Chasing Justin Bieber … to neverland, in La Crosse County

Road-tripping Justin Bieber, en route to Wisconsin, poses next to the American Creek bridge off the Missouri River in Chamberlain S.D. (Photo from Justin Bieber's Facebook page.)

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) — Winning a Pulitzer Prize is the goal of many journalists, while I set my sights lower: Just be accurate and unbiased so you can sleep at night.

Just be sure never to embarrass yourself — like chasing Justin Bieber, f’rinstance. Down a rabbit hole.

Journalists usually try to keep themselves out of the story — unless they must inject themselves to reflect the importance of the story. Or their chagrin about the assignment.

Like chasing Justin Bieber, f’rinstance. Down a rabbit hole — to confirm that, OMG! — the Biebs is in town.
So, apologizing in advance for appearing to be a 72-year-old hick chasing a teen heartthrob, I’ll inject myself into the story explain what happened:

A young MMJ (multi-media journalist) reporter sent message to WKBT’s news emails exclaiming: “Justin Bieber is near La Crosse!!!” She supplied a link to Magic 105 radio’s website posing the question: “Is Justin Bieber at Lake Neshonoc?!”

It included several photos of the Biebs, some purportedly including wife Hailey, at what obviously is a campground.

Being a diligent, young reporter who is the consummate professional (despite her use of three star-struck exclamation points that the Biebs is in town), she did her due diligence, saying, “And I did some fact checking on his & his wife’s Instagram and their stories confirm it’s them.”
So began my plunge into the rabbit hole, after another WKBT MMJ was turned away at the entrance to the Neshonoc Lakeside Camping Resort when he tried to slip in for photographic evidence.

He also was told that the Bieber entourage (two buses, if Magic 105’s photos are to beliebered), had left because so many people were trying to get in to see the star.

The boss, as bosses are wont to do, cautioned that, if we did a story, we had to vet it so we didn’t look stupid if it turned out to be a hoax.
By then, I’d already called the resort’s landline, finding out it was closed for the day. Next, I rung up Neshonoc Sports, my old reliable ice-fishing source.

There, Braxton Ghelfi confirmed that workers there also had heard that Bieber was at the Lake Neshonoc, on the upper section of the campgrounds.

In fact, a camper from Maryland had been in the day before and mentioned that she’d seen and talked to Bieber at the resort, Ghelfi said.

I also Facemailed a friend who has a cabin at Lake Neshonoc to ask her about the rumor. She confirmed that he was at the campgrounds, but she hadn’t even had a chance for a selfie.

I won’t ID her, in part because I didn’t think to ask her if I could use her name but also because she was having a bittersweet day after cleaning out the cabin because her family was selling it this weekend. She’s facing a serious life transition and I’m breathlessly asking shallow questions?

Further vetting on his Facebook page confirmed that he and Hailey are on a road trip. (DANG nice bedroom with TV on that bus.) One photo on the page is of his feet, with a highway that could be I-90 or Hwy. 35 or Hwy. 157 out the window.

THEN, work email flashed that Bieber was en route to Fox Hollow Golf Course and on County OA for dinner at its sports bar.
Admitting to the young lady who answered the phone at Fox Hollow that I had the stupidest question she’d hear all day, I asked whether Bieber was noshing at a high table.

Nope, she replied, adding that they’d heard he was in the area but left.

I know this won’t win a Pulitzer, but I did enough vetting to confirm that Bieber’s being here wasn’t a hoax.

I appeared to be one step behind Bieber all the while, and for just one reason: I didn’t know his “E.T.A.

Like he says in the song: “I just wanna know your E.T.A. … So that I don’t go loony over you (ooh-ooh)”

Next time, Mr. Bieber, to continue to quote that song:

“I just wanna know your E.T.A
“E.T.A., out the window got me looking out the street
“What’s your E.T.A.?”

A little courtesy would have saved me a lot of chasing around, thankyouverymuch.

P.S.: Despite all the hassles, this opportunity made my day: This morning, somebody posted on Facebook a list of words that few, if any, people know. I sent the list to one of my bosses at work saying it was going to be my bucket list of words I’d try to sneak past the big boss because I try to get under her skin.

Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I could start scratching off the words already until Magic 105 used “?!” after its question. Well, there’s a name for that: A question mark followed by an exclamation point is an interrobang. Who knew?

Maybe tomorrow, I’ll be able to use the term for the space between eyebrows (where my boss will aim to shoot me).