Wednesday, September 28, 2005

You Snort, We Decide

“Throw me a bone! Gimme a kidnapping, a boatload of drowning Haitians, a Palestinian suicide bomber—something!” I yelled at the Reuters news feed. I peeled off my smelly Banana Republic viscose cardigan and stabbed the “Enter” key with my leaky Bic. Blue ink trickled down the right side of the keyboard. “We need some news—there’s a 4:30 a.m. broadcast!” Aside from the frantic NYU intern, no one so much as looked in my direction. G. pored over the morning’s confidential memos sent down from the suits on “17” while the video editors watched soft porn on Cinemax and the geriatric editor snored to the audience laughter of “Saturday Night Live.” I glanced at my watch and then at the darkened breaking news studio that occupied the middle of the newsroom floor. Suddenly, the orange “Breaking News” light flashed at the bottom of my computer monitor—there had been a subway bombing in the 8th arrondisement. I quietly cheered for the dead and injured in Paris.

Three months into my gig at the News Channel and I was a changed woman. An unshakeable sense of realism (and fatalism) had replaced my reveries. Leaps of faith were well chosen, usually involving my personnel file. I also snuck in a prayer or two at the midway mark—around 5 a.m.—urging the gods of Reuters and AP to bring me a fine, headline-grabbing disaster. I’d cut out superfluous cries and bloodshed with the Avid, attach a menacing graphic or two and then slug the sucker with something catchy like, “Wet Willie: Ex Prez Clinton Visits Tsunami Victims.” I’d end it with a freeze frame of Bill eye-balling a busty native.

It was all a game anyway, right?

“Fucking ingenious,” my director chuckled once he woke up and saw my new segment. “Don’t get me wrong, this is all a shit show but, the ratings couldn’t be any better. Middle America loves infotainment.”

“Yeah, they also like cheap drugs,” G. said from behind me. I spun around to face him and the stack of memos he hugged to his chest. “I like to think that we're crystal meth for the average American out in fly-over territory. ‘You Snort, We Decide.’ Think the PR department would go for it?”

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