If we reported that a police department in a small New Hampshire town had received a $13 million federal grant and intended to use it to buy a Blackhawk helicopter and a boat, some readers might be outraged. Others might merely shrug and move on. As the saying goes, “a billion here and a billion there and pretty soon you’re talking real money.”

It says much about our big-spending times that such a story could seem credible. It wasn’t.

It also says something sad and unsettling about these times that a New Hampshire newspaper would publish what was intended as an April Fool’s joke on the part of Northumberland (Groveton) Police Chief Peter Pelletier.

The CoÖs County Democrat is the newspaper and it claims that it was in on the joke when it printed the chief’s press release in its April 3 edition. We aren’t sure that was the case. (When is it to be believed and when is it not?)

In either case, the newspaper made a bad choice. At the very least, it might have put a note at the end of the story if indeed this was April Fool’s material.

But in a day when it is increasingly difficult to tell fact from fiction, credible newspapers are one of the few places where facts are to be found. That’s not something with which to fool around.