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 #2: Reporter, On Deadline

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

And ironclad.

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.

 

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