EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the fIfth in a series of Monday 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 #3: Copy Editor, Standing Guard
Ode #4: Photographer, Under The Gun
PUBLISHER, IN A SQUEEZE
In a windowless corporate office
Nine hundred miles away
Some anal number cruncher is foretelling
The next 12 months of my life.
Revenues and expenses are laid out
In an imaginary world where
All projections are precise, attainable
Palmistry would be more accurate.
The number cruncher’s boss
Endlessly bleats about “metrics and P&L and ROI.”
He was a publisher
Until he failed his way upward.
It’s still a viable career trajectory.
My biggest advertiser
Was a car dealer whose wife
Got arrested for drunk driving
And public urination.
And then he was arrested
When he drove, drunk, to pick her up
And called the arresting officer (ethnic slur deleted).
(This is still a family newspaper.)
He phoned me the next day to say
That he would pull all his advertising
If we printed the story.
The corporate lawyer advised discretion.
I leaked it to a blogger and the local TV station.
A week later the car dealer was indicted
For embezzling from his own company.
We printed that. He wasn’t paying his bills anyway.
The newsroom hates me.
The ad staff fears me.
The pressroom guys would bury me
So deep that Jimmy Hoffa
Would be found first.
My personal assistant
Says “good morning” in a neutral tone
When she brings my coffee
And then ignores me
The rest of the day.
The guy before me had an affair
With his personal assistant.
Mine doesn’t want anyone to think
That is remotely possible,
Which is fine because
I couldn’t afford the motel rooms.
In about three months,
When the anal number cruncher’s projections
Are proven to be pure fantasy
(not his fault, I’m told),
I will have to make more cutbacks.
There will be a chipper, upbeat press release
Dictated by corporate
About realigning to better serve
Our readers and advertisers.
I will get the blame.