EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the fourth in 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.

To see previous poems:

Ode #1, City Editor, Friday Night 

Ode #2: Reporter, On Deadline

Ode #3: Copy Editor, Standing Guard

 

PHOTOGRAPHER, UNDER THE GUN

My day started

At 7 a.m., taking pictures

Of an apartment fire

Caused by a toppled lava lamp.

(I had to ask some old people

what a lava lamp is).

 

I got the “money shot:”

A fireman carrying a squirming kitten

Out of the building.

(Dead kittens never make it into the paper.)

 

There used to be five of us

But now there’s just me

Running my ass off all day

Because newsandsportsandbusinessandfeatures

All need photos right now!

 

All the reporters are taking cell phone pictures

Because who cares if they’re good?

Anyone can do it.

 

Don’t even get me started about video.

What idiot thought that would work?

A day’s work for 3 minutes of story

For people who aren’t subscribers

And don’t have the attention span

Required to read a newspaper

And don’t look at the online ads.

 

Monetize that, assholes.

 

At 5 p.m., before I cover the high school basketball games,

The city editor says, “We need wild art for tomorrow’s paper.

Something cute. By 6. Whatever you can find.”

“It’s dark,” I point out. “And we already have the kitten.”

“Kitten is online only,” the city editor says. “Hundreds of hits all day.”

 

The city editor knows I will find something “cute”

Involving kids or animals or weather

Or kids with animals enjoying in the weather,

Because I always do.

 

Which now seems like a strategic mistake.

 

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