Free Markets, Free People

Scene from a modern American newsroom

{Reporters and editors staff meeting, Metropolis Times-Post-Globe-Tribune, Monday, August 8, 2011}

“OK, people, this looks like a big week. There’s a lot coming down this week, so we all need to do some serious, in-depth work to stay ahead of the curve. First, we’ve got the downgrade and the associated fallout. I need someone who can look at the aftereffects, and make a guess about what it means.”

“Chief, I’ve been doing some analysis on this, and…”

“Stop right there, Beth. This is another one of those ‘Obama made a mistake’ pieces you want to do, isn’t it? When I hired you last spring, I thought I made it clear that we take a balanced approach here. We need to look for fault on all sides, and respect the office of the presidency. Walt, how about you?”

“Chief, do we have to use the word fallout? On this weekend’s talk shows, everyone was using the term ‘Tea Party downgrade’. I think that’s the right analysis. Why, with that approach, the piece practically writes itself.”

“Perfect. Since that’s the new factor in DC, it’s clear that the Tea Party is the biggest factor in this. Get to work. Beth, what is it?”

“Uh, sir, how does a faction that only controls 1/3 of the majority party in one house of Congress cause this problem in only seven months? Don’t we need to go back further in time for a better analysis?”

“No, this is a newspaper, not some right-wing think tank.”

“But, sir, the articles I read about the Tea Party that we put out last year claimed they were just a bunch of whackjobs who would never have any significant effect on Washington because of their extremism. Don’t we at least need to examine how that changed over the last year?”

“No. Our readers understand how the Tea Party has morphed into a national threat. So the Tea Party downgrade is one direction we’ll go. But we need something with some math in it to explain the whole thirty year future thing. I know we don’t normally do math stuff, but with the stock market dropping like a rock, people need some reassurance on this so they don’t panic. Did anybody in here take calculus? Destiny, I seem to recall that it’s on your transcript.”

“Well, um, yeah, but I don’t remember much of it.”

“Your transcript says you made an A. And it was only two years ago. What gives?”

“Well, see, the teacher and me, we had a sort of arrangement. He was real cute, and I really needed to pass calculus, so…. I really didn’t expect the A, but we hit it off better than I thought we would.”

“OK, anybody else want to tackle that? Not you, Beth.”

“Chief, I know a guy over at MoveOn who is good with charts. I can probably get something good from him.”

“OK, Hunter, that will do. Of course, you’ll want to attribute the original source instead of MoveOn. You understand.”

“Certainly, sir.”

“Moving on, this whole gun running thing just won’t go away. Personally, I don’t see why our readers would be interested in it, but we’ve been taking some flack on the right-wing extremist talk shows at Fox. So we need to do some real investigation here, and find out the real story. It’s pretty clear that those extremists at Fox are trying to gin up a controversy that makes the Obama administration look bad, so we need to counter that with some objective analysis. Who’s up for it? Jeremy, you wrote a couple of articles on it early on. You want to go deep on it?”

“Not really, sir. I can’t get anybody in the Justice Department to talk about it, so I can’t get any balance. They’re scared by the way the whole Scooter Libby thing turned out.”

“Yeah, yet again, the Republicans ruined it for everybody. Can’t you get anyone to talk?”

“The only people I can get are field people, who seem to have an agenda here to push this as a controversy. I think they’ve been influenced by the Fox people. I don’t want to give them a soapbox. All they want to talk about is some dead agent from last year and memos from Obama’s people.”


“Yes, Beth, what is it?”

“Sir, I think we have to take into consideration that there’s a real conspiracy here, something that would take us to very high levels. This could even be Pulitzer material.”

“Beth, I think you’re absolutely right. Why, given the phone hacking scandals in Britain, who knows what these Fox people are capable of. This might go all the way to Rupert Murdoch.”

“That wasn’t exactly…”

“OK, Jeremy, there’s your angle. Go back to your sources and see if any of them are interested in talking about the Fox conspiracy side of things.

“What do you want me to do about the rumors that the FBI and DEA were involved?”

“They’re just rumors.”

“Yeah, but they have some emails that look a bit incriminating.”

“Probably faked. You know how those right wingers are. First they’ll claim that Rather’s memos were faked to cover up for Bush, then they’ll turn around and fake stuff up themselves. You can’t trust anything you get from them. So stick to reliable sources. Eric Holder says the feds didn’t do anything wrong, correct?”

“That’s what he says.”

