What’s the most important thing that happens in the course of a day? A man throws himself in the street to save a child from death by vehicle. Nope. On his death bed a dying man for the first time tells his distant son that he loves him. Nope. The most important thing that happens in the course of a day is when media outlets pick out their news stories.
“Alright, people, I need your stories and I need them now. This is true journalism, and without us this nation dies a quick and painful death. New guy, I wanna hear your ideas first.”
Eight journalists sit around an oval table, desperately scrolling through their iphone sevens in search of true, relevant news. They know that in order to find the deep ,striking stories that the public craves they’ll need to search all the proper objective sources: Youtube, Twitter and of course, Instagram.
The new guy shuffles uncomfortably in his seat. He’s the only one not on his phone and he pours over a packet of reports he singlehandedly collected for the meeting.
“Sir, I have breaking news of an uncovered genocide in an African country…”
“ I have a one on one story with an Iraq war veteran who lost his limbs…”
“And an expose on the permeation of inner city racism in America.”
“Bullshit number three. Kid, do you even know what a story looks like? Everyone point and laugh at new guy.”
Uproarious laughter commences. Fingers are pointed. A donut is thrown at new guy’s face.
“Greg, how about you tell me what you have today.”
Greg hunches over his laptop and lays down the stories. “We’ve got a woman in Missouri with a mushroom growing out of her belly button.”
“Hey oh! There we go, let’s see pictures.”
The laptop turns. Pictures are shown.
“Whoa!” The editor gasps and his moustache quivers with delight. “That’s a damn big mushroom. They’re gonna cut that thing off in the operating room and donate it to Papa John’s. Am I right? Show me more.”
“We’ve got news from the cast of Dancing with the Stars that one of their ex-contestants from three years ago may have a cancerous mole in his armpit.”
“So sad.” The editor shakes his head. “It’s just a shame when something drastic like this happens in our very own community that affects every one of our lives.”
“Also, don’t get too excited just yet, we haven’t confirmed this, but Jennifer Lawrence may have been spotted driving a car.”
Gasps pierce the room. Heads turn. Looks of amazement fall upon the stunned faces of the professional journalists.
“Driving a car?”
“Never in my life… so groundbreaking.”
“That’s not all, folks.” Greg pauses for dramatic effect to let his story sink in. “Turns out there was a passenger in the car. Our sources say maybe even a dog.”
“Oh my God.” The editor shakes his head. “Our ratings will be off the chart. Jennifer Lawrence in a car with a passenger and a dog.”
“Excuse me? Excuse me?”
New guy raises his hand.
“What, new guy?”
“Isn’t this a little trivial? Seems like this story means absolutely nothing to anybody.”
“Kid, I don’t know what honkytonk, half-ass institution you transferred from, but around here we report the hard stories America needs to hear. If you can’t handle the gritty end of this work, maybe you’re not cut out to be the national mouth of freedom, truth and big balls reporting.”
“I just think you guys are throwing around shitty stories. That’s my opinion.”
“We don’t deal in opinions here, new guy. We deal truth. Okay, I want all of you guys to write me up a piece about what your personal thoughts are on if the president had a tiger, what would he name it? Let’s be smart about this. Good tiger names, people. Good tiger names.”
New guy sits and ponders for a minute and raises his hand. “I’ve got some more story ideas. I hope you’ll take the time to reflect what they would mean to us as an analytical people, as opposed to a national organization who airs Youtube videos of kittens eating macaroni with a spoon.”
“Why didn’t you tell us you had a story of a kitten eating macaroni?”
“I…don’t. But just listen to my real story ideas.”
“Hit me, new guy.”
“There was a school shooting in a Native American reservation in Oklahoma last week.”
“Native who? They still exist? No way that’s going on the front page.”
Alright, a positive story, then. A single, poverty stricken black mother in Philly just put all four of her children through college by working three jobs.”
“Positive. Positive minority story. Poor positive minority story. Meets all the requirements for a terrible broadcast. Please continue, new guy.”
“One last story.” New guy pages through his reports. “I’ve got a report of a kidnapped white woman from an upper class neighborhood in Connecticut.”
“Dear God…” The editor’s head turns from the floor and he meets the new guy’s serious stare with the gaze of a thousand truths. “Did you say…missing white woman?”
“Yeah, I mean-“
Suddenly, mass panic. The editor hits a red button. An alarm wails and red lights flash from the ceiling. A robot voice pierces the speakers.
“Attention: missing white woman alert. Missing white woman. All journalists stand by for sensationalized reporting on person of privilege and wealth.”
Microphones strap to waist holsters. Cameras are shoved in military backpacks. The room is chaos and all journalists assemble gear for a reporting battle. White woman missing? The war has just begun.
“Move, move, move!” The editor screams and motions to his team. “Get me interviews with the person who cuts her hair and her veterinarian immediately. Our only hope is these faintly distant acquaintances can tell us the important facts…before it’s too late.”
New guy is confused. “What do you mean exactly, before it’s too late?”
“Teh, rookies.” Editor does his head shake and the moustache quivers. “If we don’t report the shit out of this immediately she might be found, then it’s no longer a story. We need her to die a gruesome death and have her heart struck parents go public with the outcry. Just death and crying. We can only hope for lots of death and crying.”
Analyst Greg stands next to new guy and straps a microphone to an ankle holster and a shoulder holster. His voice takes on a Rambo tone. “I was in the trenches for the Elizabeth Smart case of ot’ 01 and the Holloway case of ot’5. Almost brings a man to his knees to think of the grit and shit and raw big balls reporting.” He shakes his head. “Lost so many good men out there.”
The reporters line up by the door and editor storms up and down the line.
Cups are passed out. Lids are secured. Extra caffeine ammo is armed and ready. It’s the true mainstream reporter’s sidearm: Starbucks mocha lattes.
Pens and cameras hoist in the air.
Mirrors extract from pockets. Hair is fluffed, makeup applied, and boobs readjusted for maximum subtle erotic viewing pleasure. The reporters clamor out of the room like a clan of rabid monkeys, screeching and howling in delight, on the scent of the missing white woman story. New guy is left alone, sitting in his chair, pondering life and the meaning of a good story.
He takes off his official news swipe badge and chucks it on the counter. “Screw this, I’d rather get a job feeding animals at the zoo than be an animal feeding people.”
He stands up and begins to storm out the room. He stops, turns and eyeballs the badge one last time. He returns to the table, clips the badge back on his sleeve and pulls a microphone from his pocket.
“What am I talking about? No way I’m not getting on TV.”