You kids out there dreaming of careers in the news game had better learn to honor the three most important words you'll ever hear from your boss:
"Get the mother!"
Makes no difference what the story is about -- getting the mother is always a crucial element.
Guy just won the Nobel Prize? Get the mother!
Guy just shot eleven people in a shopping mall? Get the mother!
The mother is dead? Get the stepmother! Or the grandmother! Anything that ends in "mother!"
Getting the mother goes back as far as anyone can remember. If there'd been television back in biblical times, Good Morning Jerusalem would have been busting a gut to get an exclusive interview with the mother of Jesus before Access Galilee could make her an offer.
(And as a side-story, they probably would have thrown in a "Mary Magdalene Makeover.")
Believe me, when Jesus was making big news, nobody said: "Get the father!"
Then again, that might have been the first time the father's point of view was worthy of Page One. (JOSEPH SHOCKER: I'M NOT THE DAD! HE'S THE SON OF GOD!)
Fathers don't usually count for much in the news game. They're stereotyped as befuddled, irresponsible louts who vanish either physically or emotionally soon after the children are born, leaving the mothers to thank or blame for everything.
If a doctor makes a ground-breaking discovery, it's because his mother scrubbed floors at night to put him through med school.
If a gunman in a bell tower starts picking off pedestrians, it's because his mother scrubbed floors at night to pay the rent and wasn't home to make him bologna sandwiches after school.
All of this dovetails beautifully with the widely-held belief that nothing anybody does is actually their doing.
It's your mother.
The following story actually happened, so don't make faces:
I was screening footage of a dog rescue for a TV show -- a cute little pooch had fallen down a sewer pipe, and a bunch of rescue workers were digging feverishly to get him free. They broke through the pipe. He poked his nose out, then his head. Absolutely adorable stuff. At last the dog struggled out of the pipe and shook himself clean.
Out of nowhere a similar dog slightly larger than the one who'd been rescued happened to trot into view, and went nose-to-nose with the rescued dog. They both wagged their tails.
My boss was standing behind me, and he pointed at the other dog with great excitement.
"Is that the mother?" he asked.
It was a ridiculous question, a ludicrous question, and I was ashamed of myself for not thinking of it first.
Get the mother. Rule number one, and I'd dropped the ball on it, just because they were dogs. What the hell was I thinking?
Charlie Carillo's latest novel is One Hit Wonder. His website is www.charliecarillo.com. He's a producer for the TV show Inside Edition.