“Then you can take it to the bank. We all know there are people out there who would attack Holder just because of his race. He’s an embattled public servant. So let’s make sure the truth gets out, shall we? Now, let’s see what’s next. There was apparently a riot in Wisconsin. A flash-mob thing. I think there was also one in Philadelphia a while back. This looks like a great opportunity for some serious cultural analysis on problems in the inner city. Estelle, didn’t you minor in black studies? You want to work on this?”

“I only glanced at it this weekend sir. Were any of the victims black?”

“I don’t know, I didn’t look at it much either. I’m so tired of Wisconsin. Yes, Beth?”

“Sir, the blogs say all the victims were white, and the mob was black.”

“How many times do I have to tell you to ignore those right wing extremist blogs? We need some primary sources. Estelle, can you get facts on this?”

“What if it turns out the blogs are right and there are no black victims? I don’t know how to handle such a case. Anything I write could be used to attack underprivileged minorities. I thought that was against our mission statement.”

“Well, if that turns out to be the case, just leave race out of it completely. You can at least get some numbers of people arrested and people hurt and so forth. Remember to leave all the names out so people don’t draw any erroneous conclusions and inappropriately make this a racial thing. You can fall back on the underage confidentiality thing for that if you need to. OK, the final big subject is the crash of that helicopter that killed a bunch of SEALs. Clearly, this is a great opening to talk about what Bush did wrong in Afghanistan that has made it a quagmire. Who wants to work on that?”

“I do!” “Me, me!” “Please, can I do that one?” “No, I want to do it!” ….

24 Responses to Scene from a modern American newsroom

  • I enjoy a good parody as much as the next guy, but I think that this is totally over the line.

    I mean, really: to suggest that “Beth” would have been hired in the first place stretches credulity well past the breaking point.


    Billy Hollis“They’re just rumors.”

    Kind of like the NYT refusing to print the stories that Sheriff Joe had referred to the Tea Party as terrorists.  Amazing how (ahem) discriminating the NYT – and MiniTrue generally – can be when it comes to rumors, anonymous sources, unconfirmed reports, and the like.

    • Article II: In Case of the Removal of the President from Office, or of his Death, Resignation, Run out of town by Tea Partiers with pitchforks or Inability to discharge the Powers and Duties of the said Office, the Same shall devolve on the Vice President, and the Congress may by Law provide for the Case of Removal, Death, Resignation or Inability, both of the President and Vice President, declaring what Officer shall then act as President, and such Officer shall act accordingly, until the Disability be removed, or a President shall be elected.
      I think our options are clear.  I wonder if Sheriff Joe is ready.

  • I heard this story about how when the SCOTUS ruled on Kelo v. City of New London, involving the use of eminent domain to transfer land from one private owner to another, one staffer, at a Times-Mirror syndicate paper who will remain anonymous, shouted out …

    “Will these Republicans stop at nothing.”

    Of course, it was the Left-leaning side of the bench who decided Kelo, but the knee-jerk reaction was to blame the Republicans.

  • Thanks for making me write more stupid PHP code, Billy, to put your proper avatar up.

  • No habla PHP. Sorry I made you resort to a degenerate language just to show a picture of a pretentious twit with sunglasses.

  • What we have here is journalistic “framing” of the news.  Lets dial back to 9/11/2001 and peek inside the newsroom at the Boston Globe as they construct an “Evil Genius.”

    On 9/11, I was national editor of the Boston Globe, responsible for directing the paper’s coverage in New York and D.C. Instantly, my hunch was bin Laden was responsible, and I said so right after the second place crashed into the World Trade Center. I spent the next four years closely tracking bin Laden’s every utterance, reading detailed explorations of his mindset and wishing I had copied my file collected while monitoring his activities for the Washington Post. ~Kenneth J. Cooper

    The Boston Globe reported in a special 2 p.m. edition on September 11th:

    The highest security officials in the United States …worked against time today to pinpoint the perpetrators. [E]xperts on terrorism were cautiously making assessments as to who had the capability of coordinating an attack on such a scale …

    Several said an attack of such sophistication and coordination would require massive funding and years of planning.

    At the top of most lists of suspects was Saudi dissident and oil-rich financier of terrorism, Osama bin Laden.

    Everyone knows what happened next.  OBL died of kidney disease in December 2001 only to resurrected and assassinated by Obama in May to deflect some bad economic press coverage   Hey, this stuff is easy!

  • I find it amazing that they published the transcript from the bug at the New York Times.

  • I don’t get it. What was the benefit of posting the NY Times editorial board meeting from yesterday?

  • Shoot, I should have read the comments before I hit submit. Sorry about the duplication, but it was just so…<i>obvious</i>.