It struck me while watching the sixth, and so far most implausible, episode of the final season that the death of the co-op signals the death of The Wire. How's that for a topic sentence? But think about it: The co-op was one of David Simon's cleverest inventions (the funeral home gatherings were my favorite, as they were yours, I believe). Now, he's giving us the inane, banal, and systematically unrealistic Baltimore Sun newsroom. Four episodes left, and hope grows dim.
Have you, by any chance, noticed that each episode now delivers some sodden journalistic cliché? Last week, Gus informed us, with knowing weariness, that "if it bleeds, it leads." Fascinating thought. This week, the judge helpfully instructs Pearlman and McNulty never to "pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel." Next week, I imagine, we'll receive a lesson on the "Five Ws and How." I don't understand what's happening here. I still find it hard to believe that David Simon has nothing interesting to say about newspapering.
To answer your question, no, of course the alleged Marine's story would never pass muster in a day. Imagine this conversation between Plotz and Goldberg:
Goldberg: David, I just met a mentally ill homeless man under an overpass, and he told me the true story of the battle of Falluja in beautifully rendered detail.
Plotz: Hold the front page!
I'm not sure it would take three weeks to confirm the basics of the story, but it certainly would take a week or so just to confirm his true identity. Besides, no capable city editor would allow this story even to come to the attention of his managing editor without doing some basic verification first, especially if the reporter who reeled in the story was so obviously mistrusted by his own desk. Thank you for pointing this out—I can't believe I missed the absurdity of this scene the first time around. I think I was too busy railing against Templeton's Kansas City Star T-shirt, which, you have to admit, was idiotic. More than idiotic, actually—it was insulting. We're not dumb; we get that Templeton is, among other things, a yokel and an outsider, unworthy of Simon's newsroom.
At least we have the Bunk, as you note. Don't you get the sense that it will be the Bunk's careful police work, rather than McNulty's haywire scheming, that unravels Marlo? And that Michael is the thread he'll pull?
P.S. I've got nothing for you on the Pogues. I'm comprehensively uninterested now in McNulty.