There’s this guy who has been feeding me news tips like clockwork for 20 years.

Problem is, none of his tips have ever been any good.

“Iceland,” he’ll say to me on one of our occasional meet-ups. “They’re tossing the bankers out on their keisters up there in Iceland. You didn’t hear that from me.”

Or: “Scandal on the PGA circuit in Marina del Rey. Get on it, Mike. This one is right up your alley.”

This news tipster knows nothing of my alley. His tips never come with even a vague local angle or anything of interest to my assignment people. What’s worse, he always insists on extreme cloak-and-dagger acrobatics just to pass along information that I’ll never use.

“The Getty Mart at midnight,” he’ll advise. “The phone will ring three times. Don’t answer it. After the third ring, pick up the phone and dial this number. Utter the word ‘Swahili’ and wait for further instructions.”

All of that Jason Bourne manure just so he can tell me all about a feed store uprising in Terre Haute.

I’m sick of it, do you hear me? Sick of it! I tell the fellow that I’m sick of it and he just nods knowingly. He thinks it’s part of our routine.

On the other hand, I’m filled with fond nostalgia. This dude’s information might be utter doo-doo, but at least he’s bringing it old-school. What’s wrong with a little intrigue — even if there’s nothing better to relate than scandal at a cherry pie contest in Agrestic, Calif.?

I got a solid tip the other day on an ugly orphanage matter, and do you know how that tip came in? Facebook. The woman looked me up through the wonders of private messaging, said her piece and suggested I talk to another lady who was just overflowing with stories to tell. Do you know how I was to contact that second lady?

“Hook up with her on Facebook,” I was told. “She just loves her Facebook.”

Yes, yes. We all love Facebook. And email and text messages and Twitter. Technology has simplified the exchange of information to absurd levels. Information is sent not through notes scribbled on soggy bar napkins or in coded graffiti on dirty brick walls, but straight through the air. Like magic, a world-changing chunk of red-hot news can appear literally in the palm of my hand, if I happen to be holding my smartphone and not a can of Yoo-hoo.

I’d be a hypocrite to complain about it. Gone are the days when tracking down a source would require long hours of rummaging through phone books or knocking on doors in strange neighborhoods.

Thank you, Facebook, for organizing the world’s population in such tidy rows, with funny profile photos and pictures of cats. Thank you, Twitter, for making sure that if a source has something to say, my phone will make a chirping sound to let me know.

It’s just that there’s no art to it. When I was new on the police beat, I used to distribute my business cards far and wide. Jails, hotels, the pawn shops, the social clubs . . . I’d even wait for favorable winds so I could scatter hundreds of them along Bartlett Street.

Thousands of cards blown across the city would result in the occasional message on my newsroom phone, or the occasional visitor to my smoking spot on the sidewalk. I used to meet sources at a table — and occasionally under it — in a dark back corner of the dingy bar on Maple Street. Now I meet them in the bright white space of a Facebook chat.

Who needs a business card when any idjit in the world can find me day or night through the marvel of social media? It’s easier, for sure. It’s just not as fun.

Which brings me back to my longtime tipster. The last lead he gave me involved fallout from a point-shaving scheme in the high-stakes world of professional Foosball — an absolutely useless tip with which I can do nothing at all.

But to get at it, I had to sit at the public library with a bright red flower pinned to my coat and a ukulele under my arm while reading “Wuthering Heights” in a chair with a busted leg.

I liked it, do you hear me? Liked it!

You people know nothing of my alley.


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