EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second of a series of odes that chronicle the legacy newsroom. Each is written from different first-person perspective. Together they create the mumbled narrative of a special  and sadly contracting culture. The author, Don Nelson, has been a newsman for almost 50 years. You can read Ode #1, “City Editor, Friday night,” and the author’s statement, here. 


“We need a story,” the editor says,

As if “we” included me

As a decision-maker

In any meaningful way.

“Make it a news feature,” the editor says,

As if that meant anything.

Editors don’t know, either.

They just like to say it

Because it makes them sound

Authoritative and knowledgeable,

But of course they’re not.

“By 5 o’clock,” the editor says,

With 10 sources, nut graph, back story,

Context, narrative structure, graphics and maybe

A FOIA request.

“Keep it to 500 words,” the editor says.

Because we are short on space,

Not to mention imagination or creativity

Or just plain common sense.

At 5:20 p.m.

The story returns

From the editor’s desk

Bloodied and mangled,

Eviscerated and mutilated,

Like road kill whose species

Can’t be identified from the remains.

Dumped back on my desk

With no direction,

No explanation,

No observation,

No suggestion

Of how to revive the carcass,

As if I could invoke

Some shamanic chant

To restore its life.

At 5:40 p.m.

The story goes back to the editor

With minor changes.

The editor doesn’t care

Having done the editing thing

And moved on.

Tomorrow, the editor says,

I will be covering

New tiger cubs at the zoo

Unless there is a plane crash

Or a mass shooting.

If I let the tiger cubs bite me

Maybe I can just go home.

To read Ode #1, “City Editor, Friday Night,” and the author’s statement, go here.

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