Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Empire Strikes Back

A Drama in One Act

SCENE:   Editors' Conference Room at the Rochester DEMOCRAT AND CHRONICLE.   Early December, 2009.   As the CURTAIN rises, ALI ZOIBI, Publisher, KAREN MAGNUSON, Editor, and JAMES LAWRENCE, Editorial Page Editor, consult together at the conference table.

ALI: A disaster, that election. We have to get a grip on this thing.

KAREN: Ali, I have a grip on it. What do you call the Robutrad Strategy?

ALI: Something that worked about as well as the Water Authority Strategy.

JIM: And the FAIR Plan Strategy.

ALI: And the MCC President Strategy.

JIM: And the Public Defender Strategy.

KAREN: Well don't look at me! I don't need attitude from the publisher's suite and the editorial office!

ALI: Chill. We're cool.

KAREN: Who turned some nickel-and-dime employee malfeasance into the big, bad Robutrad Scandal? News! That's who!

ALI: OK, Karen.

KAREN: Who spiked the follow-up on City Council expense reports? News!

JIM: We get it.

KAREN: Who turned an innovative, out-of-the-box solution to the County budget problem into a vicious assault on "our children?" News!

ALI: You did? FAIR's legality was suspect before it was passed.

JIM: So are Paterson's unilateral budget cuts, and we told him to go for it.

ALI: Let's not get sidetracked, Jim.

KAREN: Who killed coverage when the County Bar Association suppressed "Not Qualified" ratings of Democrats running for Supreme Court Judge?   And that just scratches the surface!

JIM: Karen. ... We know you're trying.

ALI: Maybe we need to simplify the stories. You know, notch it down, the reading comprehension level.

KAREN: We're already at Sixth-Grade level!

JIM: (chuckling) I thought that was just for Morelle.

VOICE: (offstage) I heard that!
(Enter Monroe County Democratic Chairman JOE MORELLE. Taking his usual seat, he throws a bundle of papers on the conference table.)

MORELLE: Sorry I'm late. Here are my edits for Sunday's lead.

JIM: (looking at Morelle's papers) Wait a minute. This isn't the lead.

MORELLE: It is now.

KAREN: Are you serious? You're really gonna bump "Getting Ready for Kwanzaa"?

MORELLE: Relax ... Now, look ... it's been a hard month since the election. For each of us. (They nod.) We've all been hurting, especially me. But now -- Joey's back! And bettah' than evah'.

JIM: What's with the Noo Yawk accent?

MORELLE: Shelly likes it.

ALI: But Joe, you want to run this? The update on the County Sports Commission for the local section?

KAREN: Plain vanilla. Says it's well-run and brings in a lot of tourist dollars. $33million. How do we whack the Rethuglicans with that?

MORELLE: You losin' your edge, baby?

KAREN: What do you mean?

MORELLE: Read the fine print. The Commission's annual report shows the money all sports events bring in, not just events the Commission brings in.

JIM: (perking up) A clear case of misrepresentation!

ALI: But aren't they supposed to report that?

KAREN: Yes...but we don't have to emphasize it, do we?

ALI: (with dawning awareness) No ... Just downplay it. "Accidentally" on purpose.

JIM: One of our specialties.

ALI: What about that professor?


ALI: In the article. Says the Sports Commission has an obligation to report the economic impact of all sports events, the way it does.

MORELLE: Put it near the end. Who reads that far into the story?

KAREN: Right. Leave the prof. in. Gives us cover. We'll spin it like we always do -- with headlines and "highlight" boxes.

MORELLE: You're back on track, cookie.

ALI: Here's another one -- the County pays less to the sports promoter, LeBeau, because it gives him some office space instead.

KAREN: Where?

JIM: That brick building at Frontier Field.

MORELLE: So what? The County saves cash. Doesn't help us.

KAREN: (brightening) But this does -- Headline: "County Gives Promoter Free Office Space."

MORELLE: (quickly) Is he a Republican contributor?

JIM: You bet.

MORELLE: How do you know without checking?

JIM: Because all these contractors give to both parties. They like City jobs too, you know.

KAREN: But we don't have to mention that part.

ALI: I love it when a plan comes together!

MORELLE: OK. Let's juice it up. (He ponders momentarily.) How about a federal investigation of "County Sports Commission abuses?"

KAREN: Call Louise.

ALI: Washington office or her Rochester office?

MORELLE: Rochester office.

ALI: (speaking into intercom) Miss Flaybum, get me the Quatela Clinic.

KAREN: (aside, to MORELLE) What are they lifting now?

MORELLE: Hard to tell; she's a permanent work-in-progress.

KAREN: What do you mean?

MORELLE: Like painting the Triborough Bridge. They start at one end and when they're done, it's time to go back and start over.

ALI: Just wheeled her out. She's still under.

JIM: What about Massa? Call his press secretary.

MORELLE: No good. She's out of town.

KAREN: Where?

MORELLE: LA, kiddo.

ALI: Not to worry. Let's just get it out. Front page.

MORELLE: I'll prep our people in the County Leg.

ALI: To do what?

MORELLE: The usual. Demand an investigation, press conference, you know.

JIM: And I'll do the editorial calling for an inquiry.

ALI: We've got our groove back!

MORELLE: And our game plan for the next two years.

KAREN: Just a minute. (Steps offstage, then returns with a 40-ounce and four tumblers.)

JIM: Yours, Karen?

KAREN: No. Gantt's. Left it behind last time.

ALI: Have one, Jim! It'll help you editorialize.

MORELLE: (chuckling) Is that your secret, Ali?

ALI: That would be telling.

(KAREN and MORELLE pour drinks)

JIM: (aside, to ALI) That Joe! What leadership!

ALI: Looks like a County Executive to me!

(They turn back to the others, and join the convivial merriment.)


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Finally! Some accurate media reporting.

(Great job. I would have laughed if it weren't so true at over Democrat/D&C Party HQ)