“Jason, come see me, please and thank you.”
Wow, Jason thought. That’s kind of terse, even for Jules. Jules Fisher, his editor, was an old timer, and he very clearly made it known that he was not impressed by kids like Jason. He thought they had an attitude problem, and a sense of entitlement as big as the satellite truck. Which was usually not matched by the kids’ achievements. Not remotely. (Get it? Sat truck… remote…? Oh, never mind.) Usually it was all these kids could do to write a letter right. They got to work after four years in college, thinking they’d get to be star reporters, and they couldn’t write to save their lives. Which would have to be saved by other people once the kids got themselves in danger. Like that idiotic girl who’d left a waitress job to be a journalist and gotten herself taken hostage in Somalia. What was her name again, Amanda something? Whatever. The point remains. These pretty young things think they can do anything they want but they have no actual talent of any useful kind. And we’re supposed to put up with them because they’re “fresh”… Sigh. They were even worse on TV, because, like, you know, and then I was like, you know – that’s all they ever say, with question marks everywhere, and that made them sound even stupider than they looked? which was saying something?
Yeah, they were fresh alright.
Jules was known to grumble a lot at the best of times, and this wasn’t the best of times. His newsroom had just gotten itself scooped by another outlet and if there was something Jules Fisher hated, and I mean hated with a passion, it was getting himself scooped.
The news business drove Jules mad – which admittedly, was a bit of a short trip. Ratings were low because ads didn’t sell so much, so the bosses cut experienced (and expensive) reporters and – more importantly in his view – editors, and replaced those with social-media-savvy Millenials, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, in the hope of connecting with younger viewers and readers, which advertisers are after. But since Millenials can’t write and have nothing interesting to say, the stories they crank out flop miserably, leading managers to let more experienced people go. Jules was reasonably certain the younger kids could be taught to write and produce stories that added value to their network or newspaper. They weren’t all stupid. But this sort of training takes time, and it takes mentors. By thinning the ranks of experienced writers and editors, managers made sure there was nobody around with any time to teach the youngsters anything, such as what constitutes an interesting story and why it’s important not to get scooped on same by the competition.
This morning the competition was kicking CBC’s ass, and Jules was pissed.
“I gather,” he said the minute Jason walked into his office, “that you were given the lead on that Toussignant story,” he looked at his notes without looking up at Jason, “three days ago?” Now he looked up at Jason.
“I think so, yes. Carla sent it to me earlier this week, asking if I could look into it because she was swamped with her other stuff. I meant to have a look but then got busy on the Libyan thing, and of course that was…”
“Yes well now Global has the Toussignant story and they’re running it big because,” for a minute there it looked like Jules might actually be close to having his head explode, “well, it IS a big story, see, guy kills his parents and defends himself saying they deserved it for not loving him properly…”
Jason hadn’t yet realized it was a bad idea to interrupt Jules when he was going on like that. “Yeah, but it’s just a murder story, do people really…”
The sound his editor’s hands made when they slammed on the desk kinda scared Jason for a second. He was really not used to people getting physical with him. “I have no idea what it is that they teach you people in J-school anymore, but let me tell you this: When you’re sitting on a story like that, you DO NOT sit on it like that!! Here’s a guy who’s desperate to have his story heard, and you had an early lead and blew it? That won’t do, Jason. This story’s gonna be big, kid, take my word for it. And thanks to you, we’ll be playing catch-up on it instead of owning it.”
The outburst stopped briefly, and Jason stood there waiting for the next part. He still didn’t know what the big deal was. It wasn’t a significant story or anything, just some guy accused of murdering his parents.
Jules looked up and if his eyes had hands on them they would have strangled the 24-year-old right there on the spot. “So now that means you drop whatever you’re doing and go make it up to me on that Toussignant story.”
“But, Jules, what about the Libyan story?”
“It doesn’t exist anymore, as far as you’re concerned. You make it up to me on the one you flubbed or you no longer work for me. Simple enough for you?”
When he got back to his desk Carla Laframboise was waiting for him. “Way to make me look stupid,” she sneered at him.
He shrugged. “That’s OK, Jules already chewed me out.”
She rolled her eyes all the way to her shoulder blades. “Yeah, I’ll bet he did. And it’s definitely not OK to let us get scooped like this. Your job around here is to help all of us look good. And that means doing a lot of leg work. I wasn’t always the one on air, you know. Before I got to where I am now, I did a shitload of leg work for other people. Then one day my chance came and I grabbed it. Yours will come, too. Unless you get yourself fired first. Now what did Jules say?”
“He said to make it up to him. I’m not even sure what that means.”
“It means blow him away. You’ve let the competition get the lead on that story, now take it back from them.”
“Sounds great, but how?”
“No idea. It has to be different, spectacular. Cover it differently. Focus on an angle the other guys didn’t notice. Find something compelling to say that’s been ignored so far. Find a way to get the lead back from Global, I don’t care what it is…”
“Alright, alright, I’ll think of something.” And with those words, Jason put on his coat and left the building. Not to go chase the story, as his more experienced colleague would have hoped – to say nothing of what his boss Jules might have expected. No, Jason went home, to have dinner with his parents then spend the evening playing Call of Duty with his cousin like he promised.
“A new angle, something compelling,” he kept repeating to himself. “But what?” He decided to stop thinking about it for a few hours and play, then go to sleep and see what came into his head first thing in the morning.
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