these whines and yelps—always a dead giveaway: “De Tocque-ville? A tourist! . . . Hemingway? What a blowhard! . . . John McPhee, that phony nature boy! . . . Izzy Stone? He’s in it for the glory . . . Rather? Can’t write a word . . .